Sunday, May 13, 2007

Raden Saleh palace now a hospital

JAKARTA (JP): In the 1970s, those being treated at or visiting Cikini Hospital could see groups of antelope playing and running about in the vastgarden.

Since the number of the animals, which originally belonged to the late Raden Saleh Sjarif Bustaman (1811-1880), a keen animal lover who originally owned the land, grew so rapidly and often ate the grass and trees in the area and broke fences, the management of the hospital, run by the Communionof Churches in Indonesia (PGI) since 1957, finally decided to move the antelope to other areas owned by the communion.

The presence of the antelope also attracted visitors, particularly children, who fed the animals. There had been several incidents in which the antelopes bit the children.

Unlike many other old hospitals across the country, Cikini Hospital, located slightly back from busy Jl. Raden Saleh in Central Jakarta, has rooms which are built like small villas.

The other distinct difference between Cikini Hospital and other hospitals is its well-kempt park, full of towering old trees.

Walking through the hospital's garden, it's easy to forget you are still in heavily-polluted Jakarta.

Apart of the park's wonderful scenery, the most magnificent part of the 102-year-old hospital is the main building located at the center.

The main building, used in the past as a meeting hall, was designed by Raden Saleh himself in the 1850s with a mixed "West and East" architectural style that no one could exactly identify.

"Raden Saleh often went abroad and used to spend long periods of time in the Netherlands and Germany, where he was inspired by their architectural styles," said Djauhari Sumintardja, an expert on old buildings at the privately owned Tarumanegara University in West Jakarta.

Like many other old buildings in the city, the interior of the two-story mansion consists of a big hall with several rooms to its right and left and a round balcony. At a glance, the interior is much more like a concert hall rather than just a meeting room of a resident.

According to Djauhari, one of the most unique aspects of the building is its windows, the style of which is usually found in mosques.

"The windows are characteristic of Islamic architecture," he said.

In the old days of Batavia, Raden Saleh's mansion was located in a suburb of Cikini, the expert explained.

A book titled Raden Saleh, Prince among Romantic Painters reveals the mansion was constructed with "strange and astonishing" taste.

German Ambassador to Indonesia, Heinrich Seemann, wrote in the book 100 Years of Cikini Hospital, issued by the hospital, that the building was a replica of the main building of a German castle called Callenberg.

"The original stands on a fortified hill surrounded by walls and towers and is situated near Coburg, right in the heart of Germany," the ambassador said.

Wild animals

In earlier days, the hospital hall was the only building within the some 100 hectares of Raden Saleh's original compound, encircled by a vast garden. Some people referred to it as a small wild forest due to the artist's large collection of wild animals.

An observer on old buildings, Wisnu Murti Ardjo, said the collection included lions, deer, snakes and tigers.

Raden Saleh's garden, of Javanese origin, was turned into a zoo by Gemeente Batavia, the city administration during the Dutch colonial period, when the painter was visiting Germany in the late 1880s prior to his death in Bogor, West Java, in 1880, Wisnu said.

Many believe the animals were models for many of Raden Saleh's masterpieces, some of which are kept at world-class museums in Europe.

Many parts of the large garden remain as they were but several changes have been made by both the Dutch colonists and PGI management.

The takeover of Raden Saleh's mansion by PGI is still unclear, but Rev. Dharma Angkuw, head of the hospital's spiritual service, wrote in the commemoration book that the estate was bought in June 1897 by the management of Koningin Emma Ziekenhuis (Queen Emma Hospital).

The hospital was pioneered by Dutch woman Adriana Josina de Graaf-Kooman,wife of Rev. Cornelis de Graaf, who was a Dutch missionary in Indonesia between 1873 and 1905.

Rev. Dharma said Adriana was famous for her charity work, taking care of the sick while accompanying her husband.

When Adriana spent her holidays in the Netherlands, she received enough support to open a health service in the Dutch East Indies (as Indonesia was called at that time) and collected donations; Dutch Queen Emma donated 100,000 Guilders.

The hospital, then named Koningin Emma Ziekenhuis, initially started its public service at the so-called Gang Pool area, which is now known as the site of the Baiturrahman Mosque at the presidential palace complex in Central Jakarta.

Since the hospital needed more space, the management decided to buy Raden Saleh's estate and inaugurated the hospital on Jan. 12, 1898.

On Aug. 1, 1913, Queen Emma Hospital became independent and changed its name to Tjikini Hospital, "because it did not want to become a Christian hospital," the management said in 100 Year Cikini Hospital.

Forty-four years later, the hospital changed its name to DGI (the Council of Churches in Indonesia) Cikini Hospital after the management of the hospital was handed over to the council of Protestant churches.

In 1984, it was changed to PGI Cikini Hospital following the change of the term "church council" (DGI) to "church communion" (PGI) in 1984.

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