ISSUE 7 The Heterogeneous South
Uncharted Territory: The Roots of Curatorial Practices in Eastern Indonesia
Curatorial practices began to develop in Java, ever since the Dutch colonization took hold of the archipelago. Traces of their development can be found in old museums throughout Java, that still stand even today. Among them is the National Museum in Jakarta, originating from an institution known as Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Batavian Arts and Sciences Association), established on 24 April, 1778. This institution actively collected and studied various archaeological and ethnographic objects owned by collectors and scholars living in Batavia.
This includes collections from Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman (1814-1880), a prominent Indonesian painter, who undertook various cultural journeys out to the far corners of Java, in order to find archaeological objects, excavate fossils, and collect old manuscripts that were owned by inherited families. These collections were donated to the Bataviaasch Genootschap, and can still be seen in the National Museum today.
In Surakarta, several Javanese aristocrats and intellectuals who were interested to cultural and literary artefacts, founded the Radya Pustaka Museum in 1890, under the initiative of K.R.A Sosrodiningrat IV. While in Yogyakarta, the Java-Instituut initiated the establishment of the Sonobudoyo Museum on November 6, 1935.1
The growth of various museums in Java also began to foster curatorial practices in the region. One of the driving factors was the widespread dissemination of new knowledge on the concept of museums and their management, purveyed by the Europeans to the scholars in Java. In 1950, shortly after the revolutionary period of Indonesian independence, the condition of museums was again discussed. President Sukarno, prompted by the deteriorating relationship with the Netherlands due to the West Papua conflict, then encouraged the “Indonesianization” of various cultural institutions.
This turn of events could then be considered as manifesting a momentum for the emergence of museum curators in Java, including Moh. Amir Sutaarga, and Ghozali, who worked at the National Museum, and there were also Koesnadi, and Gani Lubis, in the Fine Arts Gallery of the Directorate of Culture and Education.2 However, the term, “curator,” at that time had not been widely used. Hence, some curators referred to themselves as “ahli museum” (museum expert). In a periodical newsletter from the Central Museum, Ghozali first wrote the term curator in an article in 1967. 3
In regards to the cultural implications of this new nomenclature, along with his peers of the same profession, Amir Sutaarga secured the foundation of museum curatorial practices in Indonesia. Since the late 1940’s, he undertook ethnological studies under the guidance of A.N.J.Th. a. Th. van der Hoop, an archaeologist at the Bataviaasch Genootschap. In 1952, Amir was commissioned to work as the museum’s publishing editor. At the time of publication of this periodical, he had also written many articles of his views on the museum. Due to his proficiency, he was then sent to study museology in Western Europe, in 1955. After returning from his studies, Amir resumed his position in the National Museum while actively writing books on museology practices and delivering lectures in the Anthropology Department at the University of Indonesia.4
In the context of curatorship for fine arts, various studies conducted by Flores (2008)5, Hujatnikajennong (2015)6 and Supangkat (2018)7 implicitly show that curatorial practices only occurred in Java—yet they are generalized as “curatorial practices in Indonesia.” This shows that there has never been a thorough investigation of and record on curatorship in the islands, other than Java. Hence, this writing tries to highlight those curatorial practices outside Java that also occurred, especially in Jayapura and Maumere, which I will describe specifically.
Some people are of the view that in Eastern Indonesia, there are no means that can support the emergence of curatorial practices, since all educational institutions for prospective curators have only been found in Java. But the facts differ a lot from that assumption, since it turns out that the curatorial practices in Jayapura and Maumere started not much differently from those of Java.

1 Munandar, Agus Aris, et al. Sejarah Permuseuman di Indonesia. Jakarta: Direktorat Permuseuman, 2011. pp.14-15.

2 Kusuma, Erwien. Kuasa Kuratorial dalam Tata Pamer Museum, Academia. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. pp. 3. https://www.academia.edu/41800140/Kuasa_Kuratorial_dalam_Tata_Pamer_Museum

3 Ibid.

4 Susantio, Djulianto. Moh. Amir Sutaarga, Kamus Hidup Permuseuman in Majalah Museografia Vol. VI, No. 9 – Juli 2012. Jakarta: Direktorat Pelestarian Cagar Budaya dan Permuseuman. 2012. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. https://museumku.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/moh-amir-sutaarga-kamus-hidup-permuseuman/

5 Flores, Patrick D.. Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Museum. 2008.

6 Hujatnikajennong, Agung. Kurasi dan Kuasa: Kekuratoran dalam Medan Seni Rupa Kontemporer di Indonesia. Jakarta: Marjin Kiri. 2015.

