Translating History into Illustrations

Back in early February, Studio Chulat released their animated short titled Diponegoro 1830. This film tells the story of Prince Diponegoro's subsequent tourney following his deceitful capture in Magelang on March 28th, 1830. Through this film, Prince Diponegoro is shown to be taken to Batavia through Semarang by sea which he had never done before. Diponegoro 1830 describes the story of the Prince's 26 days at Batavia City Hall (Stadhuis) awaiting the Dutch East Indies government's decision regarding his fate as a political prisoner.

In collaboration with historian Peter Carey, production of this film began in 2020. "In a conversation we had, he pitched this idea to ‘write’ historical texts and the results of his research in a form other than just writing. He wanted to try exploring other forms of storytelling. The conversation developed and it was finally decided that it would be a short animated film," said Gata Mahardika, director and animator of this film.

This film is based on the notes of Major Adjutant De Stuers and his colleague Captain Roeps during their journey to escort Prince Diponegoro from Magelang to Batavia. The process of creating the story began with Peter Carey's writing. Then, this writing was translated into a story plot by Subiyanto. Next, Gata Mahardika created a scene from the plot. “The script is dissected into a screenplay and a shot list, then the storyboard is immediately sketched with keyframe animation and background. Inbetweening is then developed from that very sketch, then cleaned, then colored, and finally combined into an animated video. All these processes were carried out remotely via  Cloud. Our team is spread across Yogyakarta, Gresik, Solo and Balikpapan," explained Gata.


The next process is to transfer the story into a visual form. Apart from research for the story, Studio Chulat also carried out visual research related to characters, types of clothing, furniture, architecture and technology of the time period, including Diponegoro’s clothing, the Dutch army uniforms, horse-drawn carriage models and steamship models. According to Gata, the majority of sources chosen as references were paintings, sketches and lithographs as photography was obviously unavailable at the time period. When the team hit a wall in finding references, they turned to photographs that had only become popular in the late 19th century to visualize gun models and the architecture of Stadhuis. When photo references were unavailable, that's when the imagination stepped in, as was the case for the team in describing how to light the lamps, the faces of the supporting characters, and the architecture of the fort in Semarang.

Raden Saleh's painting of Diponegoro’s arrest serves as the main visual reference for this film. The Studio Chulat team also studied Raden Saleh's other paintings as well as contemporary romanticism and Mooi Indië paintings. Using these references, the Studio Chulat team developed a color palette, choice of viewpoints and oil paint strokes. Another motive behind this choice is it turns out Studio Chulat is actually currently preparing its newest film about Raden Saleh. Diponegoro 1830 was simultaneously used as an experimental medium for Studio Chulat to create further works.

About the Author

Daud Sihombing

Daud Sihombing has been writing professionally for the past 9 years. This fervent alternative publishing enthusiast prefers his quaint little town over the hustle and bustle of the city and doesn't let sleep stop him from watching every single AS Roma match.