425 kg of spices at the Art Gallery NSW !

Space Makers and Room Shakers until 21 October 2018

Ernesto Neto has made a large sculpture that you can smell before you see — a stretchy shelter filled with the following spices: cloves, tumeric, cumin, paprika, black pepper and fenugreek.



The body and its senses are integral to Neto’s work; his installations stretch the membrane that separates art and life. Neto’s use of transparent elastic fabric describes the tension of spaces he invades while anthropomorphising architecture. Vast masses of fragrant spice swell the fabric in voluptuous, almost bodily, forms that fill the gallery space and our olfactory organs with its aromatic intensity. Unlike vision, smell entails the physical invasion of the body by the scent’s particles. In this way the sensations evoked by Neto’s spice works are involuntary and almost instinctive.



‘I want people to see my sculpture through their pores, as well as their eyes, to feel it with all their senses’.


I suggest you don’t wait until October to view this exhibition, since the aroma of these aromatic spices will disappear over time.



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Amazing aerial views of the archeological sites of Indonesia

This amazing video has been produced for the ‘Society of Indonesian Archeologists’ by Feri Latief and is accompanied by the song ‘Tanah Airku’ with the wonderful voice of Shanna Shannon.

Please enjoy these remarkable images and I hope you will recognise some of the sites described in my books.



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The Singhasari Temple and the Volkenkunde Museum



Some of the statues from the Singhasari Temple at the entrance to the Indonesia exhibit at the Volkenkunde Museum

The Singhasari temple near Malang in East Java is believed to memorialize King Kertanegara, the last of the Singhasari Dynasty. A Javanese chronicle relates that Kertanegara was buried at Singhasari in 1295, three years after his death, and deified as a Shiva-Buddha. The temple tower is divided into two parts, the lower one Sivaïtic, the upper one Buddhistic, because in his life he prided himself on honouring the Hindu god Shiva as well as Buddha.


The Singhasari Temple after its restoration


The Singhasari temple during the Dutch Colonial period

King Kertanegara is believed to have been killed by an assassin 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 skulls around his naked body and a crown of skulls on his head. This deified statue of King Kertanegara is missing from the central temple niche in Candi Singhasari and now stands at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden.


This statue of Bhairava, a demonic form of Shiva, originally stood in the main niche of the Singhasari temple and now stands in the Volkenkunde Museum

Bhairava is a frightening form of Shiva. The statue symbolizes for his worshippers the destruction of ignorance and spiritual liberation. Shiva together with a jackal stands on a pedestal surrounded by skulls. His demonic traits are represented by his wild curly hair, his open mouth; and the skulls in his crown, earings and chains.


Bhairiva standing before a photo of the Singhasari Temple

Durga as a manifestation of Parvati, Shiva’s consort, originally stood in the northern niche of the Singhasari Temple and here she is shown as fighting a demon. The craftmanship and suggestion of movement makes this the very finest of the Singhasari statues.


Durga fighting a demon

In 1803 the Governor of East Java, N Engelhard, had the Singhasari statues placed in the garden of his official residence in Semarang. Since 1903, they are now among the masterpieces of the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden.

You can read more about the Singhasari Temple in the book Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia by Ian Burnet.


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The Greatest Voyage in Maritime History

There is no doubt that the geatest voyage in maritime history is the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano. Five vessels, all painted black, and known as the ‘Armada de Molucca’ departed Spain in August 1519 seeking to find a route around South America to the Pacific Ocean and then to the valuable clove trees of the Spice Islands located in Eastern Indonesia.


                                                        The Victoria crossing the Pacific Ocean                                                              National Library of Australia, Abraham Ortelius, 1592

After wintering on the South American coast, they found and were able to navigate the narrow straits that became known as the Straits of Magellan and entered the Pacific Ocean in 1520. By this time one ship had been shipwrecked and another turned back to Spain. Not knowing the size of the Pacific, Magellan believed it could be crossed in one month, a time similar to the crossing of the Atlantic by Christopher Columbus. In fact it took them three months and many of the crew had died from scurvy by the time they reached the Phillipines in April 1520.

Their time in the Phillipines was a disaster because Ferdinand Magellan was killed trying to establish his authority over a chief on the island of Mactan, then twenty seven of the most prominent crew members were killed in a massacre on Cebu and because of reduced crew members they were forced to scuttle one of their ships. The two remaining ships, the Victoria and the Trinidad did not reach finally reach the clove islands of Tidore and Ternate until November 1521.