7 Supangkat, Jim. Kemunculan Kerja Kurasi di Indonesia pada 1990 dan Latar Belakangnya. Proceedings of the Imagined Curatorial symposium at Bandung Institute of Technology. August 8-10, 2018.

Opening the Doors of the Museum by Singing
Arnold Clemens Ap was born in Biak on July 1, 1945. He began studying in the Geography Department of Cenderawasih University in Jayapura in 1967. During his studies, he received guidance from Dr. M.T. Walker, professor of anthropology at the same university, in conducting ethnographic research in several communities. It was from this experience that Arnold gained the knowledge of how to record the evidence of cultural materials that prevail in a region. This knowledge was proven useful when he was appointed as an employee at the Loka Budaya Museum, located in the Cenderawasih University campus in Abepura district.
The Loka Budaya Museum is the first anthropology museum in Papua. This museum was established by chance. In 1961, an anthropologist and photographer Michael Rockefeller undertook an ethnographic expedition to the hinterland of Asmat, Papua. However, the boat he was on went under a misadventure, and Michael was lost in the middle of the expedition.8 Various artefacts, tools, and Asmat statues he gathered were then gifted by the Rockefeller Foundation, and became the first collection of the Loka Budaya Museum, founded in 1973.
Arnold Ap had been working for this museum since it first opened. He initially became a daily employee, but due to his knowledge and skills he was later appointed curator in 1978. During his career as a museum curator, Arnold Ap tried many different approaches in displaying and gathering the collections. However, perhaps, he did his duty as a curator intuitively, because he never received any formal education as a curator.
One example was that a year after being appointed curator at the Loka Budaya Museum, together with his best friend, Sam Kapisa, he formed a music group called Mambesak. The name comes from the Biak language means the bird of paradise and its members were museum employees and students of the Anthropology Department. Every afternoon, the group used to perform music and dance in the vast courtyard in front of the museum. Some of the instruments they used were from the museum collection, and also musical instruments collected from various indigenous communities in Papua. Arnold also changed the image of the museum by calling it Istana Mambesak (Mambesak Palace). His various musical activities turned out to be a strategy for attracting locals to visit the museum.9 For the Jayapura community at that time, the museum was certainly a peculiar place, because the local community did not recognize the concept of museum culture. With music, Arnold brought the concept and significance of the museum closer to the society. After their musical performance, they usually invited the public to enter the museum, and Mambesak members would then explain the various collections to the public. <sup>10</sup> Through this practice, Arnold changed the image of the museum, from being simply a repository of inanimate objects, into a living cultural laboratory.
Arnold Clemens Ap (left, in white) and Sam Kapisa (right, in stripes) in the Loka Budaya Museum, Cenderawasih University. Photo: Constantinopel Ruhukail
Their music group, Mambesak, became increasingly widely known from their broadcast program called Pelangi Budaya (Rainbow of Culture), featured on Radio of the Republic of Indonesia (RRI). The broadcast was able to reach various communities of people living in the mountains. The program was dear to the people, as it highlighted the culture of Papuan people in a unique way, being interspersed with musical games. The larger Papuan community eventually found out about the Loka Budaya Museum through this media event, which then inspired several head chiefs to come visit, and hand over cultural artefacts from their communities, for inclusion in the museum’s collections.
Arnold Ap’s growing activity was supported by the Loka Budaya Museum and the Mambesak music group, which was then, however, interpreted quite differently by the Indonesian government. For them, the popularity of Arnold Ap was arousing hope for the Papuan people, by encouraging them to fight for their independence, especially after the implementation of the referendum Act of Free Choice (Pepera) in 1969. The political tension strengthened in the 1980s, and the military began to hunt down the sympathizers of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM).11 This included Arnold Ap, who was arrested in 1983 and shot dead by the military in the coastal area of Pasir Enam, east of Jayapura, in the blinding morning of April 26, 1984. Papuan people to this day remembers Arnold Ap not only as a curator, but also as an important cultural icon in their political struggle.

