The Jakarta Post
Revivified: An illuminated fountain with the Irian Jaya Liberation Statue in the background is seen at the renovated Lapangan Banteng in Jakarta. The square was inaugurated by Governor Anies Baswedan on Wednesday. (JP/P.J. Leo)
Lapangan Banteng used to be just a huge characterless square in the heart of Jakarta.
However, after months of renovation the face of the square — which became a regular venue for the annual flora and fauna expo, Flona — has been changed dramatically.
On Wednesday night, a colorful aquatic show was held at the fountain in the center of the square.
“It feels like I’m on Sentosa Island [in Singapore],” said a visitor as she was busy taking selfies with the fountain as a backdrop.
A mini stage next to the Irian Jaya Liberation Statue was set up for the inauguration of the square by Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan after the 16-month renovation.
“This is one of Indonesia’s most historical parks.
“It has witnessed thousands of stories and is about to witness thousands more.
“Let us come to Lapangan Banteng more as it is able to accommodate everyone’s interests: for picnics, for exercise, for art and cultural activities, and many more,” Anies added.
The renovation project began in March last under then-acting Jakarta governor Sumarsono.
It was funded by private companies through corporate social responsibility programs and fines collected from companies that breached building floor ratios.
Lapangan Banteng is located close to Jakarta Cathedral and Istiqlal Grand Mosque.
It is a historic landmark that has been around since Dutch colonial rule.
Back then, it had two names: Lapangan Singa (Lion Square) and Waterlooplein, which symbolized the victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815.
After Indonesia’s independence, the square was renamed Lapangan Banteng before the government built the Irian Jaya Liberation Statue, which was inaugurated on Aug. 18, 1963, by then-president Sukarno, the same year that Irian Jaya became an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia.
Before the renovation — which cost up to Rp 60 billion (US$4.14 million) — Lapangan Banteng was rarely visited by people except when it hosted events.
The city not only gave the monument a makeover and revitalized the green areas in the 5.2-hectare square, it also added a children’s playground, a running track and some picturesque spots.
A semi-circular amphitheater, facing the monument, sits next to a pond where a fountain “dances” to the sound of music.
The fountain’s designer, Robby Krisna, said he chose songs that represented Irian Jaya’s liberation as well as Indonesia’s nationalism and cultural richness.
He chose three national songs — “Indonesia Pusaka”, “Bagimu Negeri” and “Satu Nusa Satu Bangsa”. The cultural songs are “Yamko Rambe Yamko” from Papua and a medley of Betawi songs — “Ondel-ondel”, “Jali-jali”, “Keroncong Kemayoran” and “Surilang”.
“I collaborated with the Embryonic Ensemble to rearrange the songs, creating music that doesn’t lose its traditional characteristics but at the same time sounds fresh with a touch of jazz — so that foreigners can enjoy it too,” he told The Jakarta Post.
He added that the fountain display started at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. every weekend.
Ten walls bearing quotes pertaining to Irian Jaya’s liberation stand guard at the monument.