President Soekarno – The Artist

In celebration of the 71st Independence Day of the Republic of Indonesia the Galleri Nasional is hosting an Exhibition of paintings from the Presidential Palace, collected by Soekarno the first President of Indonesia. Including many famous paintings by Indonesian artists such as Affandi, Basoeki Abdullah, Hendra Gunawan and the enormous painting by the artist Raden Saleh showing the treacherous arrest of Prince Diponegoro by General de Kock in 1830, and marking the end of the five-year Java War. Which in a huge touch of irony Raden Saleh gifted to the King of Holland and it was subsequently transferred back to Indonesia in 1978. If, like me, you are not expecting to be invited to the Presidential Palace, then this exhibition is a ‘must see’.

Prince Diponegoro





Galleri Nasional

During his lifetime Soekarno collected 2800 paintings of which only 28 are on display at the exhibition, many of which are related to the Indonesian struggle for independence against the Dutch. The painting on view here is by Kartono, one of the Young Indonesian Artists of the period and depicts a battle in the village of Pengok near Yogyakarta.

Galleri Exhibition

I knew that Soekarno was an architect and a great patron of the arts but what I did not know is that he was himself a painter and he started painting after his arrest and exile to Ende in Flores. The exhibition includes a painting he made, from a sketch by his artist friend Dullah, of a women entitled Rini with no details of her relationship to Soekarno or Dullah. Here the curator of the exhibition Mikke Susanto explains about the painting of Rini by President Soekarno and apparently her identity is still something of a mystery.

Rini Exhibition

Rini - Copy



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Bill Dalton’s ‘Archipelago’ Book Review

In this final saga of the author’s three books about his 30 years in Indonesia, Ian Burnet combines his love of adventure and travel with his knowledge of the region’s history to take us on a personal journey through geographic space and historical time across the centuries.


The book’s scope seems impossibly ambitious, but yet it manages to give us within just 175 pages a sweeping kaleidoscopic view of all the cultures that have ever washed up upon Indonesia’s shores.

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation comprising as many as 17,000 islands that sits astride two oceans and stretches 5,200 kilometers, embracing a total area of 5 million square kilometers, more than the total land and sea area of the entire United States. Indonesia is also the most culturally diverse nation on earth. Its national motto almost had to be Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity”) as these islands are an extraordinary mixture of races, religions, languages and cultures.

No one has published a trilogy of books about Indonesia in recent times. But Archipelago is quite different from Burnet’s other two books Spice Islands and East Indies. Unlike the others, the author uses his journey across a sizable swath of the archipelago to tell a broad history of the country related to the places he visited. He is able to conjure up  an historical anecdote, erudite observation or indirect link about every place he visits.

From the image of a giant pot-bellied Singhasari guardian statue on the opening page, this historical travelogue is filled with an unusual and stunning potpourri of full color photographs – many taken by the author – that reflect the multicultural nature of the vast string of islands – vintage 17th C. maps of Batavia and Java, colonial architecture and monuments; Borobudur stone reliefs, ancient Buddhist statuary and Hindu temples, goddesses and bathing places; erupting volcanoes, paintings depicting important historical events; old grave yards and artifacts; the traditional villages; Christian churches, rituals and textiles of the eastern islands; revolutionary slogans emblazoned on walls.

He takes us along on one of the world’s greatest train journeys from Jakarta to Bandung, enjoys a cold beer on the hotel terrace while looking out on the street life of a remote provincial town, rises before dawn to catch a sunrise, chugs across a strait on a fishing boat, splashes cold water over himself from a bak mandi, shares a hard wooden warung bench with Balinese farmers or becak drivers for a crispy fried duck or nasi goreng, faces a menacing Komodo dragon, circumambulates Borobudur in the cool morning silence before the tourist hordes, we remember past trips we have taken and are spurred to explore parts of Indonesia not yet visited.

Archipelago, both an illustrated history and an informative travel book, will delight historians, newcomers to the country, travelogue readers, as well as both bonafide and armchair travelers. A comprehensive history of Indonesia would take several volumes. What Burnet has uniquely and handily accomplished in offering fragments of the country’s history related to his journey is to produce an engaging and enticing piece of modern travel literature.

