December 29, 2011

Little Red Riding Hood, where are you going?

Little Red Riding Hood-Batik, unsigned, based on design by Lien Metzelaar

Reading three, no four books and an essay about the influence of the Netherlands on Indonesia, and visa versa, during the colonial time. First of I'm apparently interested in the same things artists where interested in during the beginning of the 20th century.
I quote:
"In the Netherlands at the turn of the 20th century, Dutch artists were inspired by batik as a technique and by its patterns as a part of a general new wave of Orientalisme in European art. It was used by applied art movements to revive Western art, which had been neglected in favour of industrial mass-produced decorative objects. Artists such as Carel Lion Cachet, Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof, Johan Thorn Prikker, Chris Lebeau, Agathe Wegerif and Bertha Bake designed room screens, book covers and wall paper, among other objects havng to do with interior design and functionality, and were part of the Art Nouveau or 'Nieuwe Kunst' movement of that time. This movement looked for inspiration in batik techniques and motifs, and all these developments resulted in a growing appreciation of batik as a form of art."

Can I ever think of anything new in this life time, haha...But seriously, this shows that Batik had a direct influence on our art scene. The quote is from the essay 'Collectors Collected: Exploring Dutch colonial culture through the study of batik' by Daan van Dartel, published by and filled with batiks from the Tropenmuseum. Very interesting and very helpful, so more information from that will definitely follow in next posts.

Sitting in Museum Nusantara I was reading some information about how Nusantara developed from a royal academy for engineers and colonial civil servants to a museum about the cultural treasures, history, religion and traditions of the Indonesian archipelago. In it the 'Wereldtentoonstelling' is mentioned. "The 'Koloniale Wereldtentoonstelling van 1883' ('International Colonial and Export Exhibition') was a colonial exhibition (a type of World's Fair) that was held in Amsterdam. The event drew at least a million visitors and was the first international colonial exhibition, with 28 different nations presenting their colonial trade and wealth."
Sitting there drinking my coffee and enjoying eating spekkoek I was thinking: "Don't I own a book about that?".
Well I don't own a book about that, but I do own a book about 'De Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid in 1898'. The book with the title 'Feministische openbaarheid' is about how the exhibition gave attention to the limited job options women had and under which harsh conditions the female workers earned their living around that time. The "Tentoonstelling" lasted 3 months filled with exhibitions, conferences and demonstrations of crafts. They even had a reconstructed Indonesian Kampong with music and dance performances and of course there was a room filled with Javanese Batiks, Batik Belanda and imitations prints from a cotton print factory (in Haarlem?).
I remember buying this book. I was in this totally too cool bookshop in Amsterdam and I didn't wanted to leave the shop empty-handed when I saw this book on the discount table. I was still very into our feministic history, because I graduated with a thesis about feminism and women in Art called 'What a Art-girl needs to know, Women's Art and Society from 1900 until now' and bought a lot of books about this subject. So I bought it, but never really read it, until now.

In 'Vertrouwd en vreemd: ontmoetingen tussen Nederland, Indië en Indonesië', which I'm also reading, they use information from the book above to show that there was a lot of criticism from the Netherlands concerning Batik Belanda. Madam G.A.N. van Zuylen-Tromp (no relation to Eliza van Zuylen) found Batik Belanda of such bad quality that the traditional Batik had to be protected from its influence. The inspiration and motifs used in Batik Belanda were of no meaning and only based on fashion. The European influence "corrupted" and "degenerate" the East Indian Batik industry.
Ow I'm enjoying this so much, it's like reading a soap opera of real fact & fury

Another nice thing I came across in 'Vertrouwd en vreemd', which I bought because it contain an article 'Little Red Riding Hood in Batik, From Batik Belanda to Batik Hokokai' by Amy Wassing, is that "Eliza (van Zuylen) copied and bought motifs from other Batikworkshops". Aha!

So lets go back to the start, I will tell you more as the story unravels. Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood.

All this reading started with the batik I saw at Museum Nusantara, the Little Red Riding Hood-batik. This batik is a very good and clear example of the Western influence on Batik. A French fairytale to warn you to never talk to strangers and keep your knowledge to yourself because the big bad wolf might be outsmarting you (and don't lose your virginity to a sweet talker, but that's a different explanation of the story) ends up on a batik in Indonesia around 1905.

