Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Long-Lost Mural Reveals the Mystery of Batavia

Deep in the heart of Jakarta, hidden beneath the faded facade of the capital’s Kota Tua, a secret chamber holding an enigmatic relic has been uncovered. Concealed under a thick layer of dust, deep within the bowels of Jakarta’s History Museum, also called Fatahillah Museum, is a mural by master painter S. Harijadi that tells the sinister story of the city during its colonial past.

The mural is spread across three walls. In the center wall, a Dutchman holds court at a grand party, looking dapper in a white suit and tie. Javanese servants, clad in traditional lurik cloth and caps, are occupied with trays of food. Soldiers in gallant uniforms gather together while Dutch ladies in genteel kebaya sip tea and pick at hor d’oeuvres.

But the mural’s story is in fact far grander in scope, covering a vast stretch of the archipelago’s tumultuous past. Although the mural is only partially painted, Harijadi sketched the whole story. It begins at the edge of the first wall, when the archipelago was still free, save for the local thugs running amok and extorting money. Next up are illustrations depicting the assimilation of Chinese and Arabs. Then come the Dutch, taking center stage. Finally, automobiles, modern architecture and fancy garb enter the picture, alongside violent scenes of hangings and beatings.

Past the banquet, the narrative depicts a carnival of menacing characters, filled with wily pickpockets and sad buskers, before ending with a depiction of a family being evicted from their home by soldiers.

This ambitious work of art was left fragmented and forgotten for more than 30 years until a group of young artists stumbled across it in 2010.

“We found the hidden room with the mural when we were doing a video mapping project at the museum,” said Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo, a program manager at the British Council, which produced the video mapping projection shown at Fatahillah Museum in March 2010.

Full article by Titania Veda
Image of Mural

Mystery of Batavia
Fatahillah Museum
Performances every 30 minutes
Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Until May 15
Entry to the performance is free

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