For the complete book review by Bill Dalton please follow this link:

To see more reviews of Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia please follow this link:


Meet Bill Dalton, the Travel Writer

Bill has spent much of his life travelling and writing. His saga took flight in 1971 as he embarked on an eight-year backpacking journey across 65 countries that was the journey of a lifetime and would later result in his highly-acclaimed travel guidebooks.  Bill’s Indonesia Handbook was first published in the mid-1970’s and ran for six editions until the early 1990’s and The London Sunday Times called it “One of the best practical guides ever written about any country”.

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Pulau Kumba is erupting!

Kumba Island lies in the Banda Sea of Eastern Indonesia and north of the island of Lembata. The island must be sitting over a hot spot in the earth’s mantle as it seems to have been active over many years. The sailing ship Vega stopped at Pulau Kumba in 2015 and its captain Shane Granger took these beautiful photographs of the island and its active volcano.

Pulau Kumba 1

And the amazing donut like cloud formation surrounding the eruption


And how about this night image of Pulau Kumba erupting with the full moon in the background.


Subject to the usual sailing conditions, Sea Trek Sailing Adventures plans to visit Pulau Kumba this year in September during their 14 day East Indies Spice Exploration voyage around the islands of the eastern Indonesian Archipelago – please see the map below and go to their website for details.


The Ombak Putih

Maumere to Ambon

The East Indies Spice Exploration voyage from Maumere to Ambon

I will leave you with this video taken in 2014 from the Blue Dragon LOB showing a spectacular eruption.

Full details of the East Indies Spice Exploration 2016 can be found the SeaTrek website

East Indies Spice Exploration w/ Ian Burnet

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Kertanegara – A demonic King?

A Javanese chronicle relates that King Kertanegara was buried at Singhasari in East Java in 1295, three years after his death, and deified as a Shiva-Buddha. His temple tower is divided into two parts, the lower one Sivaitic or Hindu, the upper one Buddhistic, because in his life he prided himself on honouring Shiva, as well as Buddha.

0027 CandiSingosari_Michael Gunther

Candi Singhasari

King Kertanegara is believed to have been killed by an assasin during a Tantric ritual or a Tantric orgy, as some have written. His deified statue is that of Bhairava, a demonic form of Shiva, who is portrayed standing on a pedestal of skulls, wearing a chain of human heads around his naked body, a crown of skulls on his head and holding a skull drinking cup in his left hand.

Bhairava 06-RMV-1403-1680-photo-RMV_0


The statue of Bhairava is missing from the central temple niche in Candi Singhasari and was apparently taken by a Dutch Governor of East Java to decorate the garden in his residence and now resides at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden, Holland

Two giant Dwarapala or temple guardian statues stand nearby, each adorned with skulls, with a snake wrapped around his torso and holding a giant club. Carved from a single block of stone and weighing around forty tons. they are to large to move, even by the Dutch, and would have guarded the entrance to  King Kertanegara’s palace ot temple compound.

0029 Dvarapala_Michael Gunther

The giant Dwarapala or temple guardian at Singhasari

Interested in the temples of East Java? You can find out more by joining Ian Burnet on a ‘Journey Across Java’ by train and mini-bus from August 17 to August 30, 2016.  For all the details please go to:


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Candi Sewu (The 999 temples of Princess Loro Jonggrang?)

Many people visit the magnificent ninth century Hindu Temples of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu at the temple complex of Prambanan outside Yogyakarta in Central Java.

But not everybody visits the eight century Buddhist temple known as Candi Sewu which is nearby and consists of the main conical temple surrounded by many smaller temples and Candi Sewu in Javanese translates to ‘a thousand temples’.