The more I read about the colonial time, "tempo doeloe", I realize people don't change. A lot of the choices made were and still are based on greed, jealousy and ego. Eliza van Zuylen is pointing her finger at Maria Paulina Carp calling her a thief, while Eliza is copying and buying designs from other Batikmakers herself. And this Little Red Riding Hood-Batik was such a design, copied by every big player in the Batikmarket.

"Very European style sarong with Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. The red coloured "kepala" is filled with a bouquet, butterflies and little flowers. In the "badan" Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf are shown twice standing underneath a tree with above it birds and butterflies flying."
Description of the Little Red Riding Hood-Batik in the collection of Tropenmuseum, maker unknown.

Batikexpert Harmen Veldhuisen tells in "Batik Belanda" that Carolina Josephina von Franquemont started with the fairytale batiks. Von Franquemont was the first women as far as known to start her own Batikworkshop. She started age 23 and in 1845 opened her Batikworkshop nearby Semarang. She mostly concerned with developing new dyes and designing new patterns for her sarong, it's unknown if she made batik herself.
For her patterns she used motifs from the Dutch craft magazine Aglaja. She even got the exclusive right by the publisher to do so. By enlarging, rearranging and combining, she created a totally new batik style.
Von Franquemont died in 1867 when in June an earthquake wiped away her batik workshop.* After that her house and belongings were sold by public auction, showing that she had a well-paid business. This inspired other Indo-European women to start their own Batikworkshop.

In 1903 till 1906 more than 20 Batikworkshops were listed in Pekalongan with European names. This is also when the stealing and copying started. The competition was strong between the workshops. You mostly work on commission and if someone's design was very popular, it was easier to make money by copying that design than stick to your own. To protect their designs, Batikmakers started signing their works (see also my post about Maria Paulina Carp "Give honor to whom it’s due".
But this didn't stop the copying at all. Batiks are still made building on motifs by famous Batik Belanda entrepreneurs.

Maybe Von Franquemont started the fairy tale trend, but I think it's Lien Metzelaar's Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) design that is probably the one that got imitated. Looking online I found three similar Batiks as the one from Museum Nusantara. One is by Lien Metzelaar from around 1905. The background motif on the badan, called bilik or gedekan, is exactly the same as the Nusantara-batik. The one at the Tropenmuseum shows a different motif on the background, also the face of LRRH is a bit crooked. It looks like the "Metz" version has more detail, but it hard to say if you can't see the real deal.
I also found Eliza van Zuylen's LRRH Batik and read that after Lien Metzelaar died, Madam J.C. van Ardenne-Simonet bought her Batikworkshop and designs including LRRH in 1918. They all look so similar...The way she is standing underneath the tree, with a red hat, more than a red hood, the wolf coming from behind. Who was the first to draw it like that?

One theory is that freelance artists, "tukung sungging", drew copies of book illustrations and sold them to Batikworkshops. This could be the reason why identical patterns appear in batiks from different Batikmakers. If the LRRH-batik is based on a book illustration from around 1900 and you'll find that illustration you will know which design came first. Well I looked up about a hundred roodkapjes, rötkapchen and le petit chaperon rouge from 1830 till 1908, but found no match, yet.

The story continues...

* updated on 8 August 2016 with extra information about Von Franquemont from the article 'Ko­lo­ni­a­le mode: we­der­zijd­se in­vloe­den in Indo-Eu­ro­pe­se ba­tik' by Daan van Dartel

Opening "Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940"

Saturday 17 december a special textile exhibition "Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940" started at Museum Nusantara in Delft. The exhibition contains very special and high quality Batiks made by Indo-European and Eurasian entrepreneurs.

The exhibition opened with a Gamelan-concert by Gamelan group Marsudi Raras. For 30 years they rehears on the more than 200 year old Gamelan at Museum Nusantara. Every Saturday you can attend their rehearsals from 11.30h till 14h. They have a short break now and they will start the rehearsals on 14 January 2012.

Assistent curator Louise Rahardjo gave a short speech about making the exhibition and her special clothing. She was wearing clothing that was traditional for Dutch women in the colonial time. When they arrived in Indonesia, their corsets and petticoats didn't combined very well with the tropical climate. They started wearing the traditional Batik as a sarong with a white kebaya. Louise Rahardjo was wearing a beautiful sarong. I photographed it when I visited her, see blogpost "Interview with Assistant curator" . The Batik belonged to her Indochinese grandmother who wore it at her wedding. The kebaya was from her Dutch great-grandmother who wore it in Indonesia.

