Posts in Essays

Mengapa Foto “Kolonial” Papua Menjadi Masalah?

Sebenernya, pada dasarnya, cerita hari ini adalah cerita tentang keindahan budaya ditengah-tengah situasi politik buruk.

Sebelum aku mulai, aku mau mengingatkan bahwa di Papua sedang ada konflik militer. Di Nduga, Papua di awal Desember, 4 warga sipil ditemukan tewas akibat konflik senjata antara TNI-Polri dan TPNPB-OPM (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat/Organisasi Papua Merdeka). Selain itu, juga ada sekitar 20 karyawan PT Istaka Karya, pekerja Trans Papua yang ditemukan tewas.

“Ketua DPRD Kabupaten Nduga Anthi Gwijangge menuturkan, ketika dia dan tim evakuasi sampai di Distrik Mbua, ada satu jenazah yang ditemukan di wilayah perkebunan.”

Aktivis HAM internasional Theo Hesenggem menuding TNI yang membunuh empat warga sipil di Nduga. Hal itu berdasarkan hasil temuan tim evakuasi di lapangan.

“Warga mengatakan, pembunuh orang yang ditemukan waktu pencarian itu anggota [TNI-Polri], menggunakan dua helikopter dan menembak warga dari atas. Itu helikopter tentara. Dari helikopter itu melakukan tembakan bertubi-tubi di mana masyarakat berada,” ujarnya.

-Dieqy Hasbi Widhana, Tirto.id

Guberbur Papua, Lukas Enemba, dan Ketua Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Papua, Yunus Wonda, meminta agar TNI mundur pasukan di Nduga, Papua. Namun sampai sekarang anggota TNI masih berada di sana.

Papua mengatakan kemerdekaan mereka di tahun 1961. Namun, setelah dua tahun, pemerintah Indonesia mengambil alih dengan janji akan mengadakan referendum kemerdekaan.

Walau Belanda sudah menegaskan kepentingan kebebasan memilih untuk warga Papua, aksi politik di Amerika Serikat dan di Jakarta membuat situasi semakin buram. Presiden Sukarno membuat kesepakatan dengan dinas Amerika Serikat untuk berusaha mengambil alih Papua.

Di tahun 1969, Papua akhirnya mendapatkan kesempatan untuk memilih kemerdekaan atau pengintegrasian dengan Indonesia. Duta besar dari Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa (UN), Oritiz Sanz meminta agar satu orang dikasih satu “vote”. Namun, permintaannya ditolak dan akhirnya hanya 1,026 ketua yang dipilih secara khusus oleh tentara Indonesia dan diantar untuk mengikuti pemilihannya. Mereka memutuskan untuk bergabung dengan Indonesia. Jumlah pemilih ini (1,026) hanya 0.2% dari populasi Papua, dan pemilihannya sendiri diragukan curang, dari negara lain maupun dari orang Papua sendiri.

Di tahun 2017, juga diberitakan bahwa 1.8 juta warga Papua menandatangani petisi yang dikirim ke Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa. Petisi itu berisi permintaan oleh warga Papua untuk mengadakan pemililhan ulangyang bisa menentukan kemerdekaan Papua, dan juga permintaan untuk menginvestigasikan kekerasan dan pelangagaran hak asasi manusia di area tersebut.

Yang jelas—masalah ini sudah ada sejak lama.


Nah, mengenai masalah hari ini: foto-foto Nicole yang disebut “kolonialis” oleh para warganet.

Sebenarnya, intinya begini: budak yang bahagia tetaplah budak.

Orang yang sudah lama dijajah, entah oleh penjajah beneran (misal, sebelum Indonesia merdeka) atau penjajahan “pikiran” (dimana orang memaksakan naratif, kehendak, atau pikiran kepada orang lain)—biasanya tidak akan sadar bahwa mereka dijajah. Mereka diajarkan bahwa mereka tidak pantes untuk diperhatikan, sehingga ketika ada yang baik sedikitpun sama mereka, mereka merasa bahwa itu suatu kehormatan luar biasa.