0021 Candi Sewu_Crisco1492

The south entrance of Candi Sewu with Mount Merapi in the background (Photo: Crisco 149)

The temple is aligned to the four points of the compass and at each of the four entrance points stand the giant temple guardians or Raksasas, with a kris in their waist-band, a club in their right hand and a snake in their left hand, they stand ready to protect the ancient temple from those with malevolent intent. Sir Stamford Raffles describes the stone guardians after the temple was first recovered from the jungle in 1813:

In the course of my life I have never met with such stupendous and finished specimens of human labour, and of the science and taste of ‘ages long since forgot’ crowded together in so small a compass … Having had in view all the way one lofty pyramid or conical ruin, covered in foliage and surrounded by much smaller ones, in every stage of humbled majesty and decay, you find yourself on reaching the southern face, very suddenly between two gigantic figures in a kneeling posture, and of terrific forms, appearing to threaten you with uplifted clubs.

The Javanese legend of Princess Loro Jonggrang (the exalted virgin) begins when Prince Bandung Bandawasa falls in love with her. She is the daughter of King and Queen Bako whose kingdom was conquered by the Bandawasa’s and who have killed her father. The Prince wants to marry Loro Jonggrang and as a way of saying no she requests the conqueror to prove his powers by building one thousand temples in a single night.

Prince Bandawasa and his demon helpers seem to be just moments away from accomplishing this task when, alarmed by his progress, Princess Jonggrang asks the village women to pound their wooden rice mortars with their pestles, a sound which is mistaken by the roosters as the new dawn.

Upon hearing the roosters crow and fearing that the sun is about to rise, Bandawasa’s demon helpers flee. Before this false dawn Prince Bandawasa has already built 999 temples. In anger at his failure to be able to marry Loro Jonggrang he applies a curse on the Princess which turns her into stone.

0020 Loro Jonggang

The Goddess Durga known by the Javanese as Loro Jonggrang  (Photo: Ian Burnet)

Is Candi Sewu the site of the temples built by Prince Bandawasa as part of his condition to marry Princess Loro Jonggrang?

Is the statue of the Indian goddess Durga in the Shiva temple at Prambanan the embodiment of the beautiful princess turned to stone?

Heritage_Indonesia_HiRes  Map ex Ingo

You can find out more, by joining Ian Burnet on ‘A Journey Across Java’ by train and mini-bus from August 17 to August 30, 2016. For all the details please go to:




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Buku Indonesia karya Penulis Australia Laris di Canberra

Spice Islands, East Indies and Archipelago

TEMPO.CO, Canberra – Tiga puluh tahun tinggal di Indonesia, membuat Ian Burnet tidak saja mencintai Indonesia, tetapi menuangkannya dalam tiga buku apik tentang Indonesia. Ketiga karyanya tersebut, pertama Spice Islands, yang terbit pada 2011, East Indies terbit pada 2013 dan yang terbaru Archipelago: A Journey Across Indonesia, dikupas tuntas dalam acara bedah buku di Kedutaan Besar Republik Indonesia, Canberra, pekan lalu.

Duta Besar RI untuk Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema menyatakan buku-buku tersebut memberikan wawasan baru tentang Indonesia dari berbagai sudut, termasuk perspektif historis kepada publik Australia.

“Buku  dapat menjadi pembawa pesan komunikasi yang efektif dan alat  belajar antar masyarakat Indonesia dan Australia,” kata Nadjib.

Menurut Nadjib, penulis seperti Burnet berperan penting  dalam upaya mempertahankan dan menyebarluaskan sejarah Indonesia serta warisan budaya nasional.

“Melalui pemahaman mendalam, akan tercipta saling pengertian dan menghormati antar masyarakat kedua negara yang nantinya akan membantu memperkuat hubungan dan kerjasama di sektor lain, seperti di bidang politik, ekonomi hingga sosial budaya,” kata Nadjib.

Acara yang dimoderatori oleh Atase Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan KBRI Canberra, Prof. Ronny Rachman Noor tersebut dihadiri  Allaster Cox, pejabat senior dari Departemen Luar Negeri dan Perdagangan Australia, para diplomat dari negara sahabat, pejabat Departemen Pendidikan Australia, akademisi, sejarawan, seniman serta mahasiswa dan pelajar.

