The full inscription on this work reads, "Abiar, the boy from Kalimantan in Pasar Minggu". Pasar Minggu is a suburb in South Jakarta; in 1959 when this work was painted it was still considered as the city outskirts. S. Sudjojono lived in Pasar Minggu in 1959, after his divorcing his first wife and marrying a Eurasian woman, the musically talented Rose Pandanwangi. The social disapproval and lack of tolerance which greeted this union caused Sudjojono's resignation from the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), effectively putting a halt to his political career - an aspect of his life which he felt was strongly about and was passionately involved in. Disillusioned with politics and forsaken by the artistic fraternity, Sudjojono and Rose moved to the cheap area of Pasar Minggu to set up their new lives together, building their house room by room. Occasionally the construction had to be halted due to lack of financial resources. This was a period of great sacrifice for Sudjojono, fuelled only by his determination to seize the day and live with the person he loved.
In order to make ends meet, Rose used her substantial musical gifts to teach piano and perform in radio concerts. Sudjojono received commissions for portraits, particularly from Adam Malik, ambassador to the Soviet Union and Poland at that time, and his close friend since the Persagi era. Despite his tight financial straits, Sudjojono retained his pride and refused to let Adam Malik provide any sort of monetary aid - unless it was in the form of payment for the purchase of paintings, such as the portrait of Malik's wife, Nelly Malik. Many important works by Sudjojono thus found their way into Adam Malik's personal collection.
Boy from Kalimantan is undoubtedly one of these works, a portrait commission painted by Sudjojono for Adam Malik in return for his generous friendship and patronage. It shows a young man, named Abiar as revealed by the inscription, clad in a green and white traditional outfit and standing in what is most likely Sudjojono's own sitting room in Pasar Minggu. This is supported by another 1959 portrait by the artist, titled Isteriku (My Wife). The beautifully rendered depiction of Rose Pandanwangi, wearing a traditional baju kurung with a delicate filmy white veil draped over her hair and holding a book open on her lap, is also from Adam Malik's collection. Most significantly, the same green chintz chair and airy bay windows within Boy from Kalimantan are also in the background. The personal touches of the second portrait and the relaxed demeanour of Rose indicates that this was painted within a familiar setting, namely the home which she and Sudjojono built together, brick by brick; and within which the boy Abiar is now standing. Additionally, the still life hanging on the wall behind Abiar's head bears a strong resemblance to other floral works by Sudjojono, particular those with similar verdant clusters of chrysanthemums in full bloom, therefore it could only have come from the artist's own hand.
However the question remains, who exactly is Abiar? Why was he welcome in Sudjojono's home during the first year of his marriage to Rose, and drawn by the artist with such precision and care? The answer to this sheds light on the warm, nurturing side of Sudjojono as a teacher; a facet to his character which was often eclipsed by the public aspect of Sudjojono the artist and political activist. Abiar was in fact a favourite art student of Sudjojono, or as he was affectionately referred to, 'Pak Djon'. He was described as the "best student in drawing and sculpture" as well being "wise and well behaved". He came from his home of Kalimantan to enroll in the Seniman Indonesia Muda (Indonesian Youth Artists) led by Sudjojono at the time. When Sudjojono embarked on an extensive project to paint mural reliefs at Kemayoran Airport, the 'well behaved' Abiar was invited to stay at Pasar Minggu with him and Rose. We can now understand the shy expression on Abiar's face and his slightly uncomfortable posture - it is highly likely he was overwhelmed by the honour of being painted by his teacher and mentor, the illustrious 'Pak Djon'.