This image is taken from the collection, Early Photography of Asia, back in 1934. This collection’s form is known as travel photography, which was taken by a European couple. Although there’s no names attached to further specify this European couple, they logged their travels within Bangkok and Sumatra with this photo album. This image analysis is going to cover the analysis itself, the location of the image (historically, contemporary, and future), and the image’s meaning (for the history, artists, and locals).
To begin, the following image shown represents one of Indonesia’s banana exportation sites. On the left side of the image, one can see the various shipping crates, boxes, and baskets filled with bananas. Not only this, but there’s bananas seen throughout the image itself. Individuals working are highlighted within this photo and are seen wearing white clothing. These clothes seem to be light-weight. With this combination of light-weight and light-colored clothing, it aids in keeping individuals cool through the heat of the region–along with the umbrellas shown. Even though the clothing provides cooling qualities, the workers in the image still seem exhausted. Not only this, but in the very back of the image, where it seems white, you can actually see an island in the background and water between, indicating that this image was taken along the coastal region.
Furthermore, this coastal image is amongst Indonesia’s Sumatra region; one of the areas the European couple visited. After the island of Borneo, Sumatra is the second largest island of Indonesia (Pletcher). Historically, the Sumatra island undertook and was paved by the Javanese Majapahit empire in 1377 (Class Lecture), where the empire flourished until Indonesia was then colonized by the Portuguese, Germans, British, and Dutch (Pletcher). During the European colonization eras, Indonesia was used as a vast trading route for ships to travel through (Class Lecture). This ship route between the islands allowed for less levels of high wind occurrence that interferes with boat traveling. European colonialism continued on until Japan began to occupy the island in 1942-1945 during World War 2; where the island of Sumatra became a part of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950 (Class Lecture). Contemporary wise, in 1934, Nationalists were skirmishing within Indonesia, where Mohammad Hatta (Indonesian Vice President) and Sutan Sjahrir (Indonesian Prime Minister) were exiled (Anwar). Looking forward, there’s a continuous rise in banana exportations; with bananas being produced two times as much as other tropical fruits to keep up with demand (Nurul). Not only this, but Indonesia was ranked 4th in the world for being one of the largest banana producers in the world, with 5.4 million tons, thus with the increasing populations and demands (Nurul). Thus all this evidence comes together to further show how much bananas and their sales will continue to project.
Bananas are meaningful to the region of Indonesia, as scientists found that it originated 10,000 years ago and were thought to be the world’s first fruit (Australian Banana Growers’ Counciling). Aside from Indonesia, bananas also grow in the Malaya Peninsula, Philippines, New Guinea, and more. That being said, as Indonesia was recognized for being one of the first plantations and exporters of bananas (with Arabia, Persia, and India) and being on the coastal regions, it allowed for trade and distribution of bananas around the Indian Ocean; where it then spread to West Africa, to the Americas (Latin America and the Caribbean) to eventually Australia (Australian Banana Growers’ Counciling). Aside from the coastal region, tying it back to the fact that the Strait of Malacca was used vastly for trade, that also aided in the rise to bringing bananas around the world.
Additionally, when looking and comparing this image to the artists, there isn’t much to say. Again, there’s no indicators to who this European couple are, besides the fact that they used this photo album and their photos to document their travels within Sumatra and Bangkok in 1934. That being said, I don’t think they’re particularly conveying a certain message with this image, rather than the fact that it might’ve stood out to them or there was a banana farm tour offered during this time.
Lastly, I’m not too certain to say whether or not this photo impacted the lives of those locals at the time. It showed a snapshot of how those workers lived in these banana plantations. With bananas continuing to grow, to keep up with demand, we can see a new and improved version of this photo. With growing technologies there’s definitely changes in how bananas are grown now.
Anwar, Rosihan. “A Chronology of Indonesian History.” The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1956/06/a-chronology-of-indonesian-history/642694/. Accessed 1 May 2023.
Australian Banana Growers’ Counciling. “History of Bananas | Australian Banana Growers.” Australian Banana Growers’ Council, https://abgc.org.au/our-industry/history-of-bananas/. Accessed 25 April 2023.
Nurul, Nadya. “Going Banana.” Directorate General for National Export Development, October 2016, http://djpen.kemendag.go.id/app_frontend/admin/docs/publication/2001486110389.pdf. Accessed 26 April 2023.
Pletcher, Kenneth. “Sumatra | island, Indonesia | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 April 2023, https://www.britannica.com/place/Sumatra. Accessed 24 April 2023.