Maritime history links between Australia and Indonesia

Indonesian sailors in Sydney in 1945 listening to the proclamation of Indonesian independence, recreated for the 1946 film Black Armada by Joris Ivens. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

Indonesian sailors in Sydney in 1945 listening to the proclamation of Indonesian independence, recreated for the 1946 film Indonesia Calling by Joris Ivens. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

This weekend (25-26th February 2017) the President of Indonesia will visit Australia for the first time since being elected in 2014. President Joko Widodo will be talking with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Much of the discussion – typical of  Australia’s long relationship with its northern neighbour – will undoubtedly be about maritime related affairs. As Indonesia furthers its policy of focusing on maritime development as one of fundamental importance in an archaepeligo of around 18,000  islands, the historical maritime links between the two countries should not be forgotten.

In honour of the President’s visit to Sydney over the weekend, the museum will display an exhibition that explores one of the most significant – and largely forgotten – periods of strong bonds based on maritime links in the two nations histories. The display Black Armada – Australia’s support for Indonesian Independence 1945-1949 was developed for the 75th anniversary of independence in August 2015. The exhibition has been on display at the Museum Benteng Vredeburg in Jogjakarta, the ARMA museum in Bali, as well as here in Darling Harbour.

You can read more about this fascinating and important period of Australian links with Indonesia in the museum’s Feature Story.

Dr Stephen Gapps – Curator

 

 

 

 

When the Indonesian revolution came to an Australian country town

A hut still standing on the site of Camp Victory in Casino

A hut still standing near the site of Camp Victory in Casino, northern New South Wales. Photograph courtesy Anthony Liem.

On October 24 this year over a hundred people gathered in Casino in Northern New South Wales to commemorate the 70th anniversary of an event not widely known in Australian history. In late 1945 residents of the sleepy rural township of Casino were dramatically drawn into the events surrounding the struggle for Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch.

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History and theatre – Black Armada exhibition opens in Indonesia

Reenactors-flag

In a spirit of collaboration, historical reenactors wave the Australian flag from the ramparts at the opening of Black Armada (Armada Hitam) at the Museum Benteng Vredeburg, Yogyakarta on 31 August 2015.

Exhibition openings in Indonesia are really something. At the Black Armada (Armada Hitam) opening at the Museum Benteng Vredeburg, Yogyakarta on 31 August there were decorations, traditional dancers, prayers, speeches, a sumptuous feast, and to top it all off, an explosion-packed historical re-enactment of a battle by Indonesian freedom fighters.
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Installing an ANMM exhibition in Indonesia

A dilapidated Fortress Benteng Vredeburg

A dilapidated Fortress Benteng Vredeburg c. 1970

The Black Armada (Armada Hitam) exhibition about Australian support for the early years of Indonesian independence just after WWII opened at the Australian National Maritime Museum on 20 August 2015. You can see the display in the Tasman Light gallery over the next few months. Black Armada is a collaboration with the Museum Benteng Vredeburg in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. A travelling version of the exhibition opened there on 31 August.

Mr Peter Dexter AM, Chairman of the Australian National Maritime Museum Council, Curator Dr Stephen Gapps, Indonesian Ambassador His Excellency Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema and Museum Director and CEO Kevin Sumption at the opening of Black Armada

Mr Peter Dexter AM, Chairman of the Australian National Maritime Museum Council, Curator Dr Stephen Gapps, Indonesian Ambassador His Excellency Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema and Museum Director and CEO Kevin Sumption at the opening of Black Armada on 20 August 2015. Photo: Andrew Frolows

As curator of the display, I travelled to Indonesia to assist in the installation and attend the opening. Working with an Indonesian museum has been an amazing insight into Indonesian museums, history and culture.

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