July 10, 2010

We Don't Need Another Hero

I guess you never forget the first time you see a dancing monkey wearing a tracksuit. Oh and did I mention that it also had a doll’s head with the eyes cut out on its head like a mask? Dancing may be a bit flattering. It was actually being yanked on a chain by a guy on the island of a major boulevard in downtown Jakarta. For what reason, I cannot even begin to imagine. There were about six of them in a row. Do people think, “Hmmm those tortured monkeys look adorable, let’s give that man some money so he continue to torture them for the rest of their lives.”

Our car conversation-
Me: Look at those dolls!
Wife: Weird, wait are those...
Me: Monkeys! I think so.
Daughter: Where?
Wife: Oh my god they are monkeys.
Me: Look another one.
Daughter: Where? I want to to see a dancing monkey doll.
Wife: Oh never mind sweety, look what is that? (Pointing across the street.)
Daughter: But I want to see the monkey dolls dance?
Me: No you don't sweety.
Daughter: But daddy why are the monkeys dancing?
(You just don't have these conversation unless you move overseas.)

This city is a constant assault on your senses, and I have yet to even leave the car and venture on foot through its arteries. were on our way home from yet another major mall, zigging and zagging our way through crowded streets when we saw the sadistic road show. One second the roads here are clean and somewhat navigable...Image by Artificial

...and the next you are passing entire city blocks built out of zinc and cheap wood along a brown river, probably the only one in the world that doesn’t ever seem to move.

Jogjakarta slum river
Image by tbSMITH

I look forward to the times I can get lost in this maze on foot and with my camera, but for now I watch out the window of our moving car, like a curious child. What goes on out there? I have already seen dancing monkeys straight from the Thunderdome. What other stories are waiting to be told?

Post Script: I didn’t have my camera, but was pleasantly surprised that I could find images of these demented primates online, and in a, “it’s a small world” twist they were taken by Brandon Hoover or Javajive on Twitter, an educator whom I have grown to know pretty well. Thanks Brandon for capturing this bizarre scene.

Post Script Post Script: I can't get these monkeys off my mind, so I did a bit more research and here is what I found:

The practice is called Topeng Monyet which means Monkey Mask- Monkey mask is a traditional art which is known in various regions in Indonesia .

Here is an article on the subject-
Trained monkeys are enough to macaque a grown man cry...The variations are endless and widely enjoyed across Indonesia. But behind the theatrics, the little macaques lead appalling lives.

and a video-

1 comment:

  1. WTF?! I am laughing and horrified! Your dialogue was hilarious. The things we have to explain to our kids...in my wildest dreams I couldn't imagine the scene above.