History in Miniature: Remembering Indonesia's Independence Fight Through Diorama

History in Miniature: Remembering Indonesia's Independence Fight Through Diorama

Scenes of independence.
August 17, 2017, 4:15am

Indonesia is still a relatively young nation. The country gained its independence in the wake of World War II, ending hundreds of years of Dutch colonial rule. Indonesia's founding fathers officially declared the nation's independence on 17 August 1945, a mere two days after Japanese imperial forces surrendered the Pacific.

So that means that anyone over the age of 72 lived through the entire history of NKRI. But what about the rest of us? How does a country teach its younger generations about the fight for independence? The answer, at least in Indonesia, is the diorama.

The country's museums are full of dioramas—some miniatures, some nearly life-sized—that are amazingly cinematic. These resin and plastic dioramas recreate some of the most-important scenes in the country's history, all the while somehow capturing the complexity of the battle in the process. Each one is meticulously detailed, complete with main actors and supporting cast all involved in their own little frozen slice of history.

All history is, in a sense, a form of nation building. And how a country chooses to represent its early days, especially its independence fight, tell a lot about the nation's character as a whole.

Indonesia's history museums prefer to show the gritty details of the battle, illustrating the independence war in gory detail. The history puts the military, and its victories, front-and-center, emphasizing the importance of an institution that held a central role in the country's development into a nation.

Our photographers visited three museums in Jakarta to capture the independence battle as its imagined by the country's most-skilled diorama makers.