Royal Funerary Material Culture of Bima, Indonesia

Report from Jessica Rahardjo, 2017 ASEAS(UK) Research Impact Award Recipient

Jessica rahardjo Funerary Complex Tolo
Funerary complex of Tolo Bali, Bima, Sumbawa (2017) | Image Credit: © Jessica Rahardjo | Please do not reproduce without permission

The primary objective of my research project was documentation of surviving sites in Bima. I was able to map, measure and photograph the main sites, and also came across several sites which had typological similarities to the royal funerary sites. However, I have not established if the latter are indeed of the same historical period. I have also photographed the inscriptions, which will be read at a later date. As comparative material, I documented and studied funerary complexes of Gowa and Tallo in South Sulawesi.

I visited regional museums in Bima, Makassar and Mataram to view objects – mainly artefacts from the palace, as well as manuscripts. It was only at Museum Samparaja, however, that I was able to look closely at manuscripts. Given the paucity of resources in the United Kingdom on Islamic funerary material culture in Indonesia and history of eastern Indonesia in general, much of my efforts were dedicated towards acquiring publications and student dissertations on the topic. A significant amount of research has already been done on adat law, systems of governance and the role of Islam in Bima – I will be cross-referencing these to understand their relationships with funerary practices.

The research activities enabled by this award form the basis of my dissertation for my MPhil degree in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford. I wish to develop the data not included in the dissertation (in particular funerary material culture from South Sulawesi) towards a larger research project to be undertaken at DPhil level.
During my travels, I was able to make contacts with local historians in Bima as well as academics at universities in Jakarta, Mataram and Makassar. It is hoped that this will result in future research collaborations.