Islam on New Guinea
There were few Muslims on New Guinea. Certainly not when this photo was taken. On Onin peninsula, the photo’s location, locals traded with the Moluccan islands, where many Muslims lived. People from the Moluccan islands of Seram and Goram had settled in Onin. The local rulers, the rajas, were descendants of these immigrants and they encouraged the local population to convert to Islam. The connection with the Indonesian archipelago is also evident in the clothes of some of the women: they are wearing Javanese sarongs.
Hajjis enjoyed a special status in Indonesian Islam. The Dutch colonial administration feared their influence and the potential spread of radical ideas. To limit the number of people making the pilgrimage, the colonial rulers placed restrictions. Pilgrims had to apply for a special travel permit and had to show that they had enough money to pay for their journey.
Islam in the Netherlands East Indies
While the Dutch ruled Indonesia, they showed remarkably little interest in cultural manifestations of Islam, which had after all by far the largest following in the archipelago. One reason is that Islam was always considered a threat to Dutch rule. Major wars such as the Java War (1825-1830) and Aceh War (1873-1914) pitched Indonesians against Dutch colonial power, bolstered by their Islamic faith. Apparently, one way of reducing Islam’s threat, was to ignore its existence. Characteristically, the Colonial Museum (predecessor of today’s Tropenmuseum) collected far more Indonesian objects relating to Hindu, Buddhist and other religious traditions than to Islamic traditions. Even now, there are only a few Islamic items from Indonesia. Photos like this, on an Islamic theme in the Netherlands East Indies, are also rare.
22,3 x 27,5cm (8 3/4 x 10 13/16in.)