Tag Archives: Museum Nasional Jakarta

Bali @ Museum Nasional Jakarta

When I walked into the gallery on Bali I felt quite at home. The ceremonial ‘objects’ were mostly familiar either from our time living and working in Bali or from the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). The NGA has an excellent collection of Balinese art much of which had been recently featured in the Art of Bali exhibition.

The Barong Landung ‘Jero Gede’ is the partner of the Barong Landung ‘Jero Luh’.  Jero Gede is strangely compelling. These Topeng are magical figures from Balinese mythology and ward off evil spirits. The barong are only used in performances on special occasions such as when a village is struck by an epidemic or at Galungan.

The Ukur Kepeng (sukat) made from copper in the shape of Chinese coins was of particular interest.  Neither John nor I had seen one of these when we lived in Bali even though we’d been to a number of Ngaben ceremonies and visited galleries and museums all over Bali. The first time I’d seen one was in the National Gallery of Australia. It was specially mounted on a white background for the Art of Bali exhibition. The Ukur kepeng at the Museum Nasional was also displayed on a white background.

Ukur Kepeng (Sukat)/Measurement, Tembaga/Copper, Bali
Ukur Kepeng (Sukat)/Measurement, Tembaga/Copper, Bali, Inv. 27189

Ukur kepeng is one of the ritual items used in Ngaben, the Balinese cremation ceremony. The Ngaben often takes place long after the actual death of a family member because of the prohibitive costs of the ceremony. The body is buried until the family is able to hold the Ngaben. On exhumation, the bones of the dead are often separated so an ukur kepeng is made to represent an effigy of the whole body.

Keris, Bali, iron and ivory
Keris, Bali, iron and ivory Inv. 12975

Information on the ukur kepeng  and Barong Landung ‘Jero Gede’ is from museum labels.

Kalimantan @ Museum Nasional Jakarta

Within a month of our Museum visit we’d be living in Central Kalimantan for six months and later travelling further afield on the island of Borneo. We were very interested in viewing objects and learning about Dayak culture.

The thematically organised displays were quite informative. For example, a small display on Dayak tattooing included photographs and information on the tattooing process, tattoo stamps and tattoo ink containers. The containers were beautifully crafted in stylised shapes of Dayak motifs – the hornbill and tiger. The featured Tattoo ink container (Wadah tinta tato) in the shape of a stylised tiger is a symbol of the Dayak God of healing [Inv.7769]

Wadah Tinta Tato (Tattoo ink container)
Wadah Tinta Tato (Tattoo ink container) in the shape of a hornbill, Iron, South Kalimantan [Inv.22375]
Tattoo stamp with dragon motif,
Tattoo stamp with dragon motif, Kayu, West Kalimantan [Inv. 7773b]
The dragon head is usually known as an aso, or dog-dragon. Ancient wisdom forbids the direct use of the name of the dragon goddess for fear that terrible retribution might follow. Thus there is a tradition among the Dayak of substituting the word ‘dog’ for ‘dragon.’
Hornbills are an important symbol throughout Kalimantan and this wooden carving symbolises the upper world of the Gods. In West Kalimantan  Kenyalang are placed on top of a pole close to the longhouse.  In times past the Dayak ‘elders’ had a way of limiting access and therefore protecting rainforest trees. Only a warrior who had killed an enemy was permitted to fell a tree to make a hornbill statue. In times of war, the hornbill spirit is invited to fly into enemy longhouses to weaken them.

Kenyalang/Hornbill sculpture
Kenyalang/Hornbill sculpture, Wood, West Kalimantan, [Inv.22199]
There were a number of jewellery and objects from Kalimantan worn or used in important ceremonies.

Bracelet (gelang) wood, fibre, beads,
Bracelet (gelang) wood, fibre, beads, Kalimantan [Inv. 2349]
Hampatong, Kalimantan Barat used by balian (shaman)  as a medium to cure or 'transfer' an illness or pandemic
Hampatong, Kalimantan Barat used by balian (shaman) as a medium to cure or ‘transfer’ an illness or pandemic [Inv. 6020]
Hisang (earring), Wood, Uma-Tow, Apo Kayan, East Kalimantan [Inv.9874] Decorated with aso dragon motif, worn by women.
Hisang (earring), Wood, Uma-Tow, Apo Kayan, East Kalimantan [Inv.9874]
Worn by women this Hisang (earring) is decorated with aso dragon motif.