8 Stolley, Richard B.. An Anguished Search for Signs of A Missing Son in LIFE Magazine December 1, 1961. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. pp. 40-46. https://books.google.co.id/books?id=AVQEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

9 Goo, Andreas (ed.). Grup Mambesak: simbol kebangkitan kebudayaan orang Papua Proto. Jayapura: Uncen Press dan Lembaga Studi Meeologi Press. 2019.

10 Kondologit, Enrico Yori. Personal communication. March 5, 2021.

11 Ibrahim, Raka. Arnold Ap: Papua’s lost cultural crusader gets long-delayed recognition in Jakarta Post September 2, 2021. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2021/09/02/arnold-ap-papuas-lost-cultural-crusader-gets-long-delayed-recognition.html

Indigenous Rituals in the Courtyard of the Catholic Church
A different approach was also taken by Piet Petu, SVD. He was the first curator on Flores Island to establish the Bikon Blewut Museum in the suburbs of Maumere. As with other regions along East Nusa Tenggara, the influence of Catholic teachings brought about by Portuguese colonization came to be felt very strongly. This new religion then brought a modernization of knowledge that slowly shifted the traditional knowledge that had been passed on for generations. Piet Petu is a perfect example illustrating such shifts and strains.
Piet Petu was born on February 3, 1919, in Nita, Sikka, with the name Sareng Orinbao. His parents were chiefs and thus highly respected by the people around him, who still adhered to their ancestral religion. When he was ordained to become a young indigenous priest in 1951, he also baptized his parents. This was the face of the gospel transmission on Flores, with missionaries giving Catholic teaching to privileged young people, in the hope that they themselves would teach the Catholic faith to their parents and the next generation.12
In 1936, Piet Petu entered the secondary seminary in Mataloko, where, in the middle of his studies, he became acquainted with Pater Theodorus Lambertus Verhoeven, SVD, who later helped him in his studies of anthropology and archaeology. Both disciplines are indeed quite close to the Ordo Societas Verbi Divini—abbreviated SVD, which also published various ethnographic studies in the ANTHROPOS Journal since 1906. Until 1950, Piet Petu actively participated in miscellaneous scientific expeditions initiated by Verhoeven in various regions of Flores.
The church then sent Piet Petu to continue the study of spirituality in Nemi, Rome, between 1961-1962. In that timeframe, he took the time to visit a number of museums in Europe, in order to learn about museum management practices. When he was returning to Indonesia, the top leader of the SVD Order asked him to open a museum in Flores. This request was eventually fulfilled in 1983, when he built the Bikon Blewut Museum in the Catholic high school complex, where he taught. He wanted the museum he established to support the traditional teachings that had begun to be twisted (bikon) and were becoming rotten (blewut), especially after the presence of modernization brought by the Catholic church.13
Piet Petu’s curatorial approach was strongly influenced by the ethnography he had done, whereby cultural artefacts were exhibited in accordance with the ritualistic context of the local community. For instance, when he wanted to display the sacred inculturation concept of customary marriage, he would make a composition of elephant ivory, which is widely used as a dowry by the Lamaholot tribe, with Moko Alor inherited from Đông Sơn culture. Conversely, when he wanted to narrate the practice of collective governance in traditional societies, he would display elephant tusks side by side, with Mahe Watu, or altars of worship in the Krowe Tribe.14 This method of presentation could only be done because Piet Petu had a basic knowledge of ethnographic methods, and since he was also from an original tribe and had experienced various traditional rituals since he was a child.

12Nggalu, Eka Putra. Membayangkan Kembali Bikon Blewut in Laune April 29, 2022. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://laune.id/membayangkan-kembali-bikon-blewut/

13Hikon, Jefron (ed.). Napak Tilas Berdirinya Museum Bikon-Blewut in Museumbikonblewut Maret 03, 2021. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://museumbikonblewut.blogspot.com/2021/03/napak-tilas-berdirinya-museum-bikon.html

14Ibid.