        Map of the Pacific showing the clove trees of the Spice Islands.                                                                                Library of Congress,  Battista Agnese, 1544

Commanded by Juan Sebastian De Elcano the Victoria left Tidore fully loaded with cloves and a crew of sixty men before finally returning to Spain in September 1522 with only eighteen surviving crew, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world.


                                      The route of the first circumnavigation of the world.                                                             Library of Congress, Battista Agnese 1544

To commemorate this historic voyage the Juan Sebastian De Elcano a traditional sailing ship used for training by the Spanish Navy has placed a plaque on the island of Tidore.


The Spanish Naval training ship Juan Sebastian De Elcano


A complete description of the Magellan/De Elcano voyage and the first circumnavigation of the world is in the book Spice Islands by Ian Burnet. Please go to the website for more information.







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Indonesia’s vanishing tropical glacier

In 1623, the Dutch East India Company sent Jan Carstensz and the vessel Pera on the second expedition to explore the south-land after the 1606 voyage of Willem Jansz and the Duyfken to the Cape York Peninsula.

Hendrick Hondius map - Copy

Chart showing the results of the 1623 expedition, Hendrick Hondius, 1641, State Library NSW


As a result of the continuing collision of Australia with Asia, the Papuan mountains have been thrust up to 5000 metres above sea level and are almost continuously covered in cloud. However, while sailing along the south coast of Papua, the clouds suddenly parted and the crew of the Pera saw the most amazing sight. It was what Jan Carstensz described as a sneebergh and what we would call a glacier:

‘At a distance of about 10 miljen by estimation into the interior we saw a very high mountain range in many places white with snow, which we thought a very singular sight, being so near the equator’.

His report probably caused some amusement in Batavia, because who had ever heard of a glacier formed in the tropics and just a few degrees south of the equator? However his sighting was duly recorded on the 1641 map by Hendrick Hondius showing the results of the Pera expedition.

Hendrick Hondius map 3

Detail of the mountains and snee bergh observed in Papua by Jan Carstensz

Later expeditions to the interior of Papua proved he was correct and the Dutch named the highest mountain in Indonesia, and at 4884 meters the highest mountain in Oceania, Carstensz Top in his honour. ( Later renamed Puncak Jaya by Indonesia).

As a result of global warming, the glacier has been rapidly shrinking as shown in these photographs.


Puncak Jaya around 1980

Indonesian glaciers+2 Tim Jarvis

Puncak Jaya around 2015

Unfortunately, it has been predicted that by this year, 2018, the glacier may completely disappear and later generations will never believe there was a tropical glacier in Indonesia and just north of Australia.



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Batavia – Onrust Island

Pulau Onrust is an island in Jakarta Bay that was developed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a shipyard to repair their ships. Consequently it housed a permanent staff of artisans such as carpenters, sailmakers, ropemakers etc.etc.


Onrust Island by Abraham Storck, 1699


Map of Batavia Bay by Johan Nieuhof, 1682. Onrust is one of the group of four islands on the west.

The VOC constructed a small rectangular fort with two bastions in 1656 which was then enlarged in 1671 to gave it an asymmetrical pentagonal shape with a bastion in each corner. The whole structure was made of red bricks and coral, and in 1674 additional storage buildings were built.


Plan of Onrust Island showing the fort,its bastions and workshops built in 1671



Model of the shipyard and its fort from the Indonesian Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari)


This very realistic model is from the historical museum on Onrust Island

It was here on Onrust in 1770 that Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour was repaired after it had run aground on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland, Australia. It was also where seven of the crew died of malaria or cholera before they left Batavia in what Cook describes ‘as in the condition of a hospital ship’ and seventeen more crew died before they reached Capetown.

In 1795, the position of the Dutch in Batavia became quite uncertain due to the war in Europe, and the situation became worse with the appearance in 1800 of a British naval squadron which seized five Dutch armed vessels and destroyed 22 other vessels in the bay. Onrust island became under siege by the British and eventually destroyed. After the British departed, the Dutch rebuilt the buildings and facilities, completing the work in 1806. However, a second British attack destroyed the fort again when the British occupied Batavia in 1810.

Martello Towers with artillery were built on the adjacent islands to protect the fort and shipyard and one of these has remained still somewhat intact on the adjacent island of Kelor.


