On this website, we would like to keep you informed on the progress of the production of the two documentaries that will tell the story of the cross-fertilisation in applied art and architecture between the Netherlands and Indonesia. The first film will be shot in the Netherlands, the second in Indonesia.
Frans Leidelmeijer, an expert in the field of early 20th century styles such as Nieuwe Kunst, the Dutch variant of Art Nouveau, the Amsterdam School, Art Deco and Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building), takes us on a journey to see striking examples of that history.
It is a story that is best told in the dynamics of the location in combination with the story of someone who has immersed himself in this special cross-pollination.
In the same period, Dutch, Indo-Dutch and Indochinese architects worked in the former colony, incorporating into their architecture a mix of Indonesian elements, Nieuwe Kunst, Amsterdam School, Art Deco and Nieuwe Bouwen, such as the post office in Medan (Snuyf), the town halls of Surabaya (Citroen) and Cirebon (Jiskoot). One example of inspiration from an Indonesian building style is the Institute of Technology (Maclaine Pont) in Bandung.
This second documentary is being shot in Indonesia. At appealing locations, architectural forms and art objects are filmed, which together tell the story of this exceptional cultural cross-pollination. Together with The Indonesian Heritage Trust, Begandring Soerabaia, the Cultural Heritage Forum and Museum Kota Bandung, we are documenting these locations from this dynamic period in history.
Our partners tell the story of the importance of iconic buildings from the colonial era in their city. For example, the grave of Wolff Schoemaker, professor at the University of Technology, at Pandu cemetery in Bandung was recently placed on the monument list through the efforts of the Bandung Heritage Society, and in Surabaya, the grave of Cosman Citroen at Kembang Kuning cemetery was restored through the financial support of cultural heritage enthusiasts. In this tour, we will record our shared history in a beautiful multilingual film document that will be promoted in both countries.
Frans Leidelmeijer on Cross-pollination
Since I, as an art dealer and expert of the applied arts from the early 20th century, discovered that Indonesian culture has had an important influence on Dutch styles such as New Art, the Dutch contribution to Art Nouveau, the Amsterdam School and art deco, I became very interested in that cross-pollination.
My fascination only got stronger after my first visit to Indonesia in 1983, after our departure in 1951. In the major cities of Sumatra and Java I was confronted with colonial architecture, which to my surprise often bore the same style characteristics as in the Netherlands. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I took a lot of pictures then. I became melancholic and emotional, I thought to myself, this is part of my identity.
I started writing a monthly column on cross-pollination in the Indo-Dutch magazine Moesson and bought every book that came out on colonial architecture and on the many visits I made to my homeland I discovered new treasures that I then photographed. I got the idea to make a beautiful photo book. This, unfortunately, did not happen.
But now I have a much better plan, a documentary on the subject!
The team I work with, namely Carol Burgemeestre (editing and production), Tino Pattipilohy (sound and logistics), and Bie Muusze (director and camera) received a subsidy from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for this project. I get to present it and as an art expert, I handle the content.
In the documentary, we want to use characteristic examples of architecture and applied art that show the mixing of both cultures during the period 1900-1950. The subsidy from VWS is for the Dutch part of the documentary, the first part. The second part is set in Indonesia. Dutch, Indo-Dutch, and Indo-Chinese architects/designers also built architecture and designed applied art there, where that influence is visible. To be able to pay for the second part, we started a crowdfunding campaign. Donors are mentioned in the credits of the film.
A short introduction
After 3.5 centuries of colonization, people in the Netherlands only started to take an interest in the culture of the colony at the end of the 19th century, partly under the influence of Japonism and Orientalism. Before that time, the cultural elite in the Netherlands looked down on Indonesian culture, except for a few seers such as Frederik van Eeden, director of the Colonial Institute in Haarlem, which opened in 1871, PJ Veth, Indoloog, and G. Rouffaer, explorer and collector.
An important event was the World Exhibition of 1883, officially the International Colonial and Export Exhibition, which took place in Amsterdam on the grounds behind the Rijksmuseum. An exhibition in which other colonial powers also participated. The Netherlands hosted a large pavilion where products and artefacts from the Archipelago were presented. For example, batiks and slendangs hung on a large wall. A kampong was also recreated on the site consisting of traditional houses from different parts of the Indies, where lifelike natives posed. The public could see them for a quarter!
