The Jakarta Post
The Netherlands returned a gold-inlaid kris (dagger) that belonged to Prince Diponegoro to Indonesia on Tuesday, a week before Dutch King Willem-Alexander’s state visit to Indonesia.
Prince Diponegoro – the eldest son of the Yogyakartan Sultan Hamengkubuwono III – led a five-year campaign against Dutch colonial rule in the 19th century. The war ended with his arrest on March 28, 1830, and his subsequent exile.
In Indonesia, he is celebrated as a national hero and also as a charismatic Javanese prince who personified a blend of Islam and mysticism.
Dutch culture minister Ingrid Van Engelshoven handed over the dagger to the Indonesian embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Based on the 1968 cultural agreement with Indonesia, the Dutch government returned a number of Prince Diponegoro’s belongings – including a saddle and a spear – in the 1970s. The kris was not included as it was missing.
A team of Dutch and Indonesian researchers later managed to locate the kris at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.
Art historian Jos van Beurden attributed the kris’s disappearance to a lack of organization and an unwillingness to hand treasures back to the Indonesians. “But that is changing now among the museums,” he said, as quoted by the Guardian.
The kris’ handover fittingly took place ahead Dutch King Willem-Alexander’s visit to Indonesia, where he is scheduled to meet Sultan Hamengkubuwono X in Yogyakarta on March 11.
During a meeting with several Indonesian journalists at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague last month, King Willem-Alexander said that the Yogyakarta Sultanate had played in an important role in history and in the modern 21st-century Indonesian state. The meeting placed a strong emphasis on the past and future of Dutch-Indonesian relations.
In addition to Yogyakarta, King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and their delegation will also stop in Jakarta, Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan and Lake Toba in North Sumatra during the four-day visit.
Prior to the kris’ handover, the Netherlands had sent 1,500 historical artifacts from the Nusantara Museum in Delft to the National Museum in Jakarta.
The repatriation process symbolically started in November 2016, when Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte presented President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo with a Bugis kris from the museum’s collection.
The 100-year-old Nusantara Museum was the only museum in the Netherlands dedicated specifically to art and cultural objects from Indonesia, a former Dutch colony. It closed its doors in 2013 due to financial difficulties and a limited number of visitors.
The museum initially offered to hand over about 18,000 artifacts to Indonesia, but Indonesia opted to accept a selection of 1,500 objects instead.
Prinsenhof Museum director Janelle Moerman, who was involved in the deaccessioning process, said that a lot of objects went to museums in the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.
“In Asia, objects went to National Museum Sarawak in Malaysia, the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, and over 7,700 are now part of the collection of the Asia Culture Center in South Korea,” she said in Delft on Feb. 18.
The museum was initially founded in 1864 as an institution called Indische Instelling. It provided an educational program for civil servants assigned to the Dutch East Indies (as Indonesia was formerly known).
Immediately after its establishment, the institution placed ads in newspapers calling on citizens to donate objects from Indonesia that would be used as visual tools for the education program.
“When the educational program was discontinued in 1901, the collection consisted of about 5,000 objects. This collection provided the basis for the Nusantara Museum,” Moerman said.
Yolande Melsert, the head of culture and communications at the Netherlands embassy in Indonesia, said that the Nusantara Museum collection signified the two nations’ shared history.
“Since the independence [of Indonesia], we are building on the new relationship. And I think in the last few years, it has been getting better and better,” Melsert told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta on March 2.