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Cultural ties between Indonesia and Dutch solidify as exhibit opens

Treasure of Sumatra to travel

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

JAKARTA An exhibition on Sumatra, which currently is on display in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta through September 8, will reopen in Leyden in October before moving on to Malaysia early next year. The exhibit Treasure of Sumatra was opened with Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia Nikolaos Van Dam, an Arabist, and Volkenkunde Museum of Leiden director Steven Engelsman in attendance.

Among the material on display is the Kota Kapur inscription, named after the location where it was found - Kota Kapur village on Bangka Island - in ancient Malaya and dating back to the 7th Century when the Sriwijaya Kingdom ruled over Sumatra. Interestingly, the inscription also provides important information about Sriwijaya's attempts to conquer the island of Java.

Historic inscriptions, maps, manuscripts, statues, Chinese ceramics and sultanate regalia, all originated from the past kingdoms of Sumatra, are part of the exhibition as are coins from the former Aceh kingdom of Samudera Pasai, along with royal swords and keris, a sultanate oar, traditional musical instruments, dresses and miniature versions of traditional Sumatran houses (such as the Rumah Gadang, Batak Karo and Nias varieties).

Some artifacts even date back to the prehistoric era, such as kjokkenmodinger (cooking waste) from the Megalithic period and fragments of earthenware pottery and household relics from the Neolithic period.


The collections demonstrate how the ancient traditions of Sumatra were heavily influenced by foreign cultures such as the Chinese, Indian, Arabic and Persian, as well as neighboring local cultures like those from the Javanese kingdoms.

Indonesian National Museum director Retno Sulistianingsih said that the exhibit features a total of 230 pieces, either owned by the museum, by heritage agencies in Sumatra or the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leyden. The reason the exhibit promotes a Sumatra theme is because it has a lot of stories to tell, she said.


Besides being located strategically along the trade routes between Persia, India and China, Retno noted that Sumatra, during the ancient period, was rich in natural resources and important commodities, including camphor and gold.

Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik lauded the cooperation between Indonesian and Dutch museums, a development expected to grow as the institutions work together on other exhibitions in the future.