Politics, Religion and Art at Jakarta’s Focal Point

What an Amazing World!

Gleaming under the morning sun, a gilded petrified flame sits atop a whitewashed monolith. Emanating from its base, trees cover most of the wide plaza providing shade for visitors – and a few decades ago, deer. Monumen Nasional – widely known by its acronym, Monas – was a monument commissioned by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, to embody the spirit and optimism of the newly independent country.

To the north of Monas lies one of the most important buildings in Indonesia’s political landscape: Istana Merdeka (Independence Palace) which is joined by another palace to its back, Istana Negara (State Palace). Together they make up the Presidential Palace complex, the seat of the executive branch of government. Originally built as the office of the Dutch Governor General in the 19th century, the neoclassical palace looks rather modest in size compared to many other presidential palaces around the world. It is even dwarfed…

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