Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor | Feature | Mon, January 06 2014
The city of Bogor, West Java, is home to a host of famous historical sites such as the Batu Tulis complex and the Ciaruteun stele.
There’s also an almost forgotten site, the tomb of Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman, the naturalist painter who became a landmark figure in the history of Indonesia’s fine arts in the 19th century.
The maestro’s final resting place lies in the middle of a residential area on Jl. Pahlawan, in the Bondongan subdistrict of the suburban city.
However, most people in Bogor do not know that the maestro has been interred there. Many are unfamiliar with his name.
Located in a Sundanese family cemetery on the hills near Bondongan, the tomb of Raden Saleh was rediscovered in 1923 by Adung Wiriaatmaja, then deputy head of the colonial prosecutor’s office, when he was removing shrubs on a plot in front of his house.
- Final resting spot: Near the grave of Raden Saleh is the final resting spot of Adung Wiriaatmaja, the man who rediscovered the painter’s grave in his family’s traditional cemetery.
Adung’s nephew Isun Sunarya described how the tomb looked when it was unearthed. “Covered by earth and weeds was a black marble tomb measuring 1.2 meters by 80 centimeters, with the engraved name of Raden Saleh and the various honors he had received from European kings.”
Members of Isun’s family have tended to the grave of Raden Saleh, and his wife, Raden Ayu Danurejo, who lies next to him, ever since, Isun said.
Although Isun was not certain, he said that Raden Saleh might have been buried in Bogor after his death in 1880 since several other nobles (raden is a noble title in Javanese) were also interred at the site.
“My ancestor, Raden Panoeripan, a nobleman from Majalengka [West Java], is also buried here,” Isun, added of his great-great-great-grandfather.
Raden Saleh also had a house near the cemetery that was closer than his home on what is now Jl. Raden Saleh Raya, in Cikini, Central Jakarta.
That home — just a few hundred meters from the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center and the Jakarta Art Institute — is currently a nurses’ dormitory for Cikini Hospital.
Sukarno, who frequently visited the Dutch painter Dessentje who lived nearby, discussed the restoring the grave with Adung several times before proceeding with the project in 1953, according to Isun.
“Bung Karno repeatedly told Pak Adung that Raden Saleh was a great painter of Indonesia widely known in Europe and appointed architect FX Silaban to restore the tomb,” Isun said. “Bung Karno also inspected the renovation work,” recalled Isun, who was a junior high school student when the renewal was underway.
In 1957, when he was in senior high school, Isun decided to take care of the tomb himself, something he has continued until this day.
As caretaker, Isun remembers many of the stories told of the maestro artist. He relates a story told by his uncle that when Raden Saleh died, his remains were carried by a procession of thousands from his home (now a tax office) on Jl. Juanda to Bondongan.
Former education minister Wardiman Djojonegoro said that Raden Saleh was the first Indonesian of note to support the advancement of science in the then-East Indies.
One of the maestro’s most famous works — Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro, or The Arrest of Prince Diponegoro — was the first Southeast Asian painting made according to European standards for historical pictures, the former minister said.
There’s even a crater on the planet Mercury bearing Raden Saleh’s name, according to Wardiman.
“I was prepared when Raden Saleh’s petition executor, cultural experts and artists from Bogor asked me to assist them in proposing national hero status for Raden Saleh and [to establish] April 23 as national fine art day,” Wardiman said.
The proposal, backed by the administrations in Jakarta and Bogor, has been sent to the central government for action. “I hope that the national hero title for Raden Saleh can be realized soon,” the former minister said.
One contemporary painter, Hardi, voiced a similar sentiment, saying that Raden Saleh’s tomb was a valuable asset that required proper management so future generations could learn of the maestro.
“The greater part of Indonesian society may not yet be acquainted with Raden Saleh and may have no idea where his tomb is,” Hardi said. “I’m sure the artists hanging out daily at Taman Ismail Marzuki also don’t know that Bogor is his resting place.”
— Photos by Theresia Sufa