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Independence Day preparations YOGYAKARTA - With several days left until the annual celebration of the independence of Indonesia, 17 August 2006 exactly 61 years ago, the daily view in the streets has changed pretty much. Not that it has become more crowded or more quiet, because that doesn't realy matter this time of year, this day is commonly celebrated with the neighbors in the neighborhood. Many of the central fields in villages and cities will be the stage of small games at the 17th, especially old Dutch games with a Indonesian flavour added to it.

Earlier this month, normally the preparations start at the first of August with those that sell flags, colorful umbul-umbul (vertical banners) and other small things like plastic flags which are only used in the few days before the actual day, because they fade almost instantly in the direct sunlight here, the red is already gone then and that looks a little bit strange. For the buyers with some more money there are decorations for roofs, also to be used for cars if they want.

The kampung Sukun in Malang looks like any other in the days before Independence Day. Overwhelming decorations turn the neighborhood in one big colorful play.
The kampung Sukun in Malang looks like any other in the days before Independence Day. Overwhelming decorations turn the neighborhood in one big colorful play.

In the kampungs (city quarters) the celebration of independence is probably the most colorful. Almost every house has it's own (bigger or smaller) Indonesian flag and between the houses along both sides of the small streets hang wires with those cheap plastic flags. Homemade decorations are also to be found here, think of plastic cups painted in red and white and strung to a wire. Simple, colorful and after a month or so most of them have been blown of by the wind, so they only have to be wiped together and it's clean again.

In many places series of five flags appear, often a perfectly matching serie of five of the same flags on the same kind of poles perfectly aligned. On a few locations you will see a more clear presentation of these five plags, than they are together with the five points of Pancasila, the 'Five Pillars' of the Indonesian republic. Every flagpole holder symbolises one of the parts of Pancasila, most of them made from concrete. Once a year they are given fresh paint, indeed in de days before Independence Day.

Outside these five symbolic flags the main streets are also decorated with at least something colorful outside the red and white flag. Think about one or two colored umbul-umbul. It doesn't really matter what color it is, as long as it's bright and colorful. In some cases a small flag in red and white is attached at the top. However expression of commerce is rampant here, everything that is suitable (and that what's not as well) is used already. The sole exception are the decorations around 17 August. Maybe it's the best way, so the people here have at least one day a hear where they aren't confronted with advertisements all the time.

In a street near the Singosari temple in Malang, umbul-umbul have already been attached. These colored sheets of fabric form a spectacle of color, especially when there is a little bit of wind.
In a street near the Singosari temple in Malang, umbul-umbul have already been attached. These colored sheets of fabric form a spectacle of color, especially when there is a little bit of wind.

Into stupidity all kind of things are repainted here. The monuments, Pancasila expressions and the portals that you find near entrances of kampungs and desa's (rural villages). That is all pretty easy to imagine. People are painting their fences again, together they clean a sewer and they produce a new cover for it. Most of these things are generally done to prepare for the wet monsooon, several months away, but are moved forward to brighten up Independence Day celebrations.

If there are big potholes in the street in front of the house and others are disturbed by it, then it's time to buy cement, in some cases asphalt to fill these potholes with a royal amount of cement or asphalt that is flattened with hand and feet. With a big shovel of sand or dirt the road is good enough for a couple of months again, until the wet monsoon arrives probably. Often the road looks improved after the 'renovation', but the depth of the potholes has been used to create bumbs of the same height, as is seems. Filled with sand the roads haven't become any more safe. It's just waiting until the wet monsoon arrives, so it can wash away the sand into the newly cleaned sewers.

Cleaning efforts go rampant when there is paint or cement leftofer after painting or constructing the new road. To take care that no one in the street feels hurt, the remaining stuf is separated into even smaller amounts for smaller projects which are made up at the scene. Remaining paint is used to give color to speed bumbs, on trees, edges of pavements, oil drums, walls of the neighbors and if possible also the natural stone walls that look a lot better without that little paint. But it's not about painting, it's about getting the can empty without throwing away the remaining paint. Cans can be used for storage or as bucket, even in a game on Independence Day.

Remaining cement is used to widen the street a little, to fix a loose tile, repair a broken cover plate over the sewer and all that kind of small things. It's all kind of useless, knowing that the first car or truck will damage it to the same level as before the quick repair. Often that is already before the 17th of the month, so people don't have to be worried about the wet monsoon. If there is more cement left over, maybe a speed bumb is created, so it can be painted with the leftovers of next years painting session.

The portals you usually find at the entrance of a kampung or desa, as said before, are generally repainted every year. It's important to be seen, also in this case, so the general trend is that more bright colors are used every time it's being repainted. At walking distance they have painted one hellish yelow while it used to be dirty white. That was nice as well. Every time I want to turn left to enter the street I almost get scared by the bright colors. I know in a couple of months the colors will have faded again so it's not really a big irritation. Next year another color again.

Many of these portals feature two dates, the first is the date on which the proclamation of independence of Indonesia was announces, the second one is the upcoming or most recent celebration of that day. Most of them have already been fitted with the year 2006. Elsewhere on the portal, in big letters you will find a number, 61, the number of years since independence. The number often resembles a typography that is used by the government. That's unity in diversity.



Posted in Culture @ 14 August 2006 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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