The Past is a Foreign Country, Prakoso, Jakarta

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Prakoso, Jakarta
Prakoso gets up every Sunday at 5 o’clock. The costume that he wants to put on that day already hangs on his bedroom wall. Sometimes it’s the costume of a plantation manager, at other times he goes as a Dutch student.
Prakoso is 16. He’s interested in his country’s Dutch past. In his room there’s a sea chest with a Dutch gun, a collection of tropical helmets and a random collection of Dutch-language books in it, although he doesn’t know the language.

At 5.30 am he jumps on his Dutch Fongers bike and races off to Plaza Indonesia,the enormous square that modern Jakarta is built around.
Prakoso isn’t alone. Every Sunday morning men and women gather around the square in tropical costumes, KNIL (Royal Dutch East Indian Army) uniforms, you name it. The antique bike is the common denominator, but the cyclists’ interest goes further. ‘It’s a reminder of the times which brought us civilization.’ Prakoso’s colleague Yanto talks about the poverty his parents experienced during the colonial administration. ‘For us it wasn’t a prosperous time. But everything from colonial times is indestructible. I swear by it.’
Prakoso thinks it’s a shame that some people think badly of the colonial period.‘That the Dutch waged war, that’s politics.That has nothing to do with people.The Dutch brought good bikes, good laws for the government. The people who hate the Dutch don’t see how the colonial period was also positive.’