Chinese Children at the Tjap Go Meh Festival in Makassar
This photograph, dated 1880, shows Chinese children in a procession in the Tjap Go Meh Festival in Makassar, the largest city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Tjap Go Meh is a Chinese festival that takes place 15 days after the Chinese New Year and marks the beginning of spring. It is also known as the Lantern Festival. People celebrate with parades and performances, such as acrobats.
In this image, a child dressed in festive costume sits under an umbrella while riding a fantasy animal with long ears mounted on a cart. Other children wearing costumes with conical hats and false beards pull the cart with ropes. The decorations appear to be made of paper maché, straw, and fabric. Tjap Go Meh was widely celebrated among the many Chinese immigrants in Indonesia, and the festival became popular with the local Buddhist and Muslim population as well. The festival was banned for many years, but has made a comeback in cities such as Jakarta as an expression of ethnic and religious diversity. The photograph is the product of a professional studio in Batavia (Jakarta) founded by Britons Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885) and James Page, expatriates from Australia who emigrated to the Dutch East Indies in 1857. The Woodbury & Page studio made portraits of wealthy Europeans and local elites, but also traveled in the countryside to create ethnographic images and photograph the variety of life in the Dutch East Indies.
"Chinese Kids at the Tjap Gomeh Festival in Makassar," Collection of the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Leiden, The Netherlands, http://kitlv.pictura-dp.nl/index.php?option=com_memorix&Itemid=28&task=t... (accessed October 12, 2009). Annotated by Susan Douglass.