In its history, the Jatinegara region, or Meester Cornelis, was once a colonial military area. Photo courtesy of The Jakarta Post

Why is the Jatinegara Market also known as Mester?

The name of Mester is written on the gate of Jatinegara market, visible from Jalan Jatinegara Timur. The area of Jatinegara was known as Mester Cornelis, referring to Cornelis Senen, a man from a rich family from Selamon in Lontar island, Kepulauan Banda, Maluku. Senen was a religious teacher and interpreter, which was a very rare profession back in the 1600s, especially among natives.

Senen was born in 1600 and arrived in Betawi in 1621 after the islands around Banda were occupied by the Dutch’s Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) together with other Banda people including those brought into slavery. Senen was a respected figure and he opened the first school for native children in Jakarta (1632) and he also became a preacher in Malay and Protugese languages. As a respectable person in the field of religion and society, he was also called as Meester (read: mister).

Cornelis intended to be a priest but he was refused, yet he was trusted to serve as Wijkmeester for Kampung Bandan area. The Dutch gave him the privilege to cut trees on the banks of the Ciliwung river and he also owned a house within an area of five sqm in Tijgergracht, now known as Jalan Pos Kota between Cipinang river and Ciliwung river. He passed away shortly after being granted the land in 1661.

In its history, the Jatinegara region, or Meester Cornelis, was once a colonial military area. The famous force that was stationed there was the Wurttemberg Regiment of Germany in 1798. The Artillery school, to train cannon troops, was opened in 1805. The school of prospective officers and non-commissioned officers was also held there (1819-1826). At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was held again for a few generations. One of the officers who had attended military school in Jatinegara was one of the founders of the Indonesian National Army (TNI), Oerip Soemohardjo, whose name was also enshrined for a street name not far from the Jatinegara market.

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.