After the end of the exhibition, the artefacts were distributed to various museums, including the Ethnographic Museum of Artis. There, the designer CA Lion Cachet saw the batiks and was immediately captivated by its beauty and artisanal technique. The story goes that the next day he took the sheet off his bed and started experimenting with batik, making him the first western batik maker. Many would follow after him, such as Dijsselhof, Chris Lebeau and Thorn Prikker. The batik technique was adopted here, the decorations were contemporary: Art Nouveau (New Art), Amsterdam School of Art Deco.
In Indonesia, the batik technique was used to decorate clothes. In the Netherlands, they were used to decorate objects or bookbindings (see Lion Cachet chair) (bookbinding de Stille Kracht by Chris Lebeau). A Dutch batik style would arise. This style would also influence batik companies of Indo-European ladies in Java on the so-called Batik Indo Belanda, whose clientele were Dutch, Indo-Dutch and Indo-Chinese ladies. Until the 1920s, people in the Netherlands would batik on silk, velvet, parchment, wood, and even on celluloid. The batik technique would spread all over Europe because Dutch designers started teaching at foreign arts and crafts schools. Indonesian batik patterns were used to decorate pottery, such as the Parang Rusak pattern on a vase from Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland in Gouda (see photo).
Around 1915, the architects/designers of the Amsterdam School would mainly seek their inspiration in the Hindu/Buddhist temple architecture of the Prambanan and Borobodur, but also in the traditional architecture of the Minangkabau, the Bataks, and the Torajas.
In the Spaarndammer neighbourhood and Plan Zuid in Amsterdam, Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer built housing blocks for workers in which those influences can be recognized, if you know it and look at it carefully. They also incorporated these influences into furniture, such as the Hindu Naga, a snake-like mythical animal with a dragon’s head, and the Kala head, which is located above a temple entrance as a protector against evil. Furthermore, the parabolic shape derived from the Buddhist lotus bud or its leaf and the stupa, a structure containing the relics of a Buddhist saint, was common in the Amsterdam School.
The documentary covers these topics and much more. We will be filming in the coming months. The premiere of the first part is in December this year.
Dr. Catrini Pratihari Kubontubuh
President of The Indonesian Heritage Trust
Our Shared Heritage: Dutch Architecture in Indonesia
From the 2007s to the present, The Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI/Bumi Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia) in cooperation with The Royal Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta, have several projects in appreciate the Indonesia’s colonial built heritage. Often the work of reconstruction in local areas in Indonesia, the cooperation either preserved the historical relevance of the buildings or highlighted the documentation of the Dutch colonial buildings. To most Indonesian and Dutch, the positive appreciation towards these shared heritage give a good memory of Indonesia’s colonial past is quite a novelty. Previously, the colonial built heritage is a sensitive subject. The colonial context arouses political reactions. It characterised by Indonesian as suffering and injustice era, meanwhile it was the mixture of embarassment and romantism for Dutch. The Shared Heritage Program has opened our eyes to welcome awareness of the richness of the dual parenthood of the heritage shared together by both of colonized and colonizer. Thus, the negative views on Dutch colonial architecture has been shifted by a much more positive acceptance. This shifting encourages the work together to preserve the Dutch colonial buildings as Indonesia and the Netherlands shared heritage.
The Two Countries Relationship
The colonial period affected the relationship which was full of tense and sensitive for many years in the aftermath of the period. The relations with Indonesia and the Netherlands began to normalise by the early 1980s. The Dutch built heritage and some support from the Netherlands to Indonesian historical data encourage more positive aspects of the colonial past.
The Indonesian activists and community organisations played important role in raising awareness of the neglected and lost physical traces of Indonesia’s history, including the Dutch colonial built heritage since 1990s. The campaigns promoted the richness of Indonesian history that also include the remnants from the colonial period. It started the projects of reconstruction of many colonial buildings and neighbourhoods, and utilise the colonial built heritage rather than demolishing it.
Indonesia’s heritage community-based organisations have been active in facilitating local and national government to safeguard their natural and cultural heritage, especially the Dutch built heritage spread in each cities. A large amount of attention was and is given to the built heritage of the colonial era.
Dutch Colonial Buildings in Kota Tua Jakarta
— Photo courtesy BPPI-TriAd
Traces in Indonesia heritage organisations
The appreciation of colonial built heritage significantly increased at the end of the 1990s. Several heritage organisations initiated in Bandung, Jakarta, Jogja, Medan, and Padang. They actively played their role in supporting heritage conservation works through raising awareness and started their database of heritage objects through cultural mapping. Once, they all attended an international conservation workshop in Bali in the year 2000. The World Bank as its host facilitated them to build a network of communication between them.
