Historic artefacts return to Indonesia after repatriation efforts

Minister Nadiem Makarim welcomes the return of sculptures from the Netherlands to the homeland. (Photo: Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology).

INDONESIA – The Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (Mendikbudristek) of Indonesia, Nadiem Anwar Makarim, enthusiastically welcomed the return of four ancient statues from the Singasari Kingdom from the Netherlands to the homeland at the National Museum of Indonesia on Tuesday (22 Aug).

“The Indonesian people should take pride in the results of our collective efforts over the past two and a half years to bring back these historical and cultural artefacts to our homeland,” stated Nadiem.

These four statues are part of a collection of 472 valuable artefacts that have been repatriated from the Netherlands to Indonesia.

The four statues, namely Arca Durga, Mahakala, Nandishvara, and Ganesha, which had been stored in the Netherlands for three centuries, mark the first phase of artefacts to arrive in Indonesia.

The repatriation initiative was initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in 2021 and was officially agreed upon by both countries on 10 July this year.

The Indonesian government was represented at the agreement ceremony by the Director-General of Culture, Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, Hilmar Farid.

Nandishvara sculpture. (Photo: Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology).

The Ministry is currently in the process of returning a Puputan Klungkung kris (or keris, Indonesian dagger), 132 works of art of Pita Maha – an association of Balinese painters founded in 1936 by four artists: Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonet — and 335 collections from the Puri Cakranegara in Lombok.

Minister Nadiem emphasized that the return of these hundreds of objects that shape the history of the nation is expected to enhance the spirit of nationalism and enrich the treasury of knowledge.

“The repatriation of these artefacts, which form the history of our civilization, is hoped to boost the spirit of nationalism and expand our knowledge base.”

“This is in line with the spirit of the policies of ‘Merdeka Belajar’ (Freedom to Learn) and ‘Merdeka Berbudaya’ (Freedom to Culture) that we consistently promote,” he expressed.

Nadiem assured that he had personally inspected the condition of the four Singasari statues and directed his team to preserve and care for them meticulously.

He also mentioned that the repatriated artefacts would gradually be brought back to Indonesia.

He emphasized that besides being valuable sources of knowledge in the long run, he also aimed for the public to witness these significant artefacts through exhibitions in the short term.

A painting of the Pita Maha art movement from Bali, by I Made Windoe. Inventory Number TM-3525-64. (National Museum of World Cultures, Netherlands)

The Minister expressed his deep appreciation for all parties involved in the repatriation efforts.

“I extend my highest appreciation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, and her team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the repatriation team, and the officials who ensured the safe return of these artefacts to the homeland,” Nadiem concluded.

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