Social Media Stokes Nostalgia for 'Tempo Doeloe' Indonesia


JUNE 07, 2016

Jakarta. In the wake of Muhammad Ali’s passing on Friday (03/06), an old photo of the American boxing legend made rounds among Indonesian Facebook users. In it, Ali was not depicted fighting in the ring, but instead standing in front of the counter at a McDonald’s restaurant during a charity visit to Jakarta in the early 1990s. According to the caption, Ali, who was wearing a yellow shirt, was treating everyone in the fast-food eatery—including the staff—to Egg McMuffins and coffee that morning.

That photo, which has received more than 2,000 likes to date, was posted on a Facebook page called Indonesia Tempo Dulu (Indonesia of the Past). It is one of the few social media accounts that share old photos of Indonesian cities on the Internet, in effect getting its followers nostalgic about the country’s past.

The Indonesia Tempo Dulu page was created a few years ago by a Dutch man named Bart Bookelmann, who is enamored by the history and culture of Indonesia.

“I started the page because it combines three of my big interests: Indonesia, history and architecture,” Bookelmann, who lives in a Dutch city called Culemborg and has visited Indonesia 15 times, told the Jakarta Globe. “I want to show people what Indonesia was like in the past, make them appreciate the beautiful old buildings. Hopefully, people will take good care of them. They are part of the Indonesian heritage and should be cherished.”

Now almost everyday, Bookelmann will post an old picture or two on his page. Recent examples include a stunning comparison of two photos capturing the Merdeka Building in Bandung, West Java, taken during the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955 and in 2016; a scan of a postcard illustrating Plampitan Bridge in Surabaya, East Java, in 1906; and a portrait of a Minangkabau woman from West Sumatra taken in 1936.

Bookelmann explained that he often culls these visual treasures from the Internet, such as the website of the Dutch national archives. “It gives me a kick to find pictures of Indonesia from the 1940s until the 1990s—it’s a bit hard to find them compared to pictures from the colonial period,” he said. “Sometimes people also send me their photographs.”

He also used to scan old postcards that he bought and post them on the page. “But I stopped doing that because it was expensive and time consuming,” he admitted.

By sharing these photos on his Facebook page, Bookelmann hopes he can reach as many people as possible, “young and old.” Indeed, the page has amassed more than 26,000 likes to date.

“I think almost everybody is nostalgic about their past, what it was like and what it looked like,” he said. “People love to be reminded of their own history by old photographs, but they also enjoy being surprised when they see that a lot has changed.”

A similar approach is taken by the Instagram account @JakartaDuluKala (Jakarta of Yore). As the name suggests, the account regularly posts a miscellany of photos and drawings that illustrate life in the city throughout the 20th century.

Photos on the account show everything from the Cathedral in Central Jakarta circa 1970, the crowded Halim Perdanakusuma international airport in 1974, to the streets of Pasar Baru during the colonial era in 1930.

One of the most nostalgia-inducing posts on @JakartaDuluKala is perhaps the photo of the National Monument—standing triumphantly during its final stage of construction in 1962, as shown here.

Documenting the Indonesian diaspora

If the aforementioned social media accounts mainly focus on life in Indonesia itself, the Indonesian Overseas History page on Facebook takes a different route altogether.

Started in July 2015 by Andi Hidayad—a Surabaya native who now lives and works as a civil engineer in Orlando, United States—and some of his friends, the page has become a meeting place for people to share the long history of Indonesian diaspora over the years.

Many of the posts feature photos showing Indonesian communities living abroad, like a Javanese family settling in Suriname—a former Dutch colony in South America—as well as a group of Indonesian friends studying in the Netherlands many decades ago.

"People like our photos and stories about the Indonesian diaspora because they don't have time to look for these interesting stories themselves," Andi told the Jakarta Globe recently. "So far, we've got around 5,800 likes from people all over the world."

There are currently three administrators and two editors taking care of the page. They usually source old photos online from a variety of websites. "We always mention our source on each post, we respect copyright," Andi said. "So far, there have been no complaints. We pick each material carefully so our posts don't just repeat what others are posting on similar pages."

Asked about his upcoming plan for the page, Andi said, "We've still got our day jobs and daily activities to take care of, so for now, we will just continue uploading two to three posts everyday."