Contoh: selama bertahun-tahun, orang native Indonesia dijajah sama Belanda dan diajarkan bahwa “bule is best”—intinya, barang, warna kulit, produk, bahasa, dan segalanya yang berasal dari luar Indonesia lebih bagus, berkualitas, dan terhormat daripada yang berasal dari Indonesia.

Seringkali bule yang sebenarnya mukanya biasa saja disebut “cantik seperti aktris Hollywood”—seringkali ketika orang Indonesia menikah sama bule dari Amerika Serikat atau Eropa, kejadiannya masuk berita nasional. Kenapa? Karena orang Indonesia diajarkan untuk menyembah barang dan orang “luar”. Karena kulit putih dianggep lebih bagus. Kemarin aja saat naik taxi, supirku mengatakan begini: “Saya lebih suka kulit putih, kinclong seperti kamu. Teman wanita saya kulitnya semua gelap, dan kesannya kotor”.

Mentalitas ini—bahwa budaya dan diri kita sendiri lebih jelek dibandingkan orang luar—disebut “internalized racism”.

“Internalized hatred” terjadi kepada orang yang sudah lama menjalani hubungan yang abusive. Karena mereka sudah dicuci otak bahwa mereka tidak layak dipatuti, disayangi, dihormati, didengari—mereka mulai anggep penghargaan terkecil dan terbiasapun sebagai keajaiban dan kebaikkan yang luar biasa.

Respons orang Papua pro atau kontrapun terhadap foto Nicole, satu hal yang jelas: sebagai orang yang punya hak istimewa/privilege, kami harus sadarkan diri dan menghormati orang yang kehilangan haknya (disenfranchised people). Memang kadang-kadang orang rela dimanfaatin atau didiemin, tapi bukan berarti kita boleh meneruskan situasi seperti itu.


Ketika kamu lihat anjing disiksa, apakah kamu akan diem saja?

Ketika kamu lihat temanmu dengan mulut yang tertutup lakban, apakah kamu akan membiarkan dia seperti itu?

Tentu tidak. Tapi dengan pergi ke Papua (atau lokasi manapun, sebenarnya), memotret orang pribuminya, mengunggah fotonya ke Instagram,

  • tanpa menceritakan situasi mereka

  • tanpa berbagi konteks

  • tanpa menanyakan keadaan mereka, dan

  • tanpa tulus membantu mereka,

itulah yang kamu lakukan. Apalagi kalo kamu memanfaatkan keadaan dan penampilan mereka sebagai prop di foto-fotonya, dengan tambah-menambah hashtag biar akunmu semakin rame.


Siapa dalam hubungan ini yang benar-benar beruntung? Tentu bukan mereka—dengan keadaanmu atau tidak, situasi mereka tetap sama. Tetap ditindas oleh pemerintahan kita, tetap diasingkan, tetap dicuekin. Orang-orang di beda pulau tetap menganggap “Papua” sebagai tempat primitif, dimana orang-orang masih pakai tombak, dimana mereka sehari-harian masih berburu hewan lihar. Persepsi orang terhadap Papua tetap kuno dan tidak akurat, dan iya—dengan fotomu, kamu bantu melestarikan persepsi itu.

Di hubungan seperti ini, orang yang mendapatkan untung terbesar adalah kamu. Kenapa? Karena kamu dapat model gratis, dan mendapatkan konten yang bisa kamu menambahkan ke portfoliomu. Kamu dapat peluang, dan juga mendapatkan nama dan reputasi sebagai fotografer ahli.

Tapi kalo misalnya seperti ini: kamu datang ke sana, dan melakukan wawancara pendek sama orang native yang hadir di sana—tidak susah, kok:

  • Namamu siapa?

  • Apa arti festival ini bagi kamu?