It's a great exhibition for people who love Batik and for those who want to learn more about it. I saw so many Batiks I only know from books, great! In January more information about the Batiks separately will be added. So I'll keep you posted about that. Also I will be re-visting the exhibition. Louise will be sharing more information about the Batiks. She did a lot of research and I'm looking forward to hear what she discovered & learned.

Very beautiful bright red Batik with fine detailed peacocks, I can imagine this was a bestseller

Batik filled with good fortune: horseshoes, dice and symbols of playing cards

Chinese style Batik with cranes and reed

This Batik looks unfinished, with one red dye wash. The birds look like Metz-birds ("Metz-vogeltje"). Lien Metzelaar had a great influence on Batik. She was the first to make big changes in the motifs, like the simplified single standing flower bouquet that started Batik Buketan. More about Lien Metzelaar in my upcoming post about the Little Red Riding Hood-Batik

Found a Batik with water-lilies and also a very pretty one. This one shows the Chinese influence on Batik. Cranes in a salmon pink lake full of water lilies with typical Chinese style butterflies flying above it. The Batik from Pekalongan around 1930 is signed by Go Tjan Liem. (see blogpost "Water lilies & table linen")

In my next post I will be telling more about a very special new item that is shown at the exhibition. A Little Red Riding Hood-Batik. In my previous post I say it's signed by Elize Zuylen, but that's not true, my mistake. It isn't signed and the maker is unknown. Copying each others work played an important role in the Batik Belanda fairytale.

December 13, 2011

Give honor to whom it’s due

Detail from a Batik signed by Maria Paulina Carp

Saturday 17 december a special textile exhibition Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940 starts in Museum Nusantara in Delft. The exhibition including Batik Belanda among which a very special new collection item, a Little Red Riding Hood-Batik signed by Eliza van Zuylen.
I interviewed Assistant curator Louise Rahardjo when the exhibition was still in its early stages of choosing the right Batiks for display. She also told me about the Little Red Riding Hood-Batik, but it wasn't sure if the museum would get the Batik, so I couldn't share the information with you.
I saw a Little Red Riding Hood-Batik in, I think it was the Batik museum in Pekalongan. I wasn't allowed to make pictures there. I know that I came in a room full of Batiks on wooden-displays. On my left I saw a Batik which I immediately liked. The guide laughed, I was liking Batik Belanda. On the other side of this Batik was the Little Red Riding Hood-Batik.
I felt a bit silly. Not only did I liked the Batiks made by Dutch hands more, or better said, its easier for me to like them, because I understand them. And that was the whole reason "we" interpreted Batik and made our own readable ones. In short, I felt like a Dutch colonist. Fortunately I learn more about Batik and my history everyday.

With the upcoming exhibition on Batik Belanda I thought: This is a good moment to share the Batiks made by Maria Paulina Carp. In August I visited the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam to document these Batiks. I was invited to give a presentation about my journey to Batik at the Indische Huiskamer in Eindhoven. I met madam Rosielle-Bergsma, the granddaughter of Maria Paulina Carp. She told me about the Batiks she gave to the Tropenmuseum. I decided to surprise her and ended my presentation with photos of Carp's Batiks.

These Batiks by Carp are getting more and more interesting. Madame Rosielle-Bergsma told about her grandmother during the presentation. Apparently Maria Paulina Carp was at the time competing with Eliza van Zuylen.
Eliza van Zuylen claimed Carp stole her designs. This maybe explains why in the information I got from the Tropenmuseum they say: "The five signed Batik that survived show no own style, they are rather imitation of Indo-European works".
I was surprised when I saw these beautifully made Batiks before me. The conservator of the Tropenmuseum agreed with me, how can they say that about these Batiks. But at the time I didn't know that Carp was already accused by van Zuylen around 1900. I thought the experts concluded this later about the Batiks.

To find out more I visited the library of the Textielmuseum in Tilburg. Great library by the way. The librarian asked me why I was there, so I told about my blog and she knew it. So I didn't dare to touch anything at first, haha.
The quote about Carp's Batiks is from the book "Fabric Of Enchantment" (in the book they say six Batiks instead of five). Love to own this book, but I don't, but the Textielmuseum does, so there I was.

