Note on “CTRS: Memoirs of Tanah Runcuk (2014)”

How to put Tanah Runcuk as a “shadow” territory in the period of East Indies colonization is at first a complex problem formulation for today’s contextualization. Colonialism has been considered as a dark period and traumatic experience for the postcolonial countries, which today they have their independence and are considered to be equal. On the other hands, moral burden is as if keep haunting on every development of the first world’s countries. Besides debating on such discourse, the main complexity that CTRS (Center for Tanah Runcuk Studies) dealt with is in fact that the dilemma on what perspective the note on Tanah Runcuk should be put on and presented to the public.

Up to now Tanah Runcuk itself is in grey area in the context of scientific debate. The characteristic of the method in recording and representing Tanah Runcuk tends to be imaginative so that making it difficult to interpret. Although Tanah Runcuk has been noted several times in several texts between 16th and 19th  century, however none of the historical records (and the administrative records in colonial government of the East Indies archives) that specifically note on its exact location. According to the existing precedent, CTRS suspects that it is because the place found by foreign researcher in the colonial time was usually named after their first impression about the place in their own language. It is possible as the island and the valleys described in the explorers’ records have their existing name or their native name.

The one and only comprehensive text on Tanah Runcuk had been discovered in a former building of an old library in Weimar, Germany in 2006. This text consists of artifacts and manuscripts, which were brought by an explorer named, Ludwig Stern and his partner, Kreuzer Wallach, from their journey in the 19th century. Stern and Wallach represented Tanah Runcuk fantastically, away from empirical studies so that it is even harder for CTRS to put this discourse in positivistic studies.

For several times, CTRS conducts intensive research by involving several researchers and academia from various disciplines. Especially, we build a team of “translation and interpretation” to re-interpret the records and pictures that Stern had found. Finally in order to re-present this study to audience, CTRS collaborates with several artists to handle the result of the manuscripts and artifacts (found by Stern and Wallach) interpretation. Hopefully, by such approach, the study on Tanah Runcuk can be brought up back to see our history through the “other” doors.

We put this “Memoir of Tanah Runcuk: A Note from the “Lost” Land” exhibition as a prototype and entrance instead of as a conclusion and final result. We intentionally present the process that has not finalized yet so it could open up dialogues and possibilities for other perspectives. We do this thing along with our commitment to keep exploring, working, and interpreting the collected data in which it will keep developing through times. The whole process of this study is also published in the journal of Malalongke, available during the exhibition.


Karl J.E. Siegfried & Drs. Daliho Kusbirin
(Board AdvisorTeam Coordinator of Interpretation and Translation)