Onrust island was subsequently used as a quarantine centre, a prison for serious criminals, mutineers and political exiles, and then a leperosorium. Today all that is left from its VOC history is a small but excellent museum, a rusty cannon and the Dutch cemetery.


A Dutch Cannon


The Dutch cemetery

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Toko Buku – Bill Dalton’s Review of ‘Where Australia Collides with Asia’

This ambitious, sweeping history surveys both the cataclysmic shifts of continents and also the lives of some of the world’s greatest scientist-explorers. The story, as told in the book’s Prologue, begins as the Australian land mass breaks away from Antarctica 50 million years ago – a gigantic raft of flora and fauna from Gondwanaland adrift on a slow-motion journey north towards the equator.

Though my personal bias leans more to historical, biographical and cultural rather scientific, I found the geological, zoological and botanical information in the first several chapters necessary to set the scene by describing the region’s physical world. Author Ian Burnet’s focus on the earth sciences reflect his background as a geologist. Burnet gives special attention to the birth of the Australian subcontinent, an extraordinary domain of marsupials, startling plant life, colorful parrots and exquisite songbirds that had evolved during its 30 million years of isolation. His precise, erudite and quietly exuberant writing is an expression of the obvious pride and wonder that he holds for his native land.

The chapters dealing with Alfred Russel Wallace – the most famous scientist that you’ve never heard of – are the most revelatory. Wallace financed his first trip to the Amazon by selling specimens to museums and private collectors in England. After exploring South America, he became interested in South East Asia. He met Rajah Brooke of North Borneo who secured the help of the Royal Geographic Society for a free passage to Singapore, using the old colonial port as a springboard for his forays into the archipelago.

Not just a preeminent naturalist, Wallace was also an anthropologist who studiously observed the habits of native peoples he encountered. He recorded the vocabularies of 57 distinct regional languages in the islands. An endearing characteristic of Wallace was his boundless enthusiasm, even during the course of a terrifyingly difficult and life-threatening nine-month sea voyage to the eastern extremity of the archipelago on a Bugis perahu in which he faced disease, shipwrecks and raids by Maguindanao pirates from the Sulu Sea.

As a collector, Wallace shot and skinned 15 orangutans and wrote three scientific papers on the “Man of the Forest.” He was the first to capture the magnificent golden Birdwing butterfly, the first to sight birds of paradise in the wild and the first to bring live birds of paradise to the Western world. On a collecting trip to Halmahera Wallace fell ill with malaria. In a state of delirium, he independently conceived of the idea of the survival of the fittest. His famous ‘Letter from Ternate’ dispatched to Charles Darwin forced Darwin to finally publish his landmark work.

After an eight-year absence, the 39-year-old Wallace arrived back in England in 1862. In 1864, he began working on The Malay Archipelago. Based on field journals he had kept during his years traveling in Malaysia and Indonesia, the opus was published in 1869. Never out of print, written with simplicity, clarity and literary elegance, this wonderful book is both a travel journal and scientific work. To this day, it remains the greatest travel book on the region and one of the greatest of all time. The zoological demarcation between Asia and Australasia, called The Wallace Line, is today named in Wallace’s honor.

On every page of Where Australia Collides with Asia, the reader is embarking on yet another adventure – whether it be to the isolated Galapagos Islands, upriver on the wild Amazon, to the Land Down Under, to the deep interior of Borneo, to the remote islands of the Banda Sea or across the Argentine pampas while discovering surprising new worlds of landforms, animal and plant life and races of people. One can sense the author’s excitement and his desire to infect others with his love of nature.

Burnet has a knack for revealing the most beguiling personality traits and idiosyncrasies of historical figures – the vanity of scientist Joseph Banks, the puritanism of the landscape painter Sydney Parkinson, Darwin’s inordinate predilection for collecting and cataloging exotic insects and Wallace’s good nature and unbreakable fortitude even under the most trying of circumstances.

In my mind, the passages relating Darwin and Wallace, their epic voyages, nearly simultaneous discovery of the theory of evolution and their literary accomplishments are the most readable parts of the book. The frequent quotes – as many as three to a page – from the journals and letters of the main characters enable us to peer inside the minds of these great scientists to learn of their innermost doubts, jealousies, prejudices and secret pleasures. But above all this is an explorer’s book about the adventures of intrepid men with ample doses of science, anthropology and natural history thrown in for good measure.



Meet Bill Dalton, 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 Dalton’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”. Today Bill resides on the island of Bali and continues his travelling and writing, including his column Toko Buku for the Bali Advertiser.


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