Maria Paulina Carp was the only, as far as known, Javanese Batikworkshop owner with a European name in Pekalongan. After 1860 Pekalongan became the most important production place for Indo-European Batiks, better know as Batik Belanda. The original Batik Pekalongan changed to fit the Indo-European market. The Indo-European Batikmakers introduced signing their designs, which makes it quite easy now to trace the maker. Although they signed their designs a lot of imitations where made. The so called "Peranakan entrepreneurs" copied famous or popular patterns. Copyright didn't exist yet.

The Batiks from Pekanlongan changed, become more western. The original "Pesisir bang biru" ("Red-blue batik from the waterside"/Coastal Batik) was interpreted in different shades of blue and red. The light coloured bang-biru's didn't resemble the original ones at all.
Also more straight lines and a division of the surface like seen in wallpaper was introduced in the designs. And last but not least Batik Buketan was created.
All three examples are nicely represented in Carp's Batiks. Which makes her the perfect new style Batik Pekalongan maker or a very good, "too perfection" as they say in "Fabric of Enchantment", imitator.
Probably Rens Heringa and Harmen Veldhuisen (the authors of the book) are right, but reading about Maria Paulina Carp I can't help but wonder if her being Javanese and all had anything to do with it.
The designs of Batik and the patterns used, tell something about the maker and the wearer. You can "read" from which area the Batik is. You can read what kind of plants grow there, what occupation they have, if they're rich, what their origin is and much more. Patterns are copied to explain this. By using the same pattern and design the right information is shared.
What made doing this so different around 1900. Is it something western to claim "this is ours"? Typing this, I'm already thinking: "Yes, of course!". How many times did we invade countries and claimed it to be ours..silly me..

The Indo-European where the first to sign their works. Before that the design of a Batik had to tell you where it was made, not the signature. The designs made by Indo-European Batikmakers where based on the original Batiks made in Pekalongan. Traditional background motifs were incorporated into the new designs, but the patterns lost their meaning, probably because they didn't know what it that meaning was. The "kraton" patterns like "Kawung" and "Parang Rusak" were adjusted for a larger market. Before these motifs were meant only for royalty. So how original were the designs to start with?

This dark and light blue Batik is a nice example of authentic motifs with western influence. The oblique lines are found in a lot of Batik and usually for the base of the Batik. I read somewhere that its called "drizzle". I remembered it because I found it strange that a pattern is called after a kind of rain in such a sunny country. The center of the Batik, "kepala", is filled with a french style motif. Birds and butterflies flying around wine baskets.
France had always, and still has, a big influence in fashion and lifestyle. Copying the french vogue in clothing, decorating and our interior. Apparently we even took the french style to Java.
Art Nouveau (during 1890–1910) pattern were adopted in Batik. Batikmakers used postcards and books to make their new designs. A. J. F. Jans made a Batik with orchids based, most likely, on a design by William Morris. I made a wallpaper (see Orchid, silk-screen print on (wall)paper) based on that Batik, its quite funny considering that it probably was a William Morris wallpaper design.

Typical Batik Buketan in both colour and motif. Really beautiful how the colours are still so vibrant. Nice contrast between de dark/light red and the white with the pastel flowers on it. This colour combination was and still is very popular in Batik Buketan (see also blogpost Batik Buketan).

I think this is based on the original Batik from Pekalongan, "Pesisir bang biru". I don't know how much is changed or added in the design to make it more western. If you have more information, please let me know!

This last one will classify as a Batik Belanda based om Delftware. I'm learning more about Delftware to find out how Delftware influenced Batik and what is incorporated in the pattern. In Delft I went looking for Delftware (see blogpost A quest in Delft part II, haven't got any answers yet, only found more beautiful things with interesting histories.
In this Batik the Delftware influence is clear in the use of colour. A white background, "badan", with the pattern in light and dark blue. The flowers look like carnations with butterflies and moths buzzing around it. The "kepala" is dark blue based with a white and light blue pattern similar to the design of the first Batik. Flower garlands growing out of boot-shaped wine baskets while birds fly around carrying branches.