  • Apa arti dari tarian ini?

  • Apa arti cat di muka?

  • Seperti apa kehidupan sehari-hari kamu?

Pertanyaan yang sederhana ini bisa ditanyakan dalam percakapan singkat kok. Tidak butuh waktu wawancara khusus, kan? Namun walaupun pertanyaannya sederhana, kamu dapat mempejalari begitu banyak hal dan mendengarkan begitu banyak cerita dari orang yang kamu tanyain.


Lalu kamu minta memotret mereka, dan kamu pulang ke rumah nyamanmu di tengah kota. Satu per satu, kamu mulai mengunggah foto-foto yang sudah kamu edit, dan cerita sejarah dan konteks dibelakang fotonya.

Karena platformmu sangat besar, banyak orang belajar tentang orang Papua dan budaya Papua. Ternyata, persepsi mereka salah! Dan mereka, berkat kamu, mulai terbuka kepada budaya-budaya lain, tarian-tarian lain. Mereka mulai menghormati muka-muka yang selama ini asing. “Oh,” berkata mereka. “Ternyata saudara di Papua tak beda jauh sama aku.” Mereka mulai ber-empati untuk situasi mereka.

Hanya karena kamu menanyakan pertanyaan singkat, pengikut Instagrammu bisa merasakan keindahan NKRI. Tak hanya dari penampilan saja, tapi dari cerita yang kamu berbagi mengenai orang—ya, orang, dan sesungguhnya manusia seperti kita.

Dan beberapa pengikut IG-mu mulai berubah pikiran—mereka berhenti memandang mereka sebagai “orang lain” tapi sebagai “saudara”. Sebagai teman, walau belum pernah ketemu. Sebagai sesama manusia.


Oh, tapi aku lupa. Tindakanmu tidak seperti itu, kan? Kamu ngakunya mau mengingkat kesadaran akan Papua dan keindahannya, namun cerita yang di feedmu tetap tentang dirimu. Kalo memang hanya untuk feed, bilanglah. Kalo memang mau menginkat kesadaran, buktikanlah.

Nggak. Kamu hanya ambil foto mereka dan curi wajahnya supaya bisa lebih populer di sosial media. Tanpa memikirkan cerita mereka, kamu ceritakan tentang perasaanmu. Di fotomu, mereka berdiri disampingmu, dan iya, memang keliatan indah kok, tapi hanya itu: indah. Di fotomu, mereka bukan manusia tapi barang tanpa cerita. Karakter pendamping di naratifmu. Kita sudah tahu bahwa mereka indah, kok. Tapi kemana makna dibelakangnya?

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa banyak pengikutmu pengen ke Papua, belajar, dan lihat Festival Baliem, namun tidak sanggup.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa persepsi pengikutmu tetap kuno, atau bahkan semakin kuno.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa suara orang Papua sering diabaikan demi berita yang terjadi di pulau yang lebih kaya dan berpendidikan.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa mereka kehilangan sekali lagi kesempatan untuk bercerita dan bersuara—padahal platform-mu sudah tepat dan rame. Padahal influence-mu besar dan kuat.

Dan tidak masalah kok, bahwa saudara-saudaramu di Papua sedang terlibat dalam konflik kemerdekaan.

Mengapa itu semua perlu menjadi perhatianmu? Kan kamu sudah mengunggah foto mereka. Bukannya itu sudah cukup baik? Bukannya kamu sudah murah hati sekali, memberi mereka berada di feed Instagrammu?

Tidak perlu, kan, memikirkan itu semua. Yang penting bagimu?

Hashtagmu sudah lengkap, promosimu berhasil, dan ketenaranmu terus mengingkat.



The truth of all of this is that today’s story is one about how a culture can be rich and beautiful, even in the midst of a difficult political situation.

