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Home What Are Semioticsigns Articles of Interest Links J.I. (Hans) Bakker



Albert Bakker in Pemangkat, Borneo, Netherlands East Indies, circa 1937-39.

Albert Bakker worked for the K.P.M. (Koninklijk Paketvaart Maatschappij, the Royal Dutch Inter-island Shipping Company) in the Netherlands East Indies before World War II. This picture was taken somewhere in the western part of the island of Borneo. The northern part of Borneo is part of  Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabang) as well was the Sultante of Brunei. The southern part of Borneo is the Province of Kalimantan in Indonesia. Many different ethnic groups live on the island of Borneo. One major ethnic group is the Dayak. The Dayak were formerly headhunters. Some of the people in this picture are probably Dayak living near the coast. The coastal Dayak are more integrated into the broader society than the inland Dayak. In 1937-39 there were some inland Dayak who rarely had any contact with the outside world.

The N.E. I. became the Republic of Indonesia after the war. The Proclamation of Independence was August 17, 1945, immediately after the end of the Pacific War. Albert Bakker was a P.O.W. (Prisoner of War) in Thailand and worked on the Burma Road. Later he was sent to Japan to work in the coal mines. As a "guest" of the Emperor of Japan he experienced many things and all of his journals and book drafts were lost. But somehow in almost four years he managed to read quite a number of books, a few paragraphs at a time. He was always very interested in other people and other cultures. In a sense, he was a kind of amateur anthropological fieldworker, but his "ethnographic accounts" were limited to autobiographical snippets. He had thought about becoming a novelist but the war ended his plans for writing a novel. Still, you can read some of his sketches of life in Borneo just before the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific.

J. I. (Hans) Bakker, Ph.D., University of Guelph

Albert Bakker's Pemangkat People of Borneo, 1937-1939
**please note that Wietske Weigel, was born on November 14, 1937, not 1938 as mentioned on page 7**

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