Investigating Boentardjo (2016)

This work is a presentation of the investigation process by Rangga Purbaya about the existence of his grandfather, Boentardjo Amaroen Kartowinoto. Rangga Purbaya had never met his grandfather because the grandfather was arrested in 1965 – long before Rangga was born – and has never returned since then. Rangga’s parents once mentioned that sometime after his grandfather was arrested, he was then executed in Luweng Grubug, Yogyakarta.

Luweng Grubug is a vertical cave with 90 meters depth which ends with a heavy flow underground river at the bottom. The river disembogues into the Indian Ocean. Luweng Grubug was used as the site to eliminate people who were presumed as communists or had anything related to the G30S incident (30 September Movement) in 1965. Yet, was his grandfather involved in the conflict? Who was he? Why did the government consider that it was best to kill and dispose him into Luweng Grubug? This is what triggered his interest to investigate further more.

The investigation started with interviews with his grandfather’s children, who are also the siblings of Rangga’s father. Rangga approached them and collected their stories. From them, Rangga Purbaya managed to obtain the image and idea of who his grandfather was. Boentardjo was described as an idealist father who held his principles. He was also disciplined, supportive, and someone who was against oppression. He was a revolutionary.

Aside of interviews, Rangga Purbaya also collected his grandfather’s artifacts, such as certificates, officialdom documents, and diaries, which mentioned that Boentardjo was an official at the Economic Department of Special Region of Yogyakarta Local Government. He was also an active agricultural extension practitioner. This was probably the underlying cause of why he was arrested and killed. Boentardjo was also a member of Barisan Tani Indonesia- BTI (Peasants Front of Indonesia). BTI was an organization, which defended the rights of the peasants and provided cultural and political education to them and Boentardjo was the head of the BTI office in Yogyakarta. Was it an appropriate reason to eliminate him without trial just because he was the head of BTI office?

This question has haunted not only Rangga Purbaya’s mind. It has also disturbed the thoughts of millions of others who lost the people close to them who were killed or disposed and jailed with no explanation.

This investigation is the starting point to reveal the facts, which so far have never been discussed. The investigation also helps to understand family history, to answer all the questions and doubts, as well as to find the peacefulness inside each individual and the whole family. 

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Indonesian People’s Scout 

Pandu Rakyat Indonesia (PRI) or the Indonesian People’s Scout was established in Solo on 28 December 1945. This was the first scout organization established after the independence proclamation. Previously such actvities were banned during the Japanese Occupation in Indonesia.

From 1949 to 1951, Boentardjo worked as a daily writer at the main office of PRI in Yogyakarta. This organization also pioneered the emerging scout movements in Indonesia.


Certificate for working as the head of Kwartir Besar Putera PANDU RAKJAT INDONESIA or Indonesian People’s Scout headquearter office.

Photographs of PRI’s activities and Boentardji with the scout members. The identification is based on their uniforms.

Taman Siswa 

Taman Siswa School was established by Indonesia’s national movement figure, Ki Hajar Dewantara, on 3 July 1922 in Yogyakarta. At the beginning, this school was used as the tool to struggle for independence through education and culture.

After he graduated from Taman Dewasa, Taman Siswa School, Boentardjo then worked as a teached at that school in 1936 – 1944. As a teacher, he was placed in Bangka Belitung, Semarang and Yogyakarta.


Letter of appointment as a teacher of Taman Siswa in Sungai Liat (Liat River), in 1941

Photographs of Boentardjo with his Taman Siswa fellow teachers. The identification is based on the uniforms and Boentardjo’s age prediction. 

Barisan Tani Indonesia

BTI was a peasant mass organization affiliated with Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) or the Communist Party of Indonesia. This organization was established in 25 November 1945.

Boentardjo worked as the Head of the office of BTI in Yogyakarta from 1947 to 1950. He afterward worked as the agricultural extension instructor at Kantor Urusan Gerakan Tani or the Peasant Movement Affair Office of the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture.


Certificate for working at BTI

Letter of notification and explanation about the fusion of BTI and Rukun Tani Indonesia (RTI) or the Pillars of Indonesian Farmers.

Documentation and photographs of Boentardjo with his colleagues, which Rangga assumed were taken when Boentardjo worked for BTI and the Ministry of Agriculture. The assumption was based Rangga’s his prediction of Boentardjo’s age on these photographs. 


Boentardjo got married to Soelastri and had five sons and two daughters. Soelastri passed away in 1967, two years after Boentardjo went missing. Their children were adopted by their relatives and friends. However, the children were then reunited in Jakarta in 1970.


Biodata, which contains the data rearding personal and family information.

Photographs of his wife, children and family members. 

Exhibition view

Investigating Boentardjo projects at Keren Dan Beken / Cool and Famous, Ruang Mes 56 group exhibition at Song Eun Art Space, Seoul.