15Ngo, Defri. Re-Imagine Bikon Blewut; Efforts to Live in Biennale Jogja September 30, 2021. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://biennalejogja.org/2021/en/re-imagine-bikon-blewut-efforts-to-live

Piet Petu SVD in front of the Bikon Blewut Museum, Maumere. Photo: Arbain Rambey
Another interesting element is that Piet Petu used Bikon Blewut Museum as a space for celebrating various traditional rituals and teachings, while ironically, the museum itself is located in the courtyard of a Catholic church, the institution that had historically encouraged the elimination of traditional knowledge as part of the modernization agenda they brought from Europe. Perhaps this contradiction may be viewed as a kind of autocriticism for the museology tradition in Europe, that is often stuck between scientism and exoticism, at two opposite cultural extremes. Whereas, in this case, Piet Petu saw that the past had never been truly left behind. Hence, the museum paradoxically displays a pattern of representation as a chronicle—not only in regards to the concept of time for the linearly moving Western societies, but also in a pattern of non-linear representation, in which the past can be compared with the present in the same space.
Along with Piet Petu’s passing on November 24, 2001, the Bikon Blewut Museum lost its most visionary thinker. Currently, although it still stands firmly in the courtyard of the Catholic high school, the appreciation towards this museum has decreased considerably. However, recently, the museum has attracted a group of young artists, an art collective known as Komunitas KAHE, who carry out artistic interventions in it by involving the surrounding community.15 They aim to restore Piet Petu’s mission, along with the official inauguration of the Bikon Blewut Museum, so that the museum can pass on the wealth of cultural heritage of Flores, and become a source of knowledge for the younger generation.
Those Who Breached the Walls of the Museum
Through a historical exploration on these two curators from Eastern Indonesia, we can clearly conclude that curatorial practices in Indonesia did not and do not only occur in Java. If positioned along a timeline, the period of the two curators discussed above is also no different from the emergence of the earliest curatorial practices in Java. Thus, it can be said that the biographical tracing on the figures of Arnold Clemens Ap and Piet Petu, SVD will lead us to the preliminary conclusion that the history of curatorship in Indonesia is omnipresent, and is not centralized, as has been claimed in earlier studies, which indicate that the practice only grew in certain cities in Java.
In particular, I also want to acclaim the progressive artistic approach that broke down the museum walls, as Arnold Clemens Ap and Piet Petu, SVD accomplished. They indirectly practiced the promoting of what James Clifford calls a museum as a contact zone, wherein the institutional structure and organization of their collections become a set of tools for imagining historical, political, and moral relations, both for the visitors and the community being represented.16
For Arnold Clemens Ap and Piet Petu, SVD, the museum is not merely a repository of inanimate objects, but rather a symbolic apparatus used to evoke a collective memory for the community, something that intentionally erased in the official historical records, due to the power of colonial structures. Through their stories, it seems that there should be more initiatives developed, so as to explore the various forms of curatorship in Indonesia, which I believe are still many, and scattered on the other islands of Indonesia.

16Clifford, J.. ‘Museums as contact zones‘ in Routes: Travel and Transformation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. 1997.

1 Munandar, Agus Aris, et al. Sejarah Permuseuman di Indonesia. Jakarta: Direktorat Permuseuman, 2011. pp.14-15.

2 Kusuma, Erwien. Kuasa Kuratorial dalam Tata Pamer Museum, Academia. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. pp. 3. https://www.academia.edu/41800140/Kuasa_Kuratorial_dalam_Tata_Pamer_Museum

3 Ibid.

4 Susantio, Djulianto. Moh. Amir Sutaarga, Kamus Hidup Permuseuman in Majalah Museografia Vol. VI, No. 9 – Juli 2012. Jakarta: Direktorat Pelestarian Cagar Budaya dan Permuseuman. 2012. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. https://museumku.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/moh-amir-sutaarga-kamus-hidup-permuseuman/

5 Flores, Patrick D.. Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Museum. 2008.

6 Hujatnikajennong, Agung. Kurasi dan Kuasa: Kekuratoran dalam Medan Seni Rupa Kontemporer di Indonesia. Jakarta: Marjin Kiri. 2015.

7 Supangkat, Jim. Kemunculan Kerja Kurasi di Indonesia pada 1990 dan Latar Belakangnya. Proceedings of the Imagined Curatorial symposium at Bandung Institute of Technology. August 8-10, 2018.

