Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak (The Jakarta Post)
Sun, September 21, 2014
The definition of feminine beauty has evolved through time ‘ and has been molded by society, culture ‘ and technology, such as cosmetic procedures.
In multicultural Indonesia, ideals of beauty are varied although there are some traits commonly perceived attractive.
In the agrarian culture that makes up most of Indonesia, the concept of beauty is equated with fertility.
The persistence of fertility and desirability can be seen in the statues and reliefs at ancient Hindu stone temples such as Borobudur ‘ and especially Prambanan ‘ in Central Java, where women are pictured with large breasts, full and roundfigures and sometimes with children.
Some Dayak tribes in Kalimantan have a different concept that involves a lot of pain similar to the Karen neck rings in Myanmar and the now-defunct foot-binding tradition for Chinese women.
Dayak women, and men, previously elongated their earlobes by adding large golden earrings, year after year.
While the length of earlobes for men was not to exceed their shoulders, the women were allowed to have them down to their chest.
The tradition, however, has been abandoned by the younger generation. Only elders from noble families can today still be seen with long earlobes.
The current concept of Indonesian beauty shifted to looks starting in the early 20th century, thanks to the pervasiveness of Hollywood.
As most of the actresses in local films at that time were from Java, the beauties on screen shared the typical faces of Javanese women ‘ with the exception of Fifi Young, a woman of Chinese descent who got her start in the 1940s.
The actresses had common traits: large, round eyes; blunt noses; long, jet-black and straight hair; light complexions and curvy, but proportional figures ‘ traits that are still prized.
Indonesia, however, has many different types of beauty. And even within the broad parameters defined above, the sense of beauty has evolved over time.
1970s and 1980s
Screen sirens at the time included Christine Hakim, Jenny Rachman, Lydia Kandou, Marissa Haque and Yessy Gusman. All of them were of mixed race; each represented a different epitome of beauty.
Jenny Rachman is of a mixed Acehnese, Chinese and Maduranese descent and often portrayed athletic, free-spirited yet respectable women.
Christine Hakim, on the other hand, was a symbol of self-confident, fashionable beauty ‘ although a film producer once said that she was not curvaceous enough for the screen.
A mix of Manado and Dutch descent, Lydia Kandou represented beauty from eastern Indonesia. She played mostly in comedies and defined new concept of beauty that included a sense of humor.
While Marissa Haque, of Middle-East descent, was the image of beauty and brains; above all, it was Yessy Gusman, with her wavy hair, fair skin, demure behavior ‘ and frequent turns as a conservative and virtuous woman ‘ who defined beauty for the era.
The decade was marked by the emergence of private television channels that broadcast soap operas, variety programs and commercials that were dominated by Eurasian-looking actresses and models.
Among them were the Bugis/Javanese-German/Austrian Sophia Latjuba, Polish-Indonesian Tamara Bleszynski and Batak/Australian Nadya Hutagalung, who all were blessed with high cheekbones, beautiful eyes and, for Indonesians, exotic accents.
Meanwhile, Desy Ratnasari, who was born in Sukabumi, West Java, defined a uniquely Indonesian type of beauty.
The fall of the New Order ‘ and the end of state-sanctioned discrimination against Chinese Indonesians saw ‘ the rise of more Asian-looking stars, such as Sandra Dewi, Agnes Monica, Leony, Olga Lydia, Laura Basuki and Lenna Tan.
However, the Eurasian-look remained popular with Luna Maya (German) and Shireen Sungkar (Arab), as well as the
traditionally Javanese beauty of Dian Sastrowardoyo.
The Korean wave that has swept over Asia also hit Indonesian shores. Although today the concept of beauty embraces women of all skin colors, the favorable traits that strongly hold the entertainment industry are milky-white skin complexions and impeccable white teeth.
However, the recent winner of Indonesian Idol, the Papuan-Batak beauty Nowela, is breaking the stereotypical concepts of beauty.