Netherland’s East Indies

Het dokken van een schip in de haven van Tandjong Priok
R: J.C. Lamster. P: Koloniaal Instituut Amsterdam. NL 1912
Print: EYE collection
Educational film about the operation of the floating dry dock in Batavia (Jakarta)

“The administrative and mercantile heart of the Netherlands East Indies empire was its capital, Batavia. It developed around the old port of Sunda Kelapa but in 1887 the harbor was shifted to more modern facilities developed in Tanjung Priok several kilometers east. Today Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, capital of the Republic of Indonesia, remains the busiest port in the nation of l3,667 islands.”
Bartele Gallery

Autotocht door Bandoeng
R: J.C. Lamster. P:  Koloniaal Instituut Amsterdam / Pathé. NL ca. 1913
Print: EYE

“What were these films able to add to Dutch cognizance about the East Indies that they were not getting from other sources after the turn of the century? Primarily, it was the ability to see what the colony looked like. It was an immersive experience that no  novel, painting or still photograph could reproduce. It gave audiences the possibility to imagine the terrains in which the popular novels they read were situated. They saw the expanse of the environment, the humdrum of daily life and the actual execution of the arts and crafts – far more alive than shadow puppets at a fair, or images in a book. Film moved through space. It situated the viewer in a landscape with quotidian physical detail, yet delivered it in a format that was very exciting – especially a century ago. It picked up the range of expressions on a persons face over bursts of filmic time. It displayed bodily motion in a dance performance. Sometimes the sheer novelty of watching film, any film, was the attraction. One of Lamster’s early films Autotocht Door Bandoeng (Car Ride Through Bandung) utilized the popular ‘phantom ride’ shot where a camera is mounted on a vehicle giving it “a kinetic experience on par with an amusement ride”. It is interesting to note, that about a century later, the KITLV (i.e. Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde), in keeping with the spirit of the simplicity of this innovation, has incorporated it into its visual data-collecting stratagem in their ‘Recording the Future’ undertaking. It was one of the early gimmicks of non-fiction film and it was happening in an exotic location. It was life that was mostly unseen before, presented in a novel simulation of motion.”
Sandeep Ray: Celluloid Colony: Occluded Histories of the Netherlands East Indies from Movie Images (1912-1930). Department of History – National University of Singapore 2015, p. 78-79

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