Museum Nasional- Jakarta

We walk in the door, Landon says, “Buddha!”
Which I’m pretty sure is not a normal 2-year-old
vocabulary word!

We ventured out of the bubble of our hotel room and area to go on a tour of the National Museum of Indonesia, which happens to be across from the National Monument of Jakarta. The tour didn’t end up being on the same day, but we are glad we had an excuse to get out and learn more about Indonesia.

Map of Indonesia and its different ethnic groups
Model toddler

Before we saw any exhibits, we stumbled upon some sort of conference taking place in the lobby. There were dancers dressed up in traditional costumes, so we waited around (and Austin took some phone calls from work) until they performed. Landon kept busy by trying to destroy fragile things in the gift shop and running around in the copious amounts of open space. When the traditional dance did take place, I could tell it was a less experienced, less practiced group of dancers (vs. professionals) because they made a few mistakes and were not quite in sync some of the time. Their outfits were very cool, though, and the dance was an interesting mix of Asian and Polynesian influences, along with some subtle Indian dance moves in there as well. Very interesting to watch all around. Landon was mesmerized by the outfits and the dance, and stayed still for a few short moments!

The dancers… I loved their skirts!

The first section of the museum was small, but dealt mostly with prehistoric rocks/fossils/bones of Indonesian people. Indonesia has been inhabited for a very long time, and skeletons have been found on the island of humanoids/pre-humans. There were several skeletons on display including some in their original burial positions in this cave pictured below. Landon was intrigued.

Prehistoric elephant/mammoth tusk

Upstairs, we learned that Indonesian language has been influenced by a variety of cultures over the years. They speak a version of Malay, which is also spoken by their neighbors, Malaysia. Chinese traders/merchants came and some lived in Indonesia as early as 5 AD. They brought some Chinese language influences into the language although the intricate characters did not stick in the language (thank goodness!) The lettering here is latin characters, and that was brought over by the Portuguese in the 1500s and 1600s. There were other influences as well from different areas of India. There was a section of the museum filled with stone tablets that had all different letterings and characters carved on them. The most interesting one was this giant rock. When Islam was introduced to Indonesia, it took hold on Java and other areas and in turn influenced some words as well. Austin’s coworker speaks Arabic and is Muslim and sees many similarities in words between Indonesian and Arabic, although the Arabic prayers that are broadcast at prayer times she says are pronounced very differently here than in Arabic speaking countries.

In general, it seems that although there are many things that are strictly Indonesian including gamelan and batiks, Indonesia is a mishmash of its surrounding cultures as well.

LONG skinny canoe… there is Austin at the
other end!

After the language and scientific and medicinal instruments, we were on to what Landon came to see- the old boats. The canoe they had on display was extremely long- looked like the entire length of a giant tree, and skinny. I think it could be accurately described as a “dug-out” canoe.

Medicine container

Indonesian women are tiny. I have noticed most of them where significant wedges or heels because they are so small. I’m not sure if this is the reason these sandals are so tall, but that is my theory and I’m sticking to it. I’m sad that we were not allowed to take pictures of the most interesting exhibit in the whole place! On the top floor and surrounded by tight security was an exhibit full of gold buried treasure. That’s right! Buried treasure! Farmers on different parts of the island of Java were digging in their field getting ready to plant crops and discovered huge treasures of gold buried in their fields. There were jewelry pieces, coins, swords, all kinds of stuff. They are not sure where the treasure came from, which seems quite odd considering the last discovery was in the 90’s and if I knew that a buried treasure had been discovered, I would be trying to figure out where it came from. Anyway, the exhibit was also full of the jewels of different royalty in Indonesia. Back in the day, each island had several separate kingdoms with royalty for each kingdom, so that’s a lot of jewels and crowns and swords. There was one hat in particular that stuck out to me- it looked like an old fashioned pirate hat with cool looking feathers. It also had a band around it completely encrusted in real diamonds.


Masks for plays, reminded me of the “King and I”
That was the end of the new part of the museum, so we made our way to the older section, which had much more cultural stuff and was divided up by island.  There were lots of batik fabrics and I guess each batik pattern has a name and means something different, kind of like tartans in Scotland. The stamps below were dipped in wax and then placed on the fabric before dying to create the white pattern on the fabrics. 

My last year at BYU I needed a Global and Cultural Awareness credit for general ed. I had put it off because I couldn’t find a class I found interesting to take. I was getting a minor in music and so I took World Music Cultures so I could double count it for my minor. I’m glad I took the class now, because now I know a little about gamelan and what it is supposed to sound like. I hope I get to see a performance before I leave Indonesia! Gamelan sets include gongs, drums, and metal xylophone type instruments of various sizes. The resulting music is quite metallic in nature and the resulting texture that comes out of a whole ensemble is hard to describe. There were several gamelan sets on display in the museum. Here is one of them:

On some of the islands of Indonesia, weaving didn’t really become a thing until much later. I guess trade wasn’t big either because they ended up making all of their clothes out of tree bark. Seeing this kid’s shirt made me realize how isolating it could be for these people to live on an island and only have the resources on the island to survive. The bark goes through a long process in order to make a piece of clothing that is somewhat flexible including hot water baths, cold water baths, and beating with something heavy.

Shell trumpets!

This is just a rattle, but I had to take a picture and post it because it reminded me of The Lion King

My boys with a totem pole

The old part of the museum had tons of cool stuff, but not as many placards in English to explain what we were looking at. There were laminated sheets with more detailed information that we could pick up, but going to a museum with a toddler is just a different experience! We mastered the “keep moving to keep the kid happy in the stroller, but stroll very slowly in order to take in some of exhibits” walking pace, and managed to get quite a lot out of the whole experience. After the old part of the museum, we came to a big courtyard filled with statuary. Indonesia has an interesting religious history as well. Indians brought Hinduism to the islands, and that was the major religion until Islam took over. Islam became the predominant religion and any faithful Hindu royalty on Java fled to Bali. Bali, therefore, became the Hindu capital of Indonesia, while the rest of it is predominantly Muslim. So basically there were lots of Hindu sculptures like in India, but also some Buddha sculptures like in Korea.

Landon liked the “ent”

Sculpture garden
Big sculpture of something

Can you spy Austin?
Cool sculpture

The museum and the flag

In front of the sign


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