The Netherlands returns hundreds of historic artefacts to Indonesia
by Mathias Hariyadi

The treasures had been looted from several Indonesia islands during the colonial period. Before the Dutch, several local kingdoms prospered. Dutch authorities hope to improve bilateral relations.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Netherlands has returned to Indonesia hundreds of historical artefacts looted from that country during its colonial rule.

Last week the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden transferred 472 historical artefacts, including hundreds of treasures from the Tjakranegara kingdom on Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara, shipped to the Netherlands after 1894.

Four Singasari statues from East Java, 132 works of art by Balinese artists from the 1930s, and a traditional pottery from the kingdom of Klungkung, which once ruled Bali, were also repatriated.

Hilmar Farid, director general of Culture in the Ministry of Education and Culture, welcomed the move.

"The repatriation of these priceless historical treasures is certainly important to seek more clues about our nation's history," he said before travelling to Leiden for the handover ceremony, last Monday.

The value of the artefacts, he added, "is important because it testifies to the presence of dozens of Indonesian kingdoms of the past."

The Netherlands progressively colonised the entire Indonesian archipelago over more than three centuries.

For the Netherlands, “This is a historic moment,” said the Dutch State Secretary Gunay Uslu Gunay Uslu.

In early 2020, Dutch authorities also returned a dagger, a kris, that belonged to Prince Diponegoro, a resistance hero in Central Java who had launched a rebellion against colonial rule between 1825 and 1830.

A year earlier, some 1,500 historical artefacts were shipped to Indonesia due to financial problems of the Delft Museum.

Dutch authorities also announced that they will return an 18th-century historical object to Sri Lanka donated to the Dutch monarch in 1940.

"We don't just want to return these priceless historical objects," Uslu noted. “We are also motivated to strengthen the relationship between our nation and these countries in relation to historical sites and collections.”