Loot. 10 Stories

Kris from Bali

“Carried by someone of high rank, captured in Kasoemba, Bali” read the 1851 description of this Balinese dagger in the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin. The kris was part of a donation by Claus Rodenburg, a German collector who had worked for the Dutch colonial administration on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. By entering the VR experience, you will be transported into a fictional situation in which the dagger could have been taken from an unknown deceased warrior; you will also see the Indonesian temple of Goa Lawah, directly in the aftermath of a battle.

The Dutch invasion at “Kasoemba” (the village of Kusamba) took place during the Third Bali War in 1849. This infamous military campaign followed two earlier violent wars in the northern region of Bali. Once the north of the island had been occupied, the Dutch colonial army turned the focus of its illegitimate expansion to the southern Kingdom of Klungkung. Troops left the coast at Padangbai and later passed the Hindu temple complex of Goa Lawah, where they killed hundreds of Balinese people in battle.

The Balinese, though, were not willing to give up their territory without a fight. A resistance movement formed and despite the considerable bloodshed, the Kingdom of Klungkung held out against the Dutch colonial army until 1908, when it was the last free kingdom of Bali to fall under the colonial rule of the Dutch East Indies.

VR experience, 2023
Jongsma + O’Neill


In 1851, the collector Claus Rodenburg gifted this kris to the King of Prussia, who included the dagger in his art chamber – a collection that would later become the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. The art chamber’s archives, which have been preserved, only reveal that the weapon was captured in Kusamba. The kris is thought to have been taken as war booty during the Battle of Goa Lawah. How Rodenburg obtained it remains unclear for now. We do know that he collected other weapons as well, including from islands he himself – as far as we know – had not visited. He may have bought these through middlemen, or in the bustling trading centre of Batavia (now Jakarta).

Magic bullet

While the Balinese often used krisses in their domestic conflicts, against the European enemy, heavier weapons were needed. When Dutch Major General Andreas Victor Michiels was ambushed, for example, he was killed not by a kris but by a bullet from a firearm, the I Seliksik. It was said that a bullet fired from this magical weapon always hit the enemy. The story goes that the sister of the King of Klungkung, Ida Dewa Agung Istri Kanya, was behind the nighttime ambush. She has since gained hero status in Bali.


In Indonesia, krisses are not just viewed as weapons, but also as spiritual objects. As personal possessions, they are especially valuable to their original owners, who know their spiritual significance and history. The early provenance of the krisses that were captured in battle is often unknown. Today, museum collections contain many orphaned krisses whose deeper meaning has been lost to time. This kris has not been claimed by anyone – even the current King of Klungkung, Ida Dalem Semara Putra, has said that he does not want to assert ownership, possibly because the dagger has become meaningless.

The Objects in the Exhibition

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Loot. 10 Stories