Bambang Muryanto, Contributor, Yogyakarta
One of the victims of the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked Yogyakarta on May 27 was Dutch painting collector Boudewijn Brands, affectionately known as “Pak Ombo” and familiar to local painters and artists.
At that time, Pak Ombo, 55, was in his village home in Bulus Wetan, Sumberagung, Jetis, Bantul, Yogyakarta’s hardest-hit regency, where most dwellings were badly damaged.
When the quake struck, he was unable to flee because one of his legs had not fully recovered from earlier surgery. Pak Ombo chose, rather, to hide himself under his bed, but the intense tremors precipitated the collapse of his old, pyramid-shaped house, burying his protective bed.
“Pak Ombo still had time to shout for help,” said Zulkarnain, Brands’ private assistant also living in the same house. As the quake subsided, Zulkarnain and his younger brother took Pak Ombo out of the rubble and rushed him to Dr Sardjito general hospital, Yogyakarta.
Banu Hirmawan, spokesman for the hospital, said Pak Ombo was dead on arrival, despite having apparently sustained an injury only to his legs. “He may have had serious internal injuries when heavy walls caved in on him,” added Zulkarnain.
Brands’ remains were taken from the hospital on May 30 and flown to Holland the next day.
An economist and member of the Networking in Development Cooperation Association (NEDWORC), Brands was an aficionado of the visual arts, particularly contemporary painting, about which he was very knowledgeable.
Articles written by him on the subject often appeared in The Jakarta Post.
The Dutch citizen spent most of his time in Yogyakarta from 1995 onward. “Many Yogyakarta artists knew him as he was very keen to help young painters by buying their work,” said Kuss Indarto, an independent curator.
Among these were Bob Yudhita Agung, Suraji, Ugo Untoro, Teddy S, Susanto and Kadafi Dhowo. “When paying he would tell young artists not to spend the money on cigarettes and liquor,” said Kadafi, as reported in the Post on April 2003.
His collection currently comprises thousands of paintings, especially paper drawings, besides thousands of books on art.
Pak Ombo also actively organized displays of the work of young Indonesian artists both at home and abroad. When he lived in Ambarketawang, his house also served as what he called an alternative gallery.
Until the time of his death on May 27, Pak Ombo had been documenting contemporary Indonesian art. He had not yet fulfilled his wish to set up a gallery in Yogyakarta. “I hope I can realize Pak Ombo’s dreams,” concluded Zulkarnain, also a painting collector.