Learning German

Walter Spies
Walter Spies© German Embassy Jakarta

Who was Walter Spies? A German from Moscow, painter, pianist, conductor, ethnologist, historian and collector.

Walter Spies was born into a wealthy German family which had settled in Moscow. In 1846 his grandfather had come from Elberfeld and founded a trading company in imperial Russia. The parents of Walter Spies were Leon, one of the four heirs of the enterprise, and Martha von Mohl from an old family from Wuerttemberg,. Her father was consul in Naples. They had four children, who all became artists.

Walter was born in 1895. He made his first musical experiences in his parents’ house. He graduated from Secondary School in Dresden. When World War I broke out he was back in Moscow and at the age of 19 was interned in the Urals, together with his brothers. They were considered as enemies. After the German-Russian armistice in 1917 he came back to Moscow, gave away his paintings, which he had painted during his internment, and got a position as painter in a theatre. In 1918 he returned to Dresden and studied painting. 1921 he moved on to Berlin and dedicated himself to music and composition.

But Berlin could not keep him for long. 1923 he signed up on the steamer „Hamburg“ and disembarked on Java. His first stop was Bandung, where he earned a living by accompanying silent movies on the piano and giving small concerts. He stayed only for a short while and went to Yogyakarta. In December 1923 the Sultan appointed him to lead the court dance orchestra. In Yogyakarta he studied Gamelan music and invented a way to write down this Music.

In 1925, by invitation of Tjokorde Gde Raka Sukawati, the Prince of Ubud, he visited Bali the first time. He is fascinated by Balinese dance, one of which he later transformed into the most famous of all Balinese dances, the Kecak. In 1927 he eventually settled in Bali. There he did all and everything: He played with Gamelan musicians and wrote down their music. Together with Beryl de Zoete he published the book „Dance and Drama in Bali“. He learned the art of woodcarving and is said to be the inventor of the lean wooden sculptures, sold now everywhere. He paints and sells or gives away his paintings. Together with Viktor von Plessen he produces the film „Island of Demons“ for which he invented the Kecak dance. He studies Hinduism and Balinese history; the results were used by Vicky Baum in her book „Love and Death on Bali“. He designed princely houses for Tjokorde and founded a museum in Ubud and much more.

In the 30s the house of Spies became the cultural centre of Bali. The list of famous people, who visited Walter Spies and were entertained by him, is impressive: Charlie Chaplin, Leopold Stokowski, Noel Coward, the flight pioneer Elly Beinhorn, the film maker Viktor von Plessen, Cole Porter, Barbara Hutton, Vicky Baum, Margaret Mead and many others. From 1938 onwards he withdrew more and more. Partly because he did not play tourist guide any more and he was treated with hostility, because he was gay.

He did not die on Bali, but on the ocean west of the harbour of Sibolga. After Hitler had overrun the Netherlands in 1940 most of the Germans in Dutch East India were interned and the government began to transport the men to India, assuming they might support the Japanese who were about to invade Dutch East India. Walter Spies was first interned in Sumatra and in January 1942 he with 500 other Germans had to board the ship „Van Imhoff“. A Japanese airplane torpedoed the ship. The ship’s crew saved itself, but more than 400 German prisoners drowned, among them Walter Spies.

Because he could not return to Europe, he was almost forgotten. However, now he is being rediscovered. On the occasion of his 100th birthday in September 1995 two large exhibitions were organised in Indonesia in collaboration with German museums, one at the National Gallery and the other one at the Agung Rai Museum on Bali.

Botanic Garden Bogor
Monument Caspar Georg Karl Reinwardt© Herwig Zahorka

Founder of the Botanical Garden in Bogor (near Jakarta)

Caspar Georg Karl Reinwardt was born on 5 June 1733. After the early death of their father, he and his brother moved to Amsterdam to a related pharmacist. When his brother took over the pharmacy, Caspar Reinwardt became his apprentice. Later, he studied medicine and botany and at only 27 years of age was appointed professor for natural science at the University of Harderwijk. After his nomination as rector of this university he committed himself to establish a botanical and zoological garden in Holland.

In 1815 he was appointed Director of Agricultural Affairs, Education and Science on Java. He had hardly arrived on Java in 1816, when he set out on a reform of the educational as well as the medical system and started with botanical experiments. Eventually he founded the Botanical Garden in Buizenzorg (today Bogor) with the aim to collect samples of all plants on the Archipelago and to study them.

He travelled all over East India, published his findings and started enormous collections which he sent to the University of Leiden. However, due to unsafe and perilous sea routes not everything arrived.