It's unknown how long Maria Carp's Batikworkshop was open. Only five or six Batiks remain, four of them are at the Tropenmuseum and one is in a private collection. The Batik in the private collection looks a lot like the "Pesisir bang biru" Batik above.

Of course I will be attending the opening Saturday at Museum Nusantara in Delft and give you a report here on De reis naar Batik!

December 5, 2011

New Dutch traditions

Cloths from Staphorst/Rouveen as worn on "Prinsjesdag" versus modern koto, 
as worn for Keti Koti, the annual celebration commemorating the abolition of slavery (2010)

Went to Arnhem last week to visit the exhibition "Sweet Wilderness" by Surya de Wit. She just finished the Art academy and Already filled a room with beautiful new work. The following day I had an appointment in the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum.
This museum is best know for its folkloric park filled with typical Dutch historic houses and farms. In Summertime they show how the occupants lived and were dressed. I was never a big fan of our folkcostumes, but with my new found interest for Dutch folkart and traditions, I have found a new perspective towards the subject.

Frida Kahlo is being seen as an exotic, authentic artist. Because she is folkloristic, wears the traditional national folkcostume, is fascinated and inspired by her history and roots. If you do the same in the Netherlands (wear wooden shoes and a lace cape, know your Dutch history & traditions) they think you are hopelessly rigid, old-fashioned and boring. But I start to think that this isn't true.
Vikings, Spaniards and the VOC flooded our country with chaos, gold & other riches. While doing so they influenced us with all this different cultures.
Nowadays we're busy with what is typical Dutch, protecting our little country from cultures abroad.
But what is typical Dutch? Do we even know? Have we forgotten?
It's nothing more than a vague memory of a farmers life back in the day filled with Burgundian happiness (in Dutch we say: "gezelligheid").
I'm not saying we should all start wearing wooden shoes and make a circle and do a clog-dance. What I'm trying to say is that we have a history in which we are influenced by so many cultures, and that is fantastic, fascinating and thrilling, and why not embrace that and find out what influenced us and why.

I had an appointment to get more information about sand- and flowercarpets. On my site is a bit more about that (in Dutch, see post De reis naar Batik. I will address this subject later on my blog. The Nederlandse Openluchtmuseum have a very interesting collection of folkcostumes and folkart. I contacted them and recieved an email that they had 30 photos of sandcarpets and sandcarpetmakers. Also they had a film in their collection by D.J. van der Ven. A very interesting man, I will make a blogpost about him soon. A few weeks back a ordered a filmfragment about the flowercarpet made during the procession in Asselt-aan-de-Maas and it turned out to be the same, so now I know the maker!

After the appointment me & Koen had some time left so we visited the park and we found a very beautiful exhibition in the basement of the entree-building. The exhibition is called "Kleur Bekennen in streekdracht en kotomisi" (translated: "Show our colours in folkcostumes and Kotomisi/Koto").

Overview exhibition "Kleur bekennen" at the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum

In 1969 the NV Billiton Maatschappij donated 8 Surinamese kotos to the "Collection of Queen Wilhelmina". This collection was managed by the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum. But the Koto's were never on display. The management found that the clothing didn't fit in a museum about Dutch culture. Suriname was then still part of the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Nowadays wearing koto is a way for Dutch women from Afro-Surinamese origin to show their identity. The Openluchtmuseum decided to show their colours and gave the kotos a prominent place in their collection.

There are different stories about how the Kotomisi tradition started. Dutch plantation owners would have forced enslaved people to wear different clothing. So Koto is being seen as a painful legacy.
Another story tells that Kotomisi developed after the abolition of slavery in Suriname in1863.
The Koto got its characteristic form after 1879. It was forbidden to walk around shirtless for women, so the short wide yak become fashion.
In "Kleur bekennen" they show the Dutch folkcostumes next to the kotos. With video projections Dutch and Surinamese women tell why they wear folkcostumes. In the Surinamese community it's becoming more popular, but in the Dutch society it's almost extinct.
Reasons that it got extinct are: people become more mobile and visited other regions, in WWII it was difficult to get fabrics for making costumes, there were very strict rules for mourning-clothing (you end up wearing mourning-wear all your life) and it took a long time to get dressed.
In some places in the Netherlands folkcostumes are still worn, but mostly for special occasions and tourism.