Before we begin, I want to remind you that there is an ongoing military conflict in Papua. In Nduga, Papua, in mid-December, 4 civilians were reported dead as a result of an armed conflict between Papuan liberation forces and the Indonesian army. Aside from that, about 20 employees of PT Istaka Karya, the company handling the development of Trans Papua, were also reported dead.

The head of District Nduga’s DPRD, Anthi Gwijangge, stated that when he and the evacuation team arrived at District Mbua, a body was found in the plantation area.

Based on the findings of the evacuation team in the field, international human rights activist Theo Hesenggem accused the National Army of Indonesia of the killings.

“Residents stated, the killers of the people found dead during that search were members of [TNI-Polri”], using two helicopters that shot the civilans from above. These helicopters were military-owned, and from them the members of the army shot continuously towards the people.

-Dieqy Hasbi Widhana, Tirto.id

The Governor of Papua, Lukas Enemba, and the Chairman of the Papuan House of Representatives, Yunus Wonda, requested that the army remove their troops from the area. However, to this date, members of the TNI are still there.

Papua (also known as West Papua, or Papua New Guinea) declared independence in 1961. However, after two years, the Indonesian government took over administration of the former Dutch colony with a promise to hold a referendum later on should they desire independence.

Even though the Netherlands already reinforced the importance of Papuan freedom to determine their own country’s fate, political issues and actions in the USA and Jakarta made the situation unclear. Sukarno, who was president of Indonesia at the time, asked for the help of USA officials to lobby President JFK for permission to annex Papua.

In 1969, Papua finally received their “chance” to vote for freedom or integration. The ambassador of the UN, Oritiz Sanz, requested a one man, one vote system. However, this request was rejected; instead, 1,026 elders were hand-chosen by the army and escorted to voting booths. The result of this decision was integration; however, the number of voters totalled only 0.2% of the total Papuan population. The “referendum” itself is widely considered to be fraudulent, both by native Papuans and outsiders.

In 2017, it was also reported that 1.8 million Papuan natives signed a banned petition sent to the UN that requested another vote be held to determine independence. They also requested that the UN send a special representative to investigate possible human rights violations in the area.

One thing is clear: this has been an issue for decades.


And now, for today’s issue: the “colonial” photo(s) taken by Indonesian photographer Nicole which have been the topic of heated debate by Indonesian netizens.

To be entirely honest, there’s only one point that needs to be made: happy slaves are still slaves.

People who have been colonized or oppressed for long periods of time, whether through literal colonizers (such as the Dutch in Indonesia before 1945) or oppressive thinking (where people push narratives, personal wills, or perspectives onto others)—often do not realize that they have been oppressed. They have, after all, been taught that they do not deserve to be paid attention to, to the point where any single, minuscule show of kindness is interpreted as a great honor.

Example: for years, native Indonesians were colonized by the Dutch, who taught them that “foreign is best”—basically, that imported or foreign products, skin color, languages, and everything else are more valuable and of higher quality than anything from Indonesia.

The Indonesian media often refers to ordinary-looking white women as great beauties with faces like Hollywood actresses; marriages between native Indonesians and white Europeans or Americans are reported on in national news. Why? Because Indonesians have been taught to worship white products and people. Because white skin is considered “better”. Yesterday, I rode a taxi and the (admittedly disgusting) driver stated, “I prefer women with light skin, clear and pretty like yours. The skin of my female friends are very dark, and it gives the impression of dirtiness.”

This mentality—that a person’s own culture and appearance are somehow “lesser” than those of foreigners or those of other races—is what we call “internalized racism”.

Internalized hatred can also be seen in victims of relationship abuse. Because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that they are not worthy of being listened to, loved, respected, or heard—they begin to view even the smallest, most mediocre show of respect as a miracle and out-of-this-world kindness.

The response of Papuan natives, for or against the photo, does not change the fact that as people with privilege, we have to know our place and history, and respect those who have been disenfranchised. Yes, it’s true that many people have been taught to want to be manipulated or ignored—but that does not mean we should perpetuate these kinds of situations.


