Faces of Indonesia

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Faces of Indonesia: 500 Postcards 1900-1945 highlights the remarkable diversity among the people of Indonesia before independence was declared on 17 August 1945, and before the concept of the nation of ‘Indonesia’ was widely discussed or understood outside elite political and intellectual circles.

The 500 beautiful picture postcards from the author’s own collection reveal the people of Indonesia across the entirety of the vast archipelago, quite literally from ‘Sabang to Merauke’, from when they still identified only with their own local ethnic group or clan or community, and most spoke only their own local language—not the Indonesian language.  It is a diversity no longer witnessed today but which vividly illustrates the national motto ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ or ‘Unity in Diversity’.

The postcards are presented in six chapters—Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Eastern Indonesia—and are complemented by essays at the beginning of each chapter that include contemporary travel accounts, observations and descriptions from books, journals and magazines from the period 1890s-1940s.

This is Scott Merrillees’ fourth book utilising early picture postcards and photographs to explore the rich and fascinating history of Indonesia, but the first book to focus exclusively on the people of Indonesia and how they were represented during the last half century before independence.