In 1823 Reinwardt left Java and was appointed professor at the University of Leiden, where he taught botany and geology of East India and published books about these fields.

Reinwardt was the first of more than a dozen German scientists, who worked and studied in Bogor. Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had close connections with Reinwardts collaborator and successor, Karl Ludwig von Blume. Until today there are academic ties between Bogor and German universities.

Since it was founded in 1817 the Botanical Garden of Bogor is world famous. On the initiative of the German botanist Herwig Zahorka a monument was erected in the garden in 2006 to commemorate Reinwardts achievements.

Raden Saleh
Raden Saleh© German Embassy Jakarta

 Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman was born in May 1811 as son of an aristocratic family in Semarang, Central Java. The Belgian painter Joseph Payen, who lived in Java, discovered young Raden Saleh's talent. He arranged for Raden Saleh to be sent to the Netherlandswhere he was trained to be an administrative officer. Immediately upon arrival, Raden Saleh took private lessons with two then-famous Dutch painters. Upon completing training 10 years later, he asked for permission to travel Europebefore returning to Indonesia.

After short stopovers in Duesseldorf, Frankfurtand Berlinhe came to Dresdenwhere he lived for many years. He love the German Romantic School, was successful as a painter and learned German. He found friends and sponsors, amongst others Friedrich Anton Serre and Duke Ernst II. of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha.

In 1844 Raden Saleh left Dresden and travelled to Paris. In 1852 he returned to Indonesia. During his second journey through Europe 1875 – 1878 he lived another year in Coburg.

Back in Batavia, today’s Jakarta, he did not join the Dutch colonial power’s services. He had become a celebrity and had been decorated with numerous German medals and awards of other European countries. He held court in his small castle in Cikini, a district of Jakarta, where he preferred to receive German-speaking guests. The castle is still there today and is being used as administrative building of the Cikini Hospital. Raden Saleh modelled it after Castle Callenberg near Coburg, where he often stayed with Duke Ernst of Saxonia and his family.

In Germany, numerous paintings in museums and private collections still remind of Raden Saleh. An architectural inheritance is the little mosque which Serre built for his friend Raden Saleh after his designs in Maxen. The „Blue House“, as it was called back then, is not used as mosque anymore and probably never has been used as such.

Some of the most famous paintings of Raden Saleh are in the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, amongst them „The Capture of Diponegoro“ (1858). Raden Saleh portrayed Prince Diponegoro as moral winner who started his way into captivity with a provocative face. It is a revolutionary and anticolonial painting which returned from Hollandonly after Indonesia’s independence.

Raden Saleh was the first modern Javanese painter. He brought back from Europe a new way of seeing and colouring and greatly influenced Java’s history of modern painting.

Map of the world
Map of the world© Colourbox

F. W. Junghuhn was born on 26 October 1809 in Prussian Mansfeld. Although he felt particularly attracted to botanical studies, he followed his fathers wish and studied medicine from 1827 until 1831 in Halle and Berlin. Shortly afterwards, however, he was arrested and convicted to 10 years confinement in a fortress due to a duel.

12 months later, Junghuhn escapes from imprisonment to France and enteres the French Foreign Legion. After he heard that in 1833 he had already been pardoned by the Prussian King, a friend recommended him to join the Dutch Colonial Service and go to Dutch-India as a doctor. He travels to Holland in 1834, passes another medical test and finally reaches Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1835.

Already as a doctor he extensively travels the island of Java. However, he soon aspires to join the colonial Commission on Natural History. He succeeds in doing that in 1840 and can now dedicate himself to the substantial research work which will make him famous.

In those years he publishes „Topographical and Scientific Journeys of Java“ (1845) and „The Batta Countries on Sumatra“ (1847). After a stay in Europe due to health reasons, upon his return to Java he dedicates himself mainly to introducing and cultivating the quinine bark tree. Later on he is charged with the overall administration of all quinine plantations, whereupon he settles in Lembang near Bandung in 1858.

These days, Junghuhn may be forgotten in Germany, in Indonesia however his name has stayed alive. In hindsight, even the name „Humboldt of Java“ is correct in a double sense. Not only because Alexander von Humboldt refers to Junghuhn in his 5-volume work „Cosmos“ in the passages on the South-East-Asian islands but also because Junghuhn’s scientific descriptions of Sumatra and Java are substantial until today.

In 1865 Junghuhn dies at the age of 54. His grave is situated at his last place of residence in Lembang near Bandung. His wife had an obelisk erected on his grave.

Three original editions of his books can be found in the library „Professor Doddy A. Tisna Amidjaya“, Jalan Mutumanikam 69, Bandung 40265, Tel.: 022-7310 530.

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