Grave enthusiasts unearth the forgotten history of Indonesia for Instagram community

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Grave enthusiasts unearth the forgotten history of Indonesia for Instagram community

Email Grave enthusiasts unearth the forgotten history of Indonesia for Instagram community

Posted November 06, 2018 05:39:56

A man and woman stand outside a cemetery. They are both wearing broad-brimmed hats and carrying cameras. Photo: Deni Priya Prasetia, left, and Ruri Hargiyono share an interest in preserving the cemeteries' legacy. (Supplied) Related Story: Luring back the dead with tequila and cigarettes: Mexicans mark Day of the Dead in Australia Related Story: Cemetery tours popular at Halloween with dark tourism on the rise Related Story: A 3,000-year-old tradition of wedding the dead is still thriving in rural China Map: Indonesia

Ruri Hargiyono began visiting cemeteries as a child when she lost her father.

She visited his grave almost every day, and often completed her homework there after school.

"It's a quiet place and I enjoyed the solitude, far from the noise of bustling Jakarta," Ms Hargiyono told the ABC.

"When I needed to find peace, I visited the cemetery.

"Now it's more fun, because I don't need to go by myself."

Ms Hargiyono is part of a new Instagram-based community in Jakarta, called Indonesia Graveyard, dedicated to exploring the nation's past through its dead.

She explores historical landmarks in and around the capital with her friend Deni Priya Prasetia, whom she met at a history club in Jakarta.

Sharing each other's passion for history and photography, they started documenting the untold stories of the city's burial places and founded the Indonesian Graveyard group in 2016.

A woman reads the Koran at her husband's grave in a cemetery. Photo: Graveyards are being rediscovered as a historical link to Indonesia's rich multicultural past. (Reuters: Beawiharta)

They post photos of cemeteries from around the country, captioned with historical facts, in the hope of attracting more young people interested in Indonesia's history to these sites.

Ms Hargiyono said she was amazed by the response so far, with photo submissions pouring in from burial plac es throughout Indonesia.

"Many of my friends even tell me how they enjoy visiting cemeteries now," she said.

"Wherever they travel, they say they want to pay a visit to one and take photos for us."

Buried in the past

A tall monument made of what looks like stone and gold, photographed from below, with an inscription that says "RUST IN VREDE". Photo: An ornate tombstone in Jakarta's Dutch cemetery with the inscription "rust in vrede", which translates to "rest in peace". (Supplied: Indonesia Graveyard)

Cemeteries in Indonesia are more than final resting places; many Indonesians believe they are home to ancestral spirits and all sorts of ghos ts imbued with mystic energies.

These energies are thought to allow one's spirit to support and protect their descendants, or reappear as a type of ghost called "pocong" in Indonesia.

Indonesia Graveyard's founders, however, are trying to change the perception of a cemetery as a lonely and frightening place.

According to Mr Prasetia, old cemeteries often feature Arabic or Chinese alphabets alongside the Indonesian writing, as well as eclectic architecture from different periods and cultures that make visits all the more fascinating.

"We search for information from their tombstones â€" who they were, where they came from," Mr Prasetia told the ABC.

He was fascinated about the stories of the people beneath the stones.

"We can reflect on what they did, and what they contributed to our society."

Fight to save a forgotten history

Two tombstones with Arabic writing sit side by side inside a cemetery room. Photo: The tomb of Ali Abdurrahman Alhabsyi, known as Habib Kwitang, one of the first scholars to bring Islam to Indonesia. (Supplied: Indonesia Graveyard)

Mr Prasetia said the most magnificent grave he'd ever seen was a mausoleum hidden in a cemetery in Slipi, a suburb of Jakarta.

This mausoleum is the final resting place of Oen Giok Khouw, who was once one of the richest people in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

He made his fortune as one of the owners of a colonial bank in the 1880s, and made history when he was honoured by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands as a Chinese emissary in the Dutch East Indies.

Built by an Italian architect, the art deco-style mausoleum is thought to be the most expensive ev er built in South-East Asia, and has now become a tourist attraction.

A white statue depicts a woman weeping into her hands, crouched over. Photo: Many notable figures from the colonial government were buried at the Dutch Taman Prasasti cemetery. (Supplied: Indonesia Graveyard)

Ms Hargiyono said Taman Prasasti, an old cemetery where Dutch colonials were put to rest, was even more impressive.

The complex, built in 1795, is considered one of the oldest modern cemeteries in the world.

"It's amazing to see how technology back then was used to bring statues all the way from Europe to Jakarta," Ms Hargiyono said.

A large tomb, which takes up three panels of a wall, juts out from a pool of water. Photo: The grave of the first leader of the colonial era Chinese community was until recently almost entirely forgotten. (Supplied)

In central Jakarta, the founders have also rediscovered the grave of Suow Beng Kong, the first leader of the Jakarta Chinese community during the Dutch colonial period.

Ms Hargiyono said not many Jakarta residents knew who Kong was and his grave, surrounded by high-density housing in central Jakarta, was almost forgotten â€" so much so, that at one point a toilet was built on top of it.

Now a dedicated foundation is trying to preserve the cemetery and promote Kong's tomb as a historical site.

Topics: death, community-and-society, photography, human-interest, indonesia, asia

Source: Google News Indonesia | Netizen 24 Indonesia

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