If Singapore has a lion, why should Indonesia's Pontianak not have a ghost?

Netizens illustrate their views of how a 100m kuntilanak statue in Pontianak might compare with existing statues elsewhere in the country.
Netizens illustrate their views of how a 100m kuntilanak statue in Pontianak might compare with existing statues elsewhere in the country. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

PONTIANAK, West Kalimantan (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Singapore has the Merlion and Kuching in Malaysia has its Cat Statues - both of which long attracted tourists keen to get a shot of the creatures.

So why should Pontianak, the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, not have its own city personification and build a statue of Kuntilanak, a mythical female ghost with long hair and a white nightgown seeking revenge for the loss of her child and her own life during childbirth?

That would be good for tourism, the head of West Kalimantan's Youth, Tourism and Sports Agency, Kartius, said recently.

"People say I'm a pagan, a superstitious hillbilly," Kartius said of his idea. Those who call me a hillbilly are the hillbillies, because they never go abroad."

Singapore's Merlion, he said, attracted tourists and visitors to the country, who would feel they had yet to visit Singapore until they saw the statue of the mythical half-lion half-fish creature.

The same went for the Cat Statues in Kuching, he said.

In Singapore's case, "singa" means lion and in Kuching's case, "kucing" means cats.

In Pontianak's case, pontianak is the Malay word for kuntilanak, the scary female ghost resembling Sadako Yamamura of the horror movie The Ring.

"I have never seen a kuntilanak, so if you have no idea how to make the statue, look at my face. It's alright, you may call me crazy, I'm fine," Kartius joked when asked about his idea for a 100-metre statue of a kuntilanak towering where the city's Kapuas River and Landak River meet.

The height, Kartius said, was to afford visitors a good view from the top-most floor.

But some residents are apparently less than charmed by his idea. A group calling itself Residents Movement Rejecting the Ghost Statue (Gema Topan) came to the West Kalimantan City Council building to protest the idea late last month.

Five representatives of Gema Topan were received by an official of the West Kalimantan Council, Irwan Suhandar, who said the City Council had yet to receive any official information about it from the administration.

"It's only an idea," he said.

Netizens, meanwhile, appear to enjoy the idea, creating illustrations of what such a statue might look like.

Folklore has it that when the founder of the Pontianak Sultanate, Abdurrahman Alkadrie, first came to the land to build his sultanate, he had a sighting of a kuntilanak or pontianak, giving the city its name.

Kartius himself does not believe he can see through his plan to attract more tourists to the city, because he will retire next year.

But he said he had talked with officials at the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry, who had said the central government would help with the allocation of a special funds should the Pontianak administration decide to build the statue. "The private sector has also offered to find investors," he said.