Nadjib menyampaikan bahwa momen ditemukannya Indonesia yang kaya rempah-rempah seperti dikisahkan dalam buku, Spice Islands. Serta  terjadinya arus perdagangan rempah-rempah dari Indonesia berabad-abad lalu merupakan titik awal interaksi budaya dan peradaban antar suku bangsa di Indonesia dengan bangsa Eropa.

“Pengaruhnya bisa kita lihat hasil pengaruhnya pada bahasa, budaya dan gastronomi antar bangsa tersebut,” kata Nadjib. “Seyogyanya pembaca dapat mengambil makna dari interaksi tersebut terutama bila dikaitkan dengan  hubungan antar kedua negara saat ini,” tambah dia.

Sang pengarang, Ian Burnet yang telah menghabiskan waktu selama 30 tahun tinggal, bekerja dan berkeliling Indonesia. Burnet juga fasih berbahasa Indonesia. Istrinya pun warga negara Indonesia. Dia adalah salah satu  warga negara Australia yang jatuh cinta terhadap Indonesia, termasuk terhadap sejarah perjuangan Indonesia melawan kolonialisme. Kecintaannya terhadap sejarah Indonesia tampak dalam dua bukunya, Spice Islands dan East Indies.

Buku Spice Islands, mengulas ratusan tahun sejarah perdagangan rempah-rempah dari Maluku ke India, Timur Tengah, Eropa dan Cina.

Adapun bukunya yang berjudul ‘Archipelago atau Nusantara’ berisi kisah ekspedisi panjangnya mengelilingi berbagai wilayah di Indonesia selama berbulan-bulan baik menggunakan jalur darat, yakni dengan mobil, kereta api hingga sepeda motor dan kapal laut, yakni perahu pinisi Bugis.

Menurut Burnet, Indonesia merupakan negara yang sangat indah untuk dilihat, dijelajahi, dan ditinggali serta sangat aman, selain menjadi sumber inspirasi yang sangat luar biasa bagi karya-karyanya selama ini. Dia saat ini sedang menulis buku keempatnya mengenai Indonesia.

Les Boag, Ketua Australia-Indonesia Association (AIA) menyatakan buku-buku Burnet menunjukkan kepada masyarakat Australia bahwa destinasi pariwisata Indonesia yang menarik bukanlah Pulau Bali semata.

“Masih sangat banyak tempat wisata lain di Indonesia yang sangat atraktif, seperti Maluku, Sulawesi, Jawa, Flores, Sumatera dan sebagainya,” kata Boag.

Dalam acara itu tampak animo masyarakat Australia terhadap buku-buku mengenai Indonesia sangat tinggi. Semua buku Burnet yang dibawa dalam acara bedah buku tersebut ludes terjual. Bahkan sebagian tamu yang hadir terpaksa harus memesan untuk mendapatkan buku tersebut.


More details on these books can be found on

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East Indies (update)

The book East Indies tells of the struggle of the East India Companies for trade supremacy in the Eastern Seas over two centuries. It follows the trade winds and the trade routes to the port cities across Asia and the Orient. Beginning with the trading ports of Malacca in the 16th century, Batavia in the 17th century and concluding with the founding of Singapore and Hong Kong , which became some of the world’s largest trading ports in the 19th century.

When you read ‘East Indies’ by Ian Burnet you can almost smell exotic spices over salt spray and wet wood of the ships that transported the goods back to Europe. Following from his previous book, ‘Spice Islands’ in which Ian documented the history of the spice trade in the Maluku and Banda islands of Indonesia, where two very important and highly sought spices – cloves and nutmeg – originated, ‘East Indies’ looks at the impact of the European explorers and traders.

Ian has once again researched his topic thoroughly, and ‘East Indies’ is beautifully illustrated, filled with georgeous maps and pictures evoking the age of sail.

Highly recommended.                                         Melanie Ryan  — Limelight Book Reviews





44_Painting of Malacca after its capture by the Dutch - Copy

There has been a recent spike in sales of East Indies from the Amazon website, so I did a Google search to find out why. The good news is that East Indies has been ranked at number 6 out of 33 books listed as suggested reading on Pacific History by the History Club, as on the link below.

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