In 1675 the Dutch East India Compony (VOC) began importing brightly coloured chintz ("sitsen") from India. This yak is from around 1750-1775 from the Zaanstreek

Thanks to Roman K. with his great blog FolkCostume & Embroidery I know what these are. 
Angisa's, textile with a message. The origin of this folded head cloth lies in West Africa. 
I helped him translated some Dutch info about "koplappen/kroplappen". 
Read more about it in his post about "Costume of Volendam, North Holland, The Netherlands"

Oorijzer/‘ear iron’, a gold, silver or copper band with decorative ends 
used to secure a woman’s cap on her head

An 'Poffer', Tradition folkcostume from Princehage, 1950

Her Koto reminded me of Oost-Indisch bont. 
I wrote about it in the blogpost "Checkmate"

Yaki/ yak from Koto

Angisa's, textile with a message. The origin of this folded head cloth lies in West Africa. 
The way the head cloth is folded gives expression the the feeling of the wearer. 
Sometimes it's a silent for of protest or a way to show happiness. 
This one means: "Call me on my cellphone".

November 25, 2011

Interview with Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara Louise Rahardjo

by Sabine Bolk
translated & re-written by Yvonne Bolk (thanks a million!)

Louise Rahardjo holding Batik signed by Eliza van Zuylen 
(more about this Batik on the end of this blogpost)

Sabine: Tell me something about yourself, who are you, how old are you?

Louise: My name is Louise Rahardjo. I was born in Leiden in 1986. My mother is Dutch and my father is Indonesian of Chinese origin. In Indonesia he is considered Chinese. I grew up in Delft and the Hague. My parents had an Indonesian restaurant, we were always surrounded by a lot of people from Indonesia there. So I have been in contact with the culture, but we, me and my two brothers and sister, had a Dutch upbringing. That is the atmosphere I grew up in.

Sabine: From which part of Indonesia is your father?

Louise: Central Java, Salatiga, north of the Merapi.

Sabine: Do you speak Indonesian?

Louise: I have become more fluent because I study Indonesian now, but before I could only speak “Pasar Malaysian”: “yes” and “no” and “I would like”.

Sabine: “The food is delicious”.

Louise: Yes, always about the food and everything to do with food.

Sabine: Next question: how do you become a curator? Are you a student?

Louise: Yes, the study was officially called Languages and Cultures of South East Asia and Oceania. It is broader than just Indonesia. They have shortened the name to Languages and Cultures of Indonesia.
I am doing my Master’s now, it is called Indonesian Studies. In it I follow the ASEP track: ASEAN Society, Economics and Politics. ASEAN stand for Associations for Southeast Asian Nations, like a European Union in Asia, but in it’s infancy.

Sabine: Is it in English?

Louise: Yes, the master is in English and if all students speak Indonesian it is in Indonesian, when History and students from Vietnam join us, the classes are in English.

Sabine: What are the subjects?

Louise: During Bachelor you have regular subjects as language and culture, Indonesian and Javanese. In History you learn about re-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history. There is also religion: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Culture and Media shows how it is all woven together in Indonesia, what is censured and what is not. Other subjects are Politics, Law and Government.

Sabine: Are you free to choose a subject, a part of history you are interested in?

Louise: No, not during Bachelor, more so during Masters. A few years ago there were four directions to choose from, due to cutbacks it is linguistic, art-history or economics now. I have chosen economics.

Sabine: Ecomomics? But you are here?

Louise: Yes, but that happened by accident. When we were living in the Hague my parents became friends with our neighbours across the street. The wife was curator of Nusantara. Her daughter (Amy Wassing), who is 10 years my senior, is curator now. She followed the same studies I am doing now. We met by chance in the railway station about a year ago. We were both in a hurry, but had a short conversation. She wanted to cut her hours after having her twins and needed someone to cover for her for one year. After our brief encounter she thought: well, Louise would make a good assistant”. And that is how I got into this.
I am very interested in the cultural historical background of Indonesia, I just think my future lies more in a social economical future. It is more alive, and broader. Especially because I might like to work with Foreign Affairs or United Nations and international relations. So, for my future career my choice of study is better and as you can see this job satisfies my art historical side.

Sabine: In future, would you like to work in the Netherlands or in Indonesia or in a job that would have you travel back and forth?

