Photographic footprints of the Yogyakarta Keraton

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the Yogyakarta Keraton

IO – Yogyakarta is a highly dynamic city, with its heart located in the historical Keraton, a palace situated at the center of the city, even enduring under Dutch colonial rule. It is somehow dynamic, as the Special Region
of Yogyakarta represents the traditional strong Javanese culture and modern Western colonialism. Dutch colonialism did not extinguish the Javanese spirit, especially in Keraton and Yogyakarta. The Yogyakarta Cultural Agency held the 2021 3rd Museum Visit, titled “Photographic Footprints of Keraton Yogyakarta”.

Yogyakarta’s official YouTube channel, @dinaskebudayaankotayogyakarta, broadcasted Kassian Cephas’s documentation works of the Keraton and the history of Yogyakarta, which binds Yogyakarta and Dutch colonials. Kassian Cephas recorded every corner of Yogyakarta, especially the Keraton.

“For the 2021 3rd Museum Visit, we exhibited documentation of Yogyakarta’s dynamic life in the past, beautifully recorded and taken by Cephas,” said Head of Yogyakarta Cultural Agency, Yetti Martanti.

According to Yetti, photography becomes a vital instrument to look at past events, history and memories that reflect the present life. Through photo collections, guests and the audience are taken along the path of Yogyakarta’s Keraton over a long span of time.

Cephas was the first professional Indonesian photographer, and took an internship under the direction of King Hamengkubuwana VI (reigning from 1855–1877), and successfully recorded amazing documentation of the Keraton in Yogyakarta. As the Sultan’s photographer in early 1871, he started working as the Sultan family’s photographer and captured many historical moments. The documentation did not only stop with Kassian Cephas; Sem Cephas, the son, who followed his father’s path, also took part in taking moments of historical Yogyakarta.

A researcher and Dean Assistant of the Faculty of Recording Media Arts, ISI Yogyakarta, Edial Rusli, revealed that the documentation of Keraton in Yogyakarta was initially only recorded in paintings by foreigners. The paintings were means of communication and kept as archives, as a medium to explain situations at that moment.

Along with the development of camera and photography, Cephas seized moments through his photographic shots. He began to learn to take pictures from the Royal Dutch photographer taking photos of the life of the Sultan in Yogyakarta. “He started his photographer career then led to becoming a trusted documenter,” explained Edial.

RW Purwagita, as the Royal Yogyakarta Keraton photographer, added that Cephas, who was close to Sri Sultan and his family, took a lot of the family’s daily activities, starting from the Keraton’s regular activities to traditional sacred ceremonies.

“We can still find his original photos, which have not been scanned yet,” he concluded. A work that is yet to unveil.