Tanah Air Kita

Tanah air kita.  The literal translation is our land and water, though typically translates as Our Homeland.

As part of my own going research into photography in Indonesia, as well as pursing the opportunities afforded to me by my recently awarded fellowship in the Southeast Asian Project at Cornell University, I spent a day recently looking through boxes of photographs by the Dutch photographer Niels Douwes Dekker, located in the Cornell Rare Manuscript Collection.

First published in 1950, Tanah Air Kita is a collection of photographs documenting and celebrating the diversity and unity of Indonesian culture.

I spent much of a day going through a few boxes of these photographs.  It was a pretty mixed bag.  For the most part, the pictures offered a pretty simple view of culture.  The technique of the pictures also left something to be desired.  They were strictly about conveying a particular sort of information, perhaps even a sort of propaganda.

Though despite that, I found a number of gems (as Steichen once said, photography was born perfect, and thus can prove to be greater than the photographer), and it was wonderful to take a stroll through Indonesia during the early 20th century.

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2 thoughts on “Tanah Air Kita

  1. This book is really precious book that portrays Indonesia prior to independence day. Good quality of photos. I wonder if it’s been translated into English or Indonesian?

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