Belanda Depok
Painting of Cornelis Chastelein at his resting place in Seringsing in 1706 by de Bruijn. (Source: Priangan)

Belanda Depok’ was once a pejorative, or mocking name, given to the old communities of Depok, a region found between Jakarta and Bogor, now best known as the home of The University of Indonesia. The origin of this term, meaning ‘Depok Dutch’, spans back to the early days of the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia and is an example of the interesting sociocultural amalgamations that happened during that period.

Through history, Depok was perceived as a colonial centre inhabited by Europeans and their descendants. However, ‘Belanda Depok’ was not a term used to describe the Dutch, it was actually used to describe Indonesians! To discover the history of the term, NOW! Jakarta spoke to Yano Jonathans, an author of Depok Tempo Doeloe (Old Time Depok) and also one of the descendants of 12 clans in Depok, the original Depok community formed by Cornelis Chastelein in 1714.

Who is Cornelis Chastelein? “Cornelis Chastelein came to Indonesia in 1675 when he was 17 years old as a bookkeeper for the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC), or the Dutch East Indies Company. Chastelein›s career was a huge success, he quickly gained the rack of ‘Grootwinkelier, a big merchant or head of purchasing; then in 1691 he became ;Tweede Opperkoopman des Casteel Batavia or second-class senior merchant of the Batavia Fort. At that time there was also a change in the VOC leadership from Governor General Johannes Camphuys to Governor General Willem van Outhoorn. During Willem›s tenure, there were many changes in the VOC›s goals, namely from the trading of natives, to their exploitation, making huge profits.” Explains Yano. Chastelein was a humanist, at least in comparison to his contemporaries, and he opposed the governor’s new policy of putting natives under cruel, forced labour. He thus resigned from his official post from the VOC. Historical records will state that he resigned from his position for health reasons, but this was not the case.

In 1693, Chastelein bought areas in Batavia for plantations, such as the Noordwijk area which is now known as Pintu Air Jalan Juanda and Lapangan Banteng. At that time the Lapangan Banteng was used as a sugarcane plantation. In some records, He also built his mansion around Pasar Senen, right on Jalan Kenanga (where RSPAD Gatot Subroto now stands). He named his vast area of land Weltevreden (meaning very satisfied) an area which encompassed Gambir Station, Lapangan Banteng, Kwitang, Senen and its surroundings in Central Jakarta. The name Weltevreden itself was still used by the Post Telegraaf en Telefoon company until 1940.

Belanda Depok
Map of the Depok area in 1917. (Source: Yano Jonathans’ collection)

On 18 May 1696, Cornelis Chastelein bought the Depok area from the Dutch government. Depok was no man’s land, an area of wilderness in the Javan countryside. Chastelein thus began his own business, turning the rugged wilderness into plantations and agricultural plots. Cornelis Chastelein was the person who pioneered and initiated the clearing of Depok and its surrounding land for agriculture, especially coffee, rice, and peppercorn.

To do this, the new entrepreneur needed workers. At the time, slavery was common across the archipelago, they were often prisoners of war between local kingdoms.

“In Depok, most of the slaves came from Bali and South Sulawesi. It was possible that they were Balinese who were taken prisoner by the King of Lombok and Makassar people who were captured by Arung Palakka, who were then sold and handed over to the VOC. These poor souls were then placed by the VOC in areas now known as Kampung Bali and Kampung Bugis in Jakarta. Cornelis bought up to 150 slaves from these regions to work on his lands,” Yano explained. 

Belanda Depok
Female slaves from Bali. Some of the ancestors of the Depok Dutch community were Balinese slaves freed by Cornelis Chastelein. (Sourse: Jan Karel)
Belanda Depok

Chastelein was one of the many colonists who came to seek fortune in Indonesia. As a wealthy VOC official, it is easy to say that he was an oppressor and an exploiter. However Yano begs to differ: “Even though he was a colonialist, Cornelis Chastelein was a kind person. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was concerned for the Indonesians, especially those under his ‘employment’. Though they began as slaves, in his final will he ensured that it was noted that all those that had worked for him were free people. There were 12 clans who worked under Cornelis Chastelein, all freed,” shares Yano

All the clans, or ‘kaum’, had Baptismal names: Bacas, Isakh, Jonathans, Jacob, Joseph Loen, Laurens, Leander, Tholense, Soedira, Samuel, and Zadokh. Now, only 11 clans remain, as the Zadokh clan successors were mostly women and thus took the names of their husbands. There were other Depok residents outside of these 12, but they eventually assimilated into one of the kaum and together made up the ‘Depok Lama’ (Old Depok) population.

According to Yano, those slaves who came from various places were taught Dutch as their main language —  from which originates the term “Belanda Depok”.

Belanda Depok
GPIB Immanuel Depok church in 1920, a place of worship for the people of Depok from time to time. (Source: Yano Jonathans’ collection)

“This really started t in 1873 with the opening of the first railroad connection between Buitenzorg (Bogor station) and Batavia. This transportation has opened up the isolation of the residents of Depok, Bojong Gede, Citayam, and Cilebut, opening up opportunities for them to go to Jakarta. As such, the populations mixed and people would hear the Depok folk using words like ‘eike (me) or jij (you). They would be the subject of mockery and banter: “Your parents are jackfruit sellers, why do you speak Dutch?” Thus, especially amongst bullying school children, the term Belanda Depok came to be and spread throughout the years!” explains Yano.

So, from the heels of slavery under Chastelein, 12 clans of Indonesian natives speaking Dutch were freed and began a long-held reference for the area, ‘Belanda Depok’. However, Yano says that the term is no longer relevant: descendants prefer to be called Kaum Depok. Many do not know their own history, unfortunately, and it goes without saying that there are very few that continue to speak Dutch.

Sari Widiati

Sari Widiati

Sari has been an arts and culture enthusiast for many years. She has written extensively on the arts, travel, and social issues as Features Writer at NOW! Jakarta.