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17. Marketplace Aceh, North Sumatra

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Marketplace Aceh, North Sumatra

A portrait of people at a marketplace in the district of Aceh (a stronghold of of fundamental Islam at the northern tip of Sumatra) reveals some distinctive differences in their features that Dutch chroniclers attributed to “immigration.” That was probably a reference to the influx and inter-marriage of ethnic groups from the Malay Peninsula, China, India, Sri Lanka (them known as Ceylon) and Arabs from the Middle East. Their dress also exhibits the multiracial mix local head cloths and sarong, Western shirts and trousers for the men, and blouses and sarongs, sometimes worm will long pants, by the women. A sarong on the shoulders was used as protection against the elements. The Acehnese are noted for their fine weaving in which silver and gold threads are used in intricate patterns to make for a rich gloss, a more refined technique than that of the Minangkabau people to the southwest where the gold and silver threads are clearly visible in the fabrics.

This photograph depicting the Dutch East Indies was originally published as part of an information series for school children. It consisted of 170 educational prints and covered a diverse range of subjects, separated into two parts: numbers 1-150 depicted places and people in the Dutch East Indies and numbers 151-170 depicted places and people in the Dutch West Indies. The first 150 photographs of the collection are attributed to the photographer Jean Demmeni (1866-1939), whose pictures provided the Dutch public with some of the first photographic depictions of the colonies that they had read so much about. Demmeni was born in Padang Panjang in West Sumatra, the son of a native woman of the island of Madura and a Frenchman who had left his country to join the Dutch East Indies Army. Demmeni followed in his fatherʹs footsteps and, after technical training in Holland, entered the Third Infantry Regiment in 1887. He was seconded to the topographic unit of the armed forces and in 1894 was assigned as the official photographer to an expedition to Borneo led by Dr. A.W. Nieuwenhuis. Demmeni was then employed by the Topographical Service at Batavia from 1911 until 1920, after which he worked as a photographer at the Central Office of Dactyloscopy. In the biography of Jean Demmeni Indonesia: Image s of the Past (Singapore: 1987), Leo Haks described him as ʹone of the first photographersʹ to capture the islands of the Indonesian archipelago, and called his work a ‘vital contribution to Indonesian history and the art of photography’ which ʹprovides a comprehensive record of the Indonesian islands at the turn of the century, unmatched in its singular insightsʹ. This selection of photographs shows interesting details around the expansion of industries such as tobacco (a lucrative export) in the area, and the local processes of production. The group also records the religious influences in the region, showing Islamic and Christian presences in local communities. Islam had been established in Indonesia since the fourteenth century, and colonial European settlers had ushered in a new phase of Christian proselytising around the Pacific Ocean – one which was frequently characterised by notorious insensitivity towards the indigenous population. However, these photographs demonstrate the more tolerant educational interest being taken at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Purchase code:  Marketplace Aceh, North Sumatra

Price: 550 USD.

 

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