Two mermaid statues at the Putri Duyung resort in Ancol Dreamland Park are no longer topless after the park operator decided last year that the artworks, which had been there for decades, were incompatible with “eastern norms”.
Gold torso wraps, locally known as kemben, now cover the upper body of the big mermaid statue near the lobby, and a smaller one near the entrance.
The move has baffled some people who found the statues innocuous and raised the question whether the park operator had been pressured by conservative groups. Ancol management, however, dismissed such claims, saying it had made its own decision with the intention of “beautifying” the statues.
“We covered them last year. Our objective, other than beautifying them, was to adjust to eastern norms,” city-owned property developer PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol spokesperson, Rika Lestari, told The Jakarta Poston Friday.
“There was no pressure. It was our decision,” she explained.
It is unclear why the company had decided only now to protect the statues’ modesty. The statues are thought to have been placed there shortly after the opening of the resort — the first one in the Ancol area — in 1973.
N. Syamsuddin Ch. Haesy, the editor in chief of news portal Akarpadinews.com, wrote on his website that Ancol’s decision to cover the statues could be aimed at making the resort a family-friendly tourist destination.
“The clothing [...] has given a new image to the oldest resort in Ancol Dreamland Park, as a safe and comfortable place for families without losing its own identity as a recreational area.”
However, others have questioned the decision.
Adie, 53, a visitor from Cipinang, East Jakarta, said that he noticed the mermaids were no longer naked and he thought the move was uncalled for.
“It’s unnecessary for me, but it’s still acceptable since they didn’t put too many clothes on the statues. It’s not bad,” said Adie, who claimed to be planning to hold a reunion event for his high school friends at the resort.
Netizens have reacted with both cynicism and humor to Ancol’s decision to cover the statues.
The owner of Twitter account @datuakrajoangek said: “The mermaid statues in Ancol have been dressed. They will soon get a face-veil. They are aroused by statues. Do you believe they are talking about culture?”
Another Twitter user, @Chad_Oking tweeted, “Maybe they don’t want the mermaids to catch a cold. It would be a shame if the mermaids wanted a kerokan [a traditional Javanese coin massage],” on March 17.
The mermaid statues in Ancol are not the first artworks in public places that have caused controversy.
In what many regard as a sign of rising conservatism in the country, several groups have demanded the removal of statues they deem inappropriate.
In 2007, a neighborhood head unit in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, removed a statue of dangdut singer Inul Daratista following complaints from the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR).
The statue showed Inul doing her trademark “drilling” dance, which had provoked national controversy in the past for its sexually suggestive moves.
In 2010, the Bekasi administration in West Java decided to tear down the Tiga Mojang (Three Ladies) statue, which symbolized three female forms in traditional Javanese dress after a series of protests from local hard-line Islamic groups, which claimed the statue was obscene as well as symbolizing the Christian concept of the Trinity.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika later purchased the statue, which was created by Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta.