Sun, 13 Feb 2000

Exhibition traces German-Indonesian friendship

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesians owe much to the famous German ethnologist and medical doctor Adolf Bastian (1826-1905), who introduced the name Indonesia to the rest of the world through his extensive research on the archipelago in the 19th century.

Bastian's five-volume work titled Indonesia or the Islands of the Malay Archipelago spread the name Indonesia to the outside world. Eventually, Indonesia became the official name of the nation, then known alternatively as East India, Insulinde and Nusantara.

Many other Germans made great contributions in boosting Indonesia and Germany's relationship in the fields of art, literature, science, technology and business.

But a lot of Indonesians and Germans are of the opinion that the relationship between the two nations only began a few years ago, really hitting its stride during the presidency of German- educated B.J. Habibie between l998 and l999.

As a matter of fact, the relationship started in 1506 when a representative of the famous Augsburg trading house Welser, Balthasar, Sprenger undertook a journey to India and afterward wrote a book in which the Malakka and the Banda islands were for the first time mentioned in the German language in a 1509 book titled Merfart (Journey Across the Sea).

The centuries-old relationship between the two countries is traced in a special exhibition titled Spuren einer Freundschaft- Deutsch-Indonesische (Tracing the Friendship between Germany and Indonesia) at the National Archives Building on Jl. Gajah Mada, Central Jakarta. The exhibition runs from Feb. 16 to the end of the month.

The exhibit, scheduled to be officially opened by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Feb. 15, aims to trace the German-Indonesian relationship from its beginnings up through the 19th and early 20th century.

This is achieved thanks to the meticulous efforts of Ibu Tamalia Alisyahbana, head of the National Archives, and German Ambassador to Indonesia Dr. Heinrich Seeman, whose work made this exhibition possible.

The idea for the event was put forward by the ambassador, who was eager to explore the history of the German-Indonesian relationship.

Dr. Seeman, a law school graduate, is well-known as the author of books on Nepal, Japan and Indonesia. His first book on Indonesia is titled From Goethe to Emil Nolde -- Indonesia's Place in German Literature, Science and Art.

The exhibition will put on display numerous stuffs that serve as testament to the historically tight bond between the two countries.

One of the first items is an illustration of the Indonesian town of Banten, which was printed in 1597 by Georg Keller of Frankfurt.


The first records of Indonesia by outsiders were written by German scholars, soldiers and travelers visiting the archipelago from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Their reports were made in the forms of letters, documents, cartography, maps and engravings.

The exhibition will also show the crucial contributions made to Indonesia by German scientists such as Eberhard Rumphuis and Friedrich von Wurmb, whose collections of art and books constitute the basis of today's National Museum and National Library collections.

Anther important scientist was Caspar Georg Karl Reinwardt, who founded the Botanical Park in Bogor, one of the most extensive botanical parks in the world. His successors, Karl Ludwig von Blume and Justus K. Habkarl, followed his lead and made similar contributions to the country.

Phillipp Franz von Siebold also played a significant role. Siebold was a specialist on Japan who came to Java at the request of the Dutch during the 1820s and introduced tea plantations to the island.

Siebold was also responsible for a half-forgotten, though important episode in the history of Indonesian art. He ordered a Dresden photographer to document the famous Borobudur Temple in Central Java in l843. He also documented the art collection of the Batavian Society for Arts and Science in l845.

The most prominent person appearing in the exhibition, however, is Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn (1809-1864), the first planter of the quinine plantations on Java. Junghuhn also published a number of seminal books on Java and Sumatra, including Topographic and Scientific Voyages through Java, Batak Country in Sumatra. These books were vital in telling the outside world about Indonesia and its islands.

There were also several famous names from German literature who were in one way or another linked with Indonesia.

These names include Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was made an honorary member of the Batavia Society for Arts and Science in l827, Adalbert Chamisso, Heinrich von Kleist and Theodor Fontane.

In the field of art, the father of modern Indonesian painting, Raden Saleh Sjarif Bustaman, in the 19th century and Walter Spies in the 20th century are the two most important figures linking Indonesian and German art.

Raden Saleh lived in Dresden and Gotha for many years, and German painter Walter Spies influenced modern Balinese painting, sculptor, music and dance.

The German influence on architecture in Indonesia is also vivid. The residence of Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1792-1862) is one such example. The residence, located on Jl. Pejambon (then known as Duke's Lane) in Central Jakarta, is now called Gedung Pancasila and belongs to the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Toko Merah in Central Jakarta, now the office of state-owned PT Dharma Niaga, was the residence of German-born Dutch governor General Baron von Imhoff (1705-1751).

Another stunning example of German influence on local architecture is former painter Raden Saleh's mansion, now Cikini Hospital in Central Jakarta. Few people know that the building was modeled after the German castle Callenberg.

Many the painter's works in German museums and private collections were influenced by the years in which Raden Saleh lived and worked in Germany. His architectural heritage in Germany is a small mosque in the vineyards above the valley of Muglitz near Maxen.

The exhibition also looks at early activities in the field of industry and trade. To assume that German economic relations with the archipelago began only after World War II would neglect the roots which go far deeper than that.

Siemens, just to mention one name, started its activities in Indonesia as far back as 1855, and Mercedes delivered its first car to Java in l896. The original railroad laid down by Krupp dates back to l876 and was discovered by a German engineer during repair work in Semarang, Central Java.

There are many other items and documentations displayed at the exhibition. Visiting this exhibit, one can feel the historically close ties between Germany and Indonesia. (raw)