8 Stolley, Richard B.. An Anguished Search for Signs of A Missing Son in LIFE Magazine December 1, 1961. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. pp. 40-46. https://books.google.co.id/books?id=AVQEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

9 Goo, Andreas (ed.). Grup Mambesak: simbol kebangkitan kebudayaan orang Papua Proto. Jayapura: Uncen Press dan Lembaga Studi Meeologi Press. 2019.

10 Kondologit, Enrico Yori. Personal communication. March 5, 2021.

11 Ibrahim, Raka. Arnold Ap: Papua’s lost cultural crusader gets long-delayed recognition in Jakarta Post September 2, 2021. Accessed online on May 13, 2022. https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2021/09/02/arnold-ap-papuas-lost-cultural-crusader-gets-long-delayed-recognition.html

12 Nggalu, Eka Putra. Membayangkan Kembali Bikon Blewut in Laune April 29, 2022. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://laune.id/membayangkan-kembali-bikon-blewut/

13 Hikon, Jefron (ed.). Napak Tilas Berdirinya Museum Bikon-Blewut in Museumbikonblewut Maret 03, 2021. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://museumbikonblewut.blogspot.com/2021/03/napak-tilas-berdirinya-museum-bikon.html

14 Ibid.

15 Ngo, Defri. Re-Imagine Bikon Blewut; Efforts to Live in Biennale Jogja September 30, 2021. Accessed online on July 1, 2022. https://biennalejogja.org/2021/en/re-imagine-bikon-blewut-efforts-to-live

16 Clifford, J.. ‘Museums as contact zones’ in Routes: Travel and Transformation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. 1997.

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Author
Ayos Purwoaji is a writer and curator who works at the intersection between history, architecture, and visual art. Since 2015, he has worked on a number of exhibitions and curatorial projects. Some of his projects represent his particular interest in the practice of vernacular archiving and collective memory. He co-founded the Surabaya Contemporary Heritage Council (SCHC), a multidisciplinary group that explores critical discourses on cultural heritage, especially in Southeast Asia. He is also a member of Kelompok Kurator Kampung, a collective that is experimenting with the idea of art involvement in social life and encouraging curatorial practice in the daily lives of marginalized communities. He works as a lecturer of cultural studies at Ciputra University, Surabaya.
Archive
Archive

Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South
Editorial / The Heterogeneous SouthHongjohn Lin
The South - An art of asking and listening Manray Hsu
Uncharted Territory: The Roots of Curatorial Practices in Eastern Indonesia Ayos Purwoaji
South Fever: The South as a Method in Taiwan Contemporary CuratingPei-Yi Lu

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating
Editorial / The Beginning of CuratingSandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Are Curators Really Needed? Bùi Kim Đĩnh
The Documents 15 and the Concept of Lumbung ruangrupa
The Three Axes of Curating: Ethics, Politics, and AestheticsSandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme
Editorial / Curatorial EpistemeHongjohn Lin
Epistemic EncountersHenk Slager
The Curatorial ThingHongjohn Lin
Ethics of CuratingMeng-Shi Chen

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism
Editorial /​ Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-NationalismManray Hsu
When Kacalisian Culture Meets the Vertical City: Contemporary Art from Greater SandimenManray Hsu
Pathways and Challenges: Art History in the Context of Global Contemporary ArtJau-Lan Guo
Curating Commemoration: Conditions of Political Choreography, a Performance Exhibition in RetrospectSophie Goltz

Issue 3 Curating Performativity
Editorial /​ Curating PerformativityI-wen Chang
Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in TaiwanI-wen Chang
Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture CentrePawit Mahasarinand
The Curatorial as A Praxis of DisobedienceMiya Yoshida

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms
Editorial /​ Curators' Living RoomsSandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Extended Living Room: Space and Conversationruangrupa(Ade Darmawan, Mirwan Andan)
Freeing the Weights of the HabitualRaqs Media Collective
Curating TopographySandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 1 Curatography
Editorial /​ One Step Forward, Two Steps BackwardHongjohn Lin
What is Curatography?Hongjohn Lin
Les fleurs américainesYoann Gourmel, Elodie Royer​
There are No Blank SlatesEileen Legaspi Ramirez​
Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism

Issue 3 Curating Performativity

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms

Issue 1 Curatography