A Showcase of Indonesia's Rich Cultural Past ; Also on View Are Gold Treasures, Brightly Colored Textiles, Daggers, Bells, Masks, Batik, Cast Bronze, and More

By Andreae, Christopher | The Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Showcase of Indonesia's Rich Cultural Past ; Also on View Are Gold Treasures, Brightly Colored Textiles, Daggers, Bells, Masks, Batik, Cast Bronze, and More


Andreae, Christopher, The Christian Science Monitor


Ethnography, anthropology, archaeology, and art rub shoulders in a major exhibition of Indonesian artifacts at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Where the lines are drawn between these areas of study is happily not always clear. A startling, delightful, and typical object such as this Javanese wayang kulit, or shadow play puppet, representing Batara Brama, mythical "god of fire," can be enjoyed as art as well as history.

"Indonesia: The Discovery of the Past" continues until April 17. Its more than 300 objects, many of them never shown publicly before, have come to the Dutch capital after an initial showing in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The exhibition brings together two collections that are closely linked. Dutch colonialists in Indonesia had gathered many cultural objects, which were divided between the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden, Netherlands, and the Batavian Society in Batavia (now known as Jakarta).

The staging of the exhibition indicates impressive cooperation between two present-day institutions, Leiden's National Museum of Ethnology and the Museum Nasional Indonesia in Jakarta.

Shadow play figures were operated like moving silhouettes behind a wide, white linen cloth. Made of painted leather, with articulated joints, they were animated by the puppeteer with horn sticks. …

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