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Dr AA Made Djelantik by Adrian Vickers

18 January 2010

Indonesia lost one of its national treasures at midnight on 4th September, with the death of Dr Anak Agung Made Djelantik. From the royal family of Karangasem, Dr Djelantik had an amazing life, to match his vast range of talents. Amongst other things, he had been head of Bali's main teaching hospital at Sanglah, and a leading figure in the promotion and study of Balinese culture.

 

When a group of academics led by the late Fritz de Boer, Hildred Geertz and Hedi Hinzler, started the Society for Balinese Studies in the early 1980s, it was Dr Djelantik who became the natural head of our Society. His publications on Balinese art include his 1986 short book on Balinese painting, still the only general account of Balinese art history, and important writing on Balinese aesthetics, only some of which have been published.
Dr Djelantik’s autobiography, The Birthmark (sadly out of print), captures only some of the highlights of his life. Besides his immense contribution to Balinese culture, and to the practice of medicine in Indonesia, he deserves to be remembered as a man of extraordinary moral integrity. While others from privileged backgrounds have chosen to enrich themselves as members of the Jakarta elite, Dr Djelentik always lived very modestly in his cosy little house at Renon. As a student in the Netherlands during World War Two he had to dodge the Gestapo as he worked with other students in the Resistance. After the 1965 Coup in Indonesia, when the death squads came around to his hospital to remove patients, Dr Djelantik did what few others at the time had the courage to do, and refused the mass murderers entry, persuading them in his calm, humanitarian manner to leave. If anybody deserves to be declared a ‘national hero’, then surely Dr Djelantik fits the bill.