The Indonesian Network for Heritage Conservation (Jaringan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia/JPPI), a strongest network started its embryo on the year 2000. It founded the Indonesian Heritage Trust (Badan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia/BPPI) in 2004. BPPI primary vision was to safeguard Indonesian heritage, which include the heritage from the colonial past. To achieve this vision, BPPI developed three mission: (i) providing inputs for national and local government, (ii) promoting community heritage movement, and (iii) building national heritage funds. The programs very successful in terms of involved number of multidiscipline and background participants.
In 2008, another national organisation was initiated by BPPI: the Indonesian Network for Heritage Cities (Jaringan Kota Pusaka Indonesia/JKPI). Its members are mayors of more than 50 cities located across the archipelago. Its goals to be a melting pot for mayors sharing experiences in dealing with conservation of nature and culture in each of their cities. The BPPI and JKPI frequently are having cooperation program.
Another organisation in national level is the Documentation Centre for Indonesian Architecture (Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur, PDA) which established in 2002. It main objective is to document built heritage in Indonesia, including colonial built heritage Its projects include the inventory of the early 19th-century palace of a Governor General (now the Ministry of Finance) and the former head office of the Javasche Bank (now Bank Indonesia), the Dutch East Indian circulation bank in Jakarta, and all Portuguese, British, Dutch, Japanese and indigenous fortresses throughout the archipelago. By presenting historical data in exhibitions, publications, seminars and websites, pda contributes in a more scholarly manner to raising awareness about Indonesia’s built heritage.
Further on the 21st-century, beside community-based organisation, there were public-private companies, i.e. National Bank of Indonesia (Bank Indonesia, BI), the Indonesian Railway Company (PT Kereta Api Indonesia, PT KAI), Bank Mandiri, Post Office Indonesia (PT Pos Indonesia), an insurance group of Jiwasraya, and some others. These companies have a significant number of colonial buildings, include their archives and informations associated with them. They faced the issue of deterioration of most of their Dutch built heritage. This situation happened when they did not take the preservation of their historic buildings as their top priority. They prefer to turn their property into an asset rather than a burden.
Neglected Dutch Built Heritage in Surabaya
— Photo courtesy BPPI-TriAd
The Dutch Built Heritage in Indonesia
The Dutch have also shown a growing interest in colonial built heritage during the 1980s and 1990s. There was an agreement between the Dutch Association for Architects (Bond van Nederlandse Architecten, BNA) and its Indonesian counterpart (Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia, IAI) signed in 1987. The agreement enabled BNA and IAI to engage in collaborative projects with regard to colonial built heritage.
There are number of architects contributed his work to Indonesia. Ghijssels, Mooyen, Wolff Schoemaker, Cosman Citroen, J.Jiskoot, Ed. Cuypers, Berlage, Karstens, Johannes Gerber, Liem Bwan Tjie, Han Groenewegen, A. Albers, Job & Sprey, S. Snuyff, Henri Maclaine Pont, and Han Groenwegen.
Our partners in The Netherlands
We receive cooperation for the documentary from:
- Het Scheepvaarthuis Hotel Amrâth / Amsterdam
- Kerk van het Heilig Hart / Schiedam
- Kunstmuseum / The Hague
- Princessehof / Leeuwarden
- Missiemuseum Steyl
- Museum Het Schip / Amsterdam
- Het Tropenmuseum / Amsterdam (onderdeel van het Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen)
- De Indische Zaal van Paleis Noordeinde / The Hague
- Hotel Sofitel Legend The Grand / Amsterdam
- KITLV / Leiden
- De Bazel / Amsterdam
- Stedelijk Museum / Amsterdam
- Rijksmuseum / Amsterdam
For the second documentary and the educational trajectory, we are looking for funding through fundraising and crowdfunding.
Our partners in Indonesia
- The Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) Badan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia
- Begandring Soerabaia
- The Cultural Heritage Forum
- Museum Kota Bandung
- Bandung Heritage Society
- The Erasmus Huis / Jakarta
- Stichting Toon Beeld / Zoetermeer
- Stichting Cerita Fakta / Amsterdam
- De Kreeft | Grafische Producties / Amsterdam