(P07) Between Heritage and Colonial Representations: Early Photography in Borneo
Thu 09:00-10:30 K14 | 2.07
- Antonio Guerreiro IRASIA CNRS AIX-Marseille University
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Charles Hose’s Borneo: A Pioneer photographer in Sarawak (circa mid-1890s to 1920)
Antonio Guerreiro IRASIA CNRS AIX-Marseille University
After introducing the topic of early photography in Borneo (19th c./early 20th c.), I will concentrate on the life, administrative and scientific activities of Charles Hose in Sarawak (now part of East Malaysia). The paper will be centered on the different uses of photography and more generally, the illustration of ethnographic books, after Charles Hose’s main publications, including the captions. It is one of the most important corpus of images on Borneo made at the time, roughly between the mid-1890s and 1920, more than 350 glass plates. The relations between photography and ethnographic collecting by Hose will be stressed. The paper will address as well the historical context, the colonial gaze and the ‘ethnic classification scheme’ proposed by Hose in the reference work, The Pagan Tribes of Borneo (1912). Conversely, I’m considering scientific expeditions organized in the Baram area of central Borneo in the 1890s, which took place with Hose’s active participation.
Combining historical, ethnographic and morphological approaches to reconstruct Dutch military tours in the Interior of Borneo: the uses of photography
Nicolas Césard CNRS/MNHN/Univ. de Paris
The Apo Kayan region is an isoled mountainous plateau at the headwaters of the Kayan River in the interior of Indonesian Borneo. The area is remote and difficult of access because of the tropical forest, rugged terrain and dangerous rapids. During the Dutch colonial period, the interior of East Kalimantan and North Kalimantan was part of the residency of South and East Borneo, or Zuider- en Oosterafdeling van Borneo. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the Dutch organized major scientific expeditions to the upper Mahakam and Apo Kayan region (A.W. Nieuwenhuis in 1900). Exploratory surveys were undertaken subsequently by military personnel. The first contingent of Dutch officers was posted in Apo Kayan in 1911. The Apo Kayan area was declared a sub-district, or onderafdeling, in 1925 and remained under Dutch rule until 1942 (Eghenter 2001, Lumenta 2008).
Following the purchase in 2013 from an auction site of an album of 70 photographs numbered and described showing officers of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) and their aides patrolling in the region in the years 1926-1930, a long work of identification has begun to put the pieces together. It involves identifying the main persons depicted (soldiers, Dayaks and Punan people, the author/photographer), the chronology of events (various journeys) and the sites and villages visited by cross-referencing available visual and written information (archives and publications) but also with the help of facial recognition software. Beyond its ethnographic and historical interest (still incomplete), the presentation will question the circulation of images of Borneo during the colonial period, several photographs present in the album having been printed as postcards, casting doubt on the originality of the document and its origin.
Early Photography in North Borneo: A Visual Narrative (1900–1930)
Rosalie Corpuz Symbiosis Consulting
Photographic pursuits in North Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia) started in earnest in the early 1880s under the administration of the British North Borneo Chartered Company. Under royal charter, the Company operated a policy to expedite development through scientific and commercial exploration, investment and migration to the territory, the last bastion of terra intacta on the island of Borneo. This brought about a flurry of settlers and visitors that engendered a unique visual chronicle of the emergence of a nation. The gaze of these spectators of mankind would take on several overlapping guises of company administrators, ethnographers, anthropologists, collectors, missionaries, migrant workers, postcard publishers, photographers and filmmakers. Taking into account both prints and postcards from six collections; GC Woolley, Basel Missionaries Archives, Philippe Funk & Sons, Albert Grubauer, Martin & Osa Johnson, and the Domingo family, this paper will focus on the portrayal of early imagery that encompasses the diverse perspectives of these observers of progress and humanity in North Borneo between 1900 to 1930.
Images of Dayak in Dutch Borneo: Jean Demmeni, Borneo, and New Guinea expeditions
Bernard Sellato CNRS
In the vibrant setting of photographic activity around the turn of the twentieth century, Jean Demmeni, a part-French and part-Indonesian surveyor with a interest in photography, became one of the prominent documentarists of the Dutch East Indies. He traveled to record life in various parts of the archipelago, but his career’s highlight was his involvement in major expeditions across Borneo, especially those led in 1896-1900 by A.W. Nieuwenhuis, a famed Borneo explorer. The combination of Nieuwenhuis’ ethnographic interest, medical concern, and human empathy and Demmeni’s technical skills, artistic perception, and sensitivity to traditional peoples generated the most exciting photographic corpus ever completed on Borneo’s peoples and cultures, on a par with the expedition’s extensive ethnographic and natural history collections. While Nieuwenhuis’ publications contributed to position the island on the cultured Dutchman’s mental map, Demmeni’s photographs, used as educational material in schools, ensured the East Indies’ and Borneo’s reality in the wider Dutch society. Moreover, Nieuwenhuis’ satisfaction with his Dayak field crews soon convinced other explorers to seek their jungle and river expertise and disciplined team spirit, making them choice crews for highly mediatized expeditions to New Guinea’ snowy central mountains during four decades, which spread to the Western public a revamped view of wild Borneo and her hitherto bloodthirsty headhunters.
The panel will showcase the salient aspects of early photography in Borneo, in the former British (Sarawak, Sabah), and Dutch colonial areas (Kalimantan), c. 1870s – 1920s. A first step will be identifying the individuals active in the field and their practice of photography. Charles Hose (1863-1929) as a cadet, then Resident, was the most notable administrative
officer in the Brooke Raj who was involved in pioneering ethnographic studies and photography. Between 1884 and 1907, he was posted in out-stations, in the Baram and the Rejang. The panel will outline the different uses of photography and more generally, illustration, in Charles Hose’s main publications, including the style of the captions. The relation between photography and ethnographic and natural history collecting, will be stressed. Besides cultural heritage (tangible, i.e material culture, and its intangible dimensions), the exotic as expressed in landscapes, animal life and portraits, features prominently in the images from this period. Dayak/Punan/Penan/Murut indigenous peoples and fauna and flora have been the most popular subjects of photographers. A mapping of the categories of representations in order to focus on the colonial gaze in Borneo will be provided. The panel will address as well the historical context at the time: the colonial presence and ‘ethnographic expeditions’ taking place in central Borneo, a region spread between Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia (known then as ‘Dutch Borneo’). Another famous photographer, Jean Demmeni (1866-1939), participated in A. W. Nieuwenhuis’ three expeditions taking place across West and East Borneo, between 1896 and 1900. Hose
intensively practiced photography during his postings in the Baram and the Rejang areas (circa 1895 – 1907,1920). Besides Charles Hose and Jean Demmeni, other photographers were active in Borneo during this period (inter alia Evans, Funk, Furness, Grubauer, Haddon, Harrisson-Smith, Martin and Osa Johnson, Mjöberg, Tillema, Woolley). Besides so-called
‘scientific photography’, used to support academic texts and explorations, another photographic type which has been overlooked, i.e. postcards with exotic and romantic connotations, will be considered. In short, early photography besides engravings or drawings – actually the former often made after photographs – had a significant role in the shaping of
Borneo’s ‘culturescape’ during the 20th century.