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National Gallery Brings Back History of the Banda Islands in Art Exhibition

Diella Yasmine
September 25, 2017 | 7:41 pm
I Made Winata's Treasure Island. (JG Photo/Diella Yasmine)
I Made Winata's Treasure Island. (JG Photo/Diella Yasmine)

Jakarta. In commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Treaty of Breda, the Banda Neira Cultural Heritage Foundation held an exhibition, titled "Banda Warisan Untuk Indonesia," at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Central Jakarta on Wednesday (20/09).

The theme of "Pala dan Perjanjian Breda, 1667-2017," or Nutmeg and the Treaty of Breda, 1667-2017, was chosen to highlight the history of the Banda Islands as the world's largest spice producer and the region's emergence as a center of trade and global politics.

Tanya Alwi, the founder of the Banda Neira Cultural Heritage Foundation (YWBBN), said the exhibition aims to raise public awareness especially younger generations to know more about Banda’s history and hopefully preserve Bandanese culture.

"The Banda Islands have an important meaning for Indonesia. As the only nutmeg producer in the past, Banda connects the Indonesian archipelago with a network of world trade including with the European continent."

Even though the Portuguese arrived long before the Dutch in Maluku, their efforts to establish a permanent presence and control the nutmeg trade failed in the face of Bandanese resistance.

The Dutch soon replaced the Portuguese after their conquest of Ambon in 1605 and subsequently pushed them out of the Banda Islands.

To monopolize the trade in nutmeg, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) built trading posts around the islands and signed treaties with the Bandanese that obliged them to sell nutmeg and mace to the VOC exclusively.

Even though Banda was very famous in the past for its historical record, Tanya said not many people know about its colored history.

"This exhibition takes us back 350 years and gives us knowledge about the history of Banda. I hope this kind of exhibition will continue to be held and can boost our awareness to appreciate and cultivate Banda’s natural resources and culture."

As remote as it may seem today, Banda played an important part of international trade, politics and as part of Indonesia's national history. The material remnants of this past are still visible in Banda today.

Because of its history and rich nature, the Banda Islands often serves as an inspiration for many artists not only from Indonesian but from around the world. They reflect on the impact and the remnants of the past, incorporate symbols and images of Banda in their work or search for connections through time and space.

Local artist I Made Winata showcased his artwork, titled "Treasure Island," using buffalo leather on maps, which were embedded with glittered mirrors and nails.

National Gallery Brings Back History of the Banda Islands in Art Exhibition

"Treasure Island" unveils the overlooked chapters of Indonesia’s colonial past. It is a direct response to the 1667 Treaty of Breda in which the Dutch relinquished their claims to New York (previously known as New Amsterdam) for the Island of Run, home to the nutmeg tree.

Since Run Island is no longer a major player in world politics, Winata’s work recovers a forgotten history and reflects on how it affects the present.

"The name of Treasure Island was chosen to reflect the islands' treasures. The orange and brown tone of the map also refers to the color of spices, yet evoke an arid and barren landscape, stripped of its treasures."

Meanwhile, Yogyakarta-based artist Titarubi takes her artistic skill to another level.

Her artwork, titled "Hallucinogenic," highlighted the exhibition with its unique aesthetic.

The art piece is made of 60 thousand nutmegs covered in real gold, stainless steel, burnt wood and gold-sheet plated book.

National Gallery Brings Back History of the Banda Islands in Art Exhibition

Tita said it is one of the most difficult projects she has ever done.

"To make this art piece, I had to work with 40 local artists to put the nutmeg together. I had to travel to Sulawesi and Maluku to get the nutmeg because I couldn’t get good quality nutmeg here in Jakarta."

"It is very challenging because I had to work extra hours to make sure that the nutmeg are fully covered with gold. It is also very expensive but I am glad that I can finish this on time to be featured in this exhibition."

Tita said she already met the potential buyers and the art piece will be sold for Rp 1.13 billion ($85,000).

Besides I Made Winata and Titarubi, artwork from other artists, such as Hanafi, Beatrice Glow (New York), Isabelle Boon (the Netherlands) and Jez O’Hare (England) were also featured in the exhibition.

Banda Heritage of Indonesia exhibition runs until Oct. 4.

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