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Indonesia

Famous people and celebrities in Indonesia

It can prove difficult to think of the name of even a single Indonesian celebrity. If you give it some further thought, however, you may find you have actually heard one or two of the names mentioned here before. You will be able to discover more by watching local television channels or listening to the radio during the long bus rides you'll be going on when travelling around Indonesia.

Those no longer with us

The most Indonesian celebrity of all, at around one million years old, is Pithecanthropus, also known as Java Man. He was the first human on the Indonesian archipelago and is the ancestor of the entire Indonesian population.

Margaretha Zelle was born in the Netherlands and spent periods living in the Dutch East Indies and Paris. Though the name Margaretha Zelle may not mean anything to you, you'll almost certainly have heard of her under her famous stage name Mata Hari. Whilst living on the island of Sumatra at one point in her life, she developed a passionate interest in Asia and decided to invent Javanese origins for herself. Part adventurer and part dancer, it was her career as a spy and double agent that led to her arrest and subsequent execution in 1917.

The first President of the Republic, Ahmed Sukarno, was the father of modern Indonesia and instrumental in winning the country its independence in 1945.

Through her work and research, the American anthropologist Margaret Mead was considered the world's foremost expert on Balinese culture.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer is Indonesia's most famous writer, with his books published in translation throughout the world. Imprisoned for long periods, deported, and often censored due to his communist politics, he is the author of major works such as "This Earth of Mankind", "It's Not an All Night Fair", "The Fugitive" and "The Girl from the Coast".

Taufik Hidayat

Those still living

Like his friend Parmoedya Ananta Toer, the caricaturist Augustin Sibaran has often been censored due to the political nature of his cartoons. He worked in hiding for a long time, continuing to produce his satirical works clandestinely.

Ahmed Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, became the first ever woman to lead Indonesia in 2001. Nicknamed the "Iron Lady of Moderate Islam", she went on to lose the election of 2004 and was defeated again five years later in 2009.

Winner of a gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and crowned World Champion in 2009 and 2010, Taufik Hidayat is Indonesia's biggest sports star. His chosen game is badminton, the country's number one national sport.

Though not well-known in the UK, the Indonesian singing star Anggun is famous across the channel in France. Born on the island of Java, she first came to prominence with the release of her début French-language album "Au nom de la lune", from which her hit single "La neige au Sahara" was taken. in 2012 she represented France in the Eurovision Song Competition.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 17 November 2015

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