Louise: It could be both. I would like to work abroad for a few years and here for a few years. It all depends on how my future evolves. I really do like it here in the museum. Before I thought it would be a bit lame and dull, but it is definitely not so. It is a very positive experience, so who knows, I might stay on a bit longer before going abroad (laughing).

Sabine: What does your work as assistant curator encompasses?
Louise: Assisting the curator. In general I just select all emails addressed to the curator. Which ones can I answer which ones not? In general it concerns questions about the collection. “Can we see this or that?” “Can you give more information about this”. There are some objects I can not tell much about, so those questions I forward to the curator. If people request to see objects in our depot, I make an appointment. During the appointment I am always there when objects are looked at, described and photographed. That is one of my jobs. Another job concerns the collection here in the museum itself. At the moment I am working on a textile change. It is cooperation with the curator, but she works from home, so she is far away from the actual collection.
The textile collection will be changed in December, so now I am working with Batiks. Batik Balanda and Chinese Batiks will be next.

Sabine: So they will be replacing the Ikats? Interesting!

Louise: The Ikats have been on display since March and because of the light the fabrics become more fragile. We have made it darker, but they cannot be exposed to light for too long.

Sabine: That is what they told me in the Tropen Museum (Royal Tropical Institute/KIT). They only have 1 or 2 Batiks on display. I was told that you have to replace them every 6 months and then you have to have the manpower to do that.

Louise: That is why I am here. For example the Wayang Willem display case. Before there was one line and I adjusted that and added a second line. Little things like that. The curator doesn’t have the time right now, so it is up to me. I have to say it is very nice and that display case is really part of me.

Sabine: Are you selecting the Batiks as well? Or do you consult with the curator?

Louise: She explained the concept and I am now pre-selecting the Batiks. This one seems good for display, this one we can tell a story about, but with a theme running through the selection. The next step is deciding together how we are going to display them, which ones we really select. I have some influence, but in the end the curator makes the final decision.

Sabine: So she is curator as well as custodian in this museum? She also handles exhibitions and the themes of displays?

Louise: Yes indeed. We do not have room for so many functions.

Sabine: Interesting. So it is an all in one job?

Louise: It is all in one. We are now dependent on the city council. There are plans to become more independent as Heritage Delft. To bring a different structure involving curators and custodians. So it will change, but not for a few years.

"Wayang Willem", on display at Museum Nusantara

Sabine: What is your favourite piece in the collection and would you like to specialise in it? Or are you already specialising?

Louise: At the moment the Wayang Willem case is my favourite, because I have been working on it quite al lot lately. I think it is a nice mix between East and West. They look like traditional dolls, but they are absolutely western. If you look carefully you find Indonesian traits in the dolls. I like that because I have become attached to Delft and its history and William of Orange. Wayang Willem tells his life story. We are right across the Prinsenhof where William of Orange lived and was murdered. The Prinsenhof is also part of Heritage Delft.

I also like the ancestral statuettes and the Krisses and the mysticism behind them. Looking at a Kriss really closely is very exiting.

Sabine: Do you believe they have a soul?

Louise: I do believe there is something. Not from personal experience, but things have happened in my family. For example: in 1991 my father was in hospital the day before my birthday. We visited and stayed for a long time. Coming home we found the house broken into and although the burglar had all the time in the world and it was a very quiet neighbourhood. He didn’t even took the portable phone from the hallway. He never went past the hall cabinet and my father believes it is because he kept a Kriss there. Even the police were puzzled. Usually my father put the Kriss on his side of the bed when he went abroad. It scared my mother, but he did it for her protection. So I do believe in the power, but can’t feel it or prove it.

Chinese cabinet filled with Batiks collected by Louise's mother

Sabine: Do you have Chinese Indonesian Batiks in your collection and are they easier to read or do you prefer them? I have that with Batik Belanda, they pop out, I get them at once.

Louise: I grew up with many regular Javanese Batiks. Yesterday I visited my mother to look at some Batiks. She has a large Chinese cabinet filled with Batiks and it is stuffed with Javanese, Chinese and Indo-European Batiks. When I saw the Javanese I thought regular Batik. But when I saw the Chinese ones from Lasem, the one with the red or the one with a lot of blue, yellow and pink, or the one with a lot of decoration, flowers and motives, I thought, that is my special Batik.