When you see a dog being tortured, would you be quiet?

When you see a friend with duct tape over their mouth, will you leave them that way?

Of course not. But by going to Papua (or any ‘exotic’ place, really), photographing the natives, uploading the photos to Instagram,

  • without telling people about their situation

  • without sharing the context

  • without asking how they’re doing

  • without a sincere wish to help them,

that is what you’re effectively doing. Especially if you use the situation and their appearance as props in your photos, then add twenty or thirty hashtags so that your account gets discovered.


In this relationship, who’s really benefitting? Clearly not them—with your presence or without it, their situation stays the same. They are still oppressed by our government, still treated as outsiders, and still ignored by the majority of the population. People from other islands, like Java, will still perceive “Papua” to be a primitive place, one where people still use spears and hunt for wild animals. This idea and image of Papua is outdated and inaccurate, and yes—with your photos, you continue to perpetuate it.

No, in a relationship like this one, the one receiving the most benefits is you. Why? Because you’re getting free models, and nice content for your photography portfolio. You get more opportunities, and more praise for your name as a professional photographer.

But if, say, just say—you did this: you went there, you held quick interviews with the natives you met there (it’s not hard, I promise):

  • What’s your name?

  • What does this festival mean to you?

  • What do these dances mean?

  • What does the face paint mean?

  • What is your daily life like?

These are simple questions that can be asked at any time. You don’t need to have a formal interview, right? But despite the simplicity of these conversation starters, you can learn so much and hear so many stories from those you ask.


And then you ask to photo them, and you go home to your beautiful home in the middle of the city. One by one, you begin to upload the photos that you’ve already edited, and you leave captions that explain the context and history behind them.

Because your platform is so large, people begin to learn about the Papuan people and Papuan culture. They begin to realize that their perceptions are wrong! And they, because of you, begin to open their minds to the idea of other cultures, other dances. They begin to respect faces that, for so long, have been unfamiliar.

“Oh,” they say. “It turns out that our brothers in Papua are not so different from us.” And they begin to feel for their plight.

Just by asking a few questions to the people you meet, your Instagram followers begin to truly understand the beauty of their country. Not just from superficial appearances, but from the stories you share about those people—yes, people, and humans just like us.

And some of your followers, they begin changing their minds. They stop considering the Papuan people as “other” but as “brothers”. As friends, even though they’ve never met. As humans.



Oh, but I’ve forgotten. That’s not what you did, is it? You claim to want to raise awareness for Papua’s beauty, but the story you’re telling is still about you. If it’s purely for your pretty feed, say so. If you really want to raise awareness, prove it.

No, you just took their photos and stole their faces so that you could become even more popular on social media. Without thinking about their stories, you told your own, about your feelings and reactions to their culture and beauty. In your photos, they stand beside you, and yes, they are beautiful. But that’s it: beautiful. In your photos, they don’t stand as people but as things without stories; side characters in your own grand story. We already know they’re beautiful. But where is the meaning behind all of that beauty?

It doesn’t matter that your followers will continue to have the same outdated perception of Papua—perhaps even more backwards, now.

And it doesn’t matter that the actual voice of Papuan natives has been ignored for decades for news that is more relevant to the richer, more educated islands.

It doesn’t matter that they, once again, have lost a possible change to tell their story—not necessarily political, no, just human—this despite the fact that your platform is a wonderful, popular place. This despite the fact that your influence is strong and large.

And of course, it doesn’t matter that your friends and brothers in Papua are struggling, or that they are dealing with a fight for independence.

Why in the world would any of that possibly cross your mind? After all, you’ve already uploaded their photos. Isn’t that kind enough? Haven’t you already been so generous, letting them share your Instagram feed?

And there’s no need, right, to think about any of that at all. What matters to you?

Your hashtags are perfect, your promotions are successful, and your popularity continues to increase.