Necklace (kalung), human teeth, sea shells, wood fibre,
Necklace (kalung), human teeth, sea shells, wood fibre, beads & wire, West Kalimantan [Inv. 2242a)
This necklace (kalung) made from human teeth, sea shells, wood fibre, beads & wire, West Kalimantan is worn as an amulet.

Tas (bag) bamboo, cotton threads, beads, Sampit, Central Kalimantan
Tas (bag) bamboo, cotton threads, beads, Sampit, Central Kalimantan [Inv. 14152]
A rattan bag with beads (manik-manik) was made in Sampit, Central Kalimantan. It turned out that Sampit is only about three hours from where we are now living.

Rituals associated with burial are some of the most significant traditional ceremonies in Kalimantan. This Miniatur Peti Mati (coffin) was the only funeral object on display.

Miniatur Peti Mati (coffin) Wood, bamboo
Miniatur Peti Mati (coffin) Wood, bamboo, Kalimantan [Inv. 17924] This coffin, also called a raung or kakurung, used to hold a deceased Dayak shortly after death.

Ku Yakin Sampai di sana @ Museum Nasional Jakarta


Museum Nasional Jakarta
Museum Nasional Jakarta

It was two days before Independence Day when I first visited the Museum Nasional in Jakarta.   The Merah Putih (the Indonesian flag) was proudly displayed though hung limply in the stillness of the day. The Museum, along with most of the buildings on our taxi trip there were festooned with huge swathes of red and white fabric in readiness for the Independence Day celebrations. It gave a festive dimension to the portico of the grand white neo-classical facade.

Museum Nasional Jakarta
Museum Nasional Jakarta

In the forecourt of the museum a magnificent swirling wave like installation sculpture captured my attention. The expressiveness of the hard grey metal of the vortex set against an overcast sky compelled me and many passers-by to peer into the vortex.  Inside you could see figures of people melded into the sculpture. It had an eerie watery feeling especially when you noticed that the sculpted people were being pulled in to the vortex. They didn’t seem perturbed. At the time I wasn’t sure what it meant but I kept recalling my feeling of wonder.

‘Ku Yakin Sampai di sana’ was designed by I Nyoman Nuarta
‘Ku Yakin Sampai di sana’ was designed by I Nyoman Nuarta

There didn’t appear to be a label for the work. Nearby was a rock lettered with the words Ku Yakin Sampai di sana. I didn’t know what it meant or that it was related to the installation.

Some weeks later I was still thinking about the sculpture and started looking for information.  Ku Yakin Sampai di sana was designed by I Nyoman Nuarta, a Balinese artist born in Tabanan in 1951. He studied Fine Arts at the Bandung University.

Ku Yakin sampai di sana  is a song by SBY. Ku Yakin Sampai di sana can be translated as  ‘I believe I will get there’. It was performed by 150 Jakarta students at the farewell to SBY and welcome Jokowi at his inauguration. Here are some of the words to the song.

Ku Yakin sampai di sana


Meskipun berat mesti kulakukan

Kupilih jalan yang kukakini

Jangan paksakan yang tak kan mungkin

Hidupku mesti lurus dan benar

Seribu jalan menuju Roma

Entah mana yang paling baik

Ada begitu banyak pilihan

Engkau lah yang kan menentukan


T’lah kupilih jalanku sendiri

Dalam prinsip kehidupanku

Meski tak selalu akan indah

Aku yakim sampai di sana


This is an English translation.

Although it’s difficult, I must go through it

I chose the path I believe in

Don’t force things that are impossible

My life must be honest and right


There are thousands of ways to Rome

Uncertain which one is best

There are just too many options

You will be the one deciding


 I have chosen my own path

With my life principles

Although it won’t always be beautiful

I believe I will be there