The more I learn, the more I know (Kezia Permata, Indonesia, ITP 2022)

Written by Kezia Permata, Student, MA History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS University of London (Indonesia, ITP Fellow 2022)

My name is Kezia Permata, I am a student at SOAS University of London studying MA History of Art and Archaeology. I am from Indonesia, specifically from a city called Yogyakarta. In a few days, it will be exactly one year that I have been in London. Coming to London has been one of the biggest leaps I have taken in my life, and I am very grateful for it. Even more with the opportunity of joining the British Museum International Training Programme, my horizons have been broadened to the extent I have never thought possible. Museums have always been interesting for me, but to learn how things are happening behind the displays is truly fascinating. I came from literature studies background, but coming here and visiting exhibitions I grew to love museums and want to learn more.

ITP 2022 delegates in the Hotung Gallery of the British Museum

The ITP has taught me a lot of things in the past week. My favourite session so far was with the curator of the South Asia collection in the British Museum, Sushma Jansari. We walked around the stores and got to see many objects not on display, and Sushma shared the daily operations behind the showcase. I learnt that being a curator holds a big responsibility, especially with thousands of objects like what the British Museum has.

One particular object at the temporary exhibition Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic, caught my attention. It was a wooden mask of Rangda (widow) from Bali, Indonesia, traditionally used in Balinese dance performances. The mask was in a splendid condition, highlighting its protruding eyes, a distinctive characteristic of demonic characters in the traditional iconography. It was displayed in the exhibition along with two other masks, one from India and the other from Japan. These masks represent the feminine demonic figures in different cultures. Rangda herself is feared but also respected in Bali because of her powerful magic.

Rangda mask from Bali, Indonesia
Radga mask on display at the British Museum

During my time in the ITP, I have met a lot of amazing people. One of them is Lotfi Belhouchet from Tunisia. He is the director of Museographic Development Division in the Institute of Heritage, Tunisia. Lotfi specialises in conservation of archaeological sites and has a wide range of experience in the field. He previously managed the El Jem Museum and the Sousse Archaeological Museum. He is especially interested in Lithic technology in the Lower Palaeolithic in Tunisia. During one of the workshops, I was in a group with Lotfi, and we had to follow an object trail and find different objects spread across the museum. Throughout the search, he was quick and knowledgeable, helping the whole group find the objects as we walk around. In his time in the ITP, Lotfi would like to know more about exhibitions, education programmes for children, and object conservation. There sure is a lot to learn for me, both from the programme and also from my fellow colleagues.