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Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Indonesian" women in the beginning of the 20th Century

Twee Soendanese vrouwen in halfnaakte pose op West-Java 1910

I got the above picture from this link. For the whole pictures, you can click here

I can say that this post is the continuation of my own post at my other blog (in Bahasa Indonesia) here.

These pictures in fact showed me the proof that women in the 'old' Nusantara archipelago were indeed topless. It was their culture at that time so it was not considered as indecent. But as we know that Nusantara was colonized by the Netherlands, for sure, those Dutch people sent to Nusantara area brought their culture here. One of them was wearing top clothes. People say that those Dutch people thought women at that time 'uncivilized' due to not wearing top clothes. They forced Indonesian women to cover their top bodies in order that they became 'civilized' and the Dutchmen would not get tempted (sexually?). :) If we look at all pictures in the link I gave above, not all women were topless. We can say that of course some women got influenced earlier than the others. Usually they came from high social classes who apparently got along with Dutch people more often than women who were from lower social classes.

In my post here, I cited a friend's comment where he believed that being topless (especially for women) was not Indonesian local culture because he opined that the coming of Islam to Nusantara around 12-15th centuries must have brought Arabic culture too to cover women's bodies. Even this picture could not convince him about local culture about women getting dressed. So, whose culture was it? :)

We can roughly conclude that the coming of Islam to Indonesia around 12-15th centuries did not directly change Indonesian's way of getting dressed. The Dutch colonial government did it.

After Indonesian's independence in 1945, Indonesian women wore 'western' as well as local clothes. By the end of the 20th century, many Indonesian women started wearing jilbab that in fact can be said as Middle East countries' culture.

Why did it not happen since Islam brought to Indonesia many centuries ago? :) As always, everything needs time to process; sometimes it needs a very short time, but at other times, it needs quite a long time. :)

PT28 14.14 100312


colson said...

Can it be growing popularity of jilbab and (other religious outward appearances)is an way of creating a sense of group-identity in a world where extreme individualistic capitalism destroys the comfort of all other traditional social fabrics?

Nana Podungge said...

Dear Colson,

it is hard for me to answer your question 'yes' or 'no'. In the mid eighties, there was a 'policy' that students who went to public schools and civil servants were not allowed to wear jilbab. Nearing the end decade of eighties, I saw more women 'dare' to wear jilbab although many of them said that even their parents were opposed to it.

of course in the nineties, more and more women started wearing jilbab. this time, I thought, it was also spurred by fashion trends -- that wearing jilbab, a woman could still look stylish, while before that, women wearing jilbab were considered 'villagers' :)

at this point we can say that capitalism already influenced a lot.

but the following question, is, what made the government let female students in public schools and female civil servants wear jilbab?

hmmm ...

Saut Situmorang said...

Who took the picture? The women themselves? Or a colonial white man? Is it okay to exhibit women like in the picture? Did the women agree to be photographed and then exhibited to public?

Why are these question absent from this FEMINIST blog?! *sigh*

Nana Podungge said...

Bung Saut,

the picture I selected to post in this blog was indeed showing two 'models' posed for a colonial white man (I suppose so).

However, the main idea I posted this picture is to show that in the beginning of the twentieth century Indonesian women -- or perhaps we can narrow it to Javanese, Sundanese, as well as Balinese women were indeed topless. And it was a habit, no need to feel humiliated to look that way. I believe you also know that it is easy for us to get similar pictures online, where the women were not posed before a white photographer, let's say.

what is wrong to post this kind of picture in my FEMINIST blog? I just want to show facts. :)