Chinese Batiks from the collection from Louise's mother

Sabine: Will there be new objects added, or is the collection complete?

Louise: Many people contact us with a request to donate. It might sound strange, a request to donate, but our depot is pretty much full and there are strict rules. If you accept something for a museum, you cannot just dispose of it later. We are not allowed to take thing from the depot for auction or to throw out. So before you accept something for the museum, we have to make sure what value it has for the collection and whether it is indeed something special.
We also have to check how many of certain items we already have. If someone offers us spears from a certain island and we already have 20 or 30 of them, we decline. Even when it is an interesting object we have to consider that we have no room in our depot and expanding is costly. Therefore we have to disappoint the donators. That is difficult, they have nice things, but you can’t accept them. Sometimes people offer us mass produced things from after WOII, these can be nice, but aren’t interesting enough for a museum. The fial decision to accept something I leave to the curator. Sometimes I think: interesting and I’m right, but often enough I am wrong.

Sabine: Is this addressed during your studies?

Louise: We do have the classes art and material culture. It gets some mention, but not much. In A different Master study you can learn how to determine whether a Chinese wedding chest is really old or not. How you can tell, for instance by looking at the wood structure, whether the wood has been made to look old or is really old.

Sabine: But you must be developing a eye for it now?

Louise: Yes indeed. Whenever I handle an object now I know sooner.

There is a plan to describe all objects as precise as possible and to make better photographs, but that is for the future. We have hundreds of Batiks here, all documented but not yet photographed.
We are very open and liberal if people have questions about our collection or related subject.

Sabine: I couldn’t agree more!

Louise: One of the first things I asked you was “are there certain Batiks you would like to see, email me”.

Sabine: Indeed, but I don’t know what you have in your collection yet and I intend to come and have a look. I do have a broad interest.
I do want see everthing, but as soon as there are some Batiks on display I will most certainly come see them.

Batik from the collection of Louise's mother

The opening of the textile exhibition with the special Indo-European and Indo-Chinese Batiks is on Saturday 17 december. For more information visit

The Batik Louise Rahardjo is holding in front of her is singed by Eliza van Zuylen (left upper corner). Eliza van Zuylen is one of the most famous Indo-European Batik Belanda makers from Pekalongan.
This particularly Batik was worn by Indo-European women during the wedding ceremony. THis kind of blue & white Batiks were worn by Indo-Chinese women as mourning wear and the deceased was also dressed in blue & white.
Later this tradition was interpreted by Indo-European women. After their marriage they saved the blue & white Batik and wear it during funerals and as mourning wear. They were buried in their blue & white wedding Batik.

Read more about & see more of Museum Nusantara in my previous blogpost "Museum Nusantara in Delft".

November 24, 2011

Making paper look like fabric

Acting a bit top secret about my new work in process, hope to tell you all about it soon. So much is coming together, synchronicity is hitting me in the face all the time. And this makes it difficult to share it, in such a fragile state. What if it doesn’t look the way I planned..sooo for now some synchronicity back in time.

Looking for some old photo’s, I came across work from 2006. Wondering if I’m ever going to make something new..! Haha!
First work I made about making paper look like fabric and visa versa. The drawings are one on one copies of my clothing combined with the real clothing. The working title was Clothes make the woman (naar het Nederlandse gezegde, kleren maken de man).

I had such fun making these pictures. The quality of the photos aren’t that good and I still regret not showing them like little (big) installations. Fortunately my work developed a lot since then, and I think I’m closer to what I really want to make now, and allow myself to make it, then I was then. I was a bit torn between the art institution and my own, yet to develop, path!

I used my bedroom and garden as a studio. Making drawings of my clothing at school & the wallpapers at home on the kitchen table.

Always enjoying and never enjoying the work in process part. The making of is always exiting and also very scary. Normally when I finish a work in my studio, I don’t visit my studio for another three days. I’m never sure about the end result. With temporary installations on location I don’t have this luxury and it helps me to make fast decisions.


Posted this on 21 december 2010 on my virtual residence blog. Putting the last layers of paint on the work I still didn't share fully. Only bits (birds) and pieces (Sunflowers), unfinished details, but not on my blogs.
When I'm finished painting, I have to transfer the painting on to tracing paper and send it by post to Indonesia. Where hopefully the Batik makers in Jeruk will use the design for a Batik.