Javanese constructions in masonry from the early Modern period are outstandingly absent from Indonesian Modern building historiography. This gap is significant as it covers about two centuries and a half, from the moment Dutch and Chinese merchants settled in Batavia in the beginning of the 17th c. to the intervention of the first European colonial engineers in the second half of the 19th c. This presentation shows how Javanese patrons and master-builders were, in fact, among the first to react and integrate new techniques, such as mortar masonry, as they ordered the most up-to-date military, palatine as well as domestic constructions in the region. While a handful of studies have documented some of these buildings, the overall agency of Javanese sovereigns and their systematic emulation of foreign architectural types has been surprisingly neglected as a phenomenon of the colonial period.
This presentation sheds light on the value of material culture in the writing of Java’s early colonial history, and more specifically in understanding the colonial encounter. It shows that architectural phenomena cannot be dissociated from other aspects of social life if we are to render the richness and complexity of relations between competing polities during this period.
Dr. Hélène Njoto is an Associate Fellow at the Nalanda Sriwijaya Center, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and Research Associate at the Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CASE), Paris. She received her PhD from EHESS (Paris), after graduating from Sorbonne University (Paris-I). She specializes in Indonesian early Modern art and architecture history, more specifically from the Early Islamic period and the early Colonial period (c. 16th c.) to the first half of the 19th c. She authored an article on the origins of the Javanese mosque (BEFEO, 2015) and two articles on Javanese Pasisir Art (Archipel, 2014; Arts Asiatiques, 2018). Other publications include historical studies of Indonesian Cultural Heritage, “The Invention of Indonesian Heritage”(IRASEC, 2016), and on the art market “Master Dealers of Indonesian Painting ” (Archipel, 2006). Hélène Njoto directed in July 2018 the NSC Art History and Archaeology Field School in Trawas (ISEAS-ARKENAS).
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Photo: A. A. J. Payen, ‘Vue intérieure des bains du sultan à Rojovillangon, près de Djocja Karta’, pierre noire avec estompe, inv. nr. RV-60-79a54 (Collection Payen, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen)