The Jakarta Post
Senior photographer Sunaryo “Yoyok” Haryo Bayu, who hails from Surakarta, Central Java, is holding a photography exhibition titled “Refleksi Peristiwa Mei 1998” (A Reflection of May 1998) at the Press Monument in Surakarta.
Through 85 photos that depict acts of looting, fires and anti-Chinese sentiments in parts of Surakarta, visitors can learn about the 1998 riots that occurred on May 14 and 15. The photos primarily depict post-riot burnt buildings and cars, vandalized public infrastructure, acts of looting and student demonstrations demanding that then-president Soeharto resign.
“The exhibition is not meant to pry old wounds, rather, it is a reflection of what happened. I hope something like this never takes place again for it only brought pain. The exhibition is also where the younger generation can see what really happened,” said Yoyok, a photographer for Solopos newspaper.
Aside from the riot photos, the exhibition also displays several photos that compare the affected buildings or areas in 1998 to those of present time.
Visitor Retno Megantari, 23, said she was curious about the state of Surakarta during the riots 20 years ago.
“It so happens that my thesis’ topic is about the May riots, so the exhibition is crucial to make up for the data,” the history major said.
Janar Arini, 22, another visitor, said she was only 2 years old when the riots happened.
“All this time, I only gathered information from the internet or word of mouth. These photos represent what really happened during the time,” she said.
Visitor Raharjo, 60, who experienced the riots firsthand, admitted to being terrified at the time. However, he also helped in the recovery of dozens who died in a shopping mall blaze.
“I still remember how chaotic everything was. Riots were everywhere, I could see thick smoke and people looting stores. Almost every building on Jl. Slamet Riyadi caught fire,” he said, referring to Surakarta's main road.
Imam Suwangsa, Surakarta’s former municipal police chief who was in office at the time of the riot, was present during the exhibition’s opening. Officiated by the Surakarta administration’s head of public relations, Heri Purwoko, the exhibition will be held until May 18. (wng)