The Nias collection of Heinrich Sundermann
Missionary in Nias, who translated the Bible into the local language.
* Born October 29, 1849 in Ladbergen, Germany
† April 1919 in Göttingen, Germany
Dr. Heinrich Sundermann with his wife. He was a missionary in Nias, Indonesia, and there he translated the Bible into the local language. For this the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina awarded him the “Knights order of Oranje-Nassau” and in 1911 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Halle.
Photo: ex. Martin Schoppenhorst, Ladbergen in alten Ansichten, 1983, fig. 55
Heinrich Sundermann was born in 1849 North Rhine-Westphalia Ladbergen-Overbeck. For more than three decades, from 1875 to 1910, he was a Protestant missionary of the “Rheinischen Missionsgesellschaft“ on the Indonesian island of Nias, the then Dutch East Indies.
In addition to preaching the Gospel, he devoted himself to the translation and study of the national language. His greatest work though was the translation of the New Testament into Nias (published 1892 in Amsterdam); it was followed by the translation of the entire Bible from 1904 to 1915 on behalf of the Dutch Bible Society.
In 1911 the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina awarded him the “Knights order of Oranje-Nassau”.
Today in Ladbergen he is still remembered by the font in the Protestant church of Heinrich Sundermann. It is a reworked shell that comes from Nias; the first person to be baptized by Sundermann had found it and and given it to him as a present.
Photo: ex. Martin Schoppenhorst, Ladbergen in alten Ansichten, 1983, fig. 56
The church in Nias, Indonesia. While serving as a missionary in Nias, Heinrich Sundermann built this church. The photo was taken around 1910.
Photo: Ex. H. Sundermann 1905a: 77-78, in: Jerome Feldman, The Eloquent Dead, Ancestral Sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, Los Angeles 1985, p. 50
Sundermann lifework is inconceivable without his confrontation with life, religion and ancestor worship on Nias. Sketches about ritual-ethnographic objects and their use can be found in, among others, his treatise from 1905.
Other publications and articles written by Heinrich Sundermann:
- Neue Beiträge zur Ethnographie von Nias, in: Das Ausland, 65; 1892
- Verderfelijke volkszeden op Nias, in: De Rijnsche Zending, Barmen 1898
- Die Insel Nias und die Mission daselbst. Barmen 1905a
- Niassisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch. Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten em Wetenschappen, 1905b