Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Spice Monopoly To Shared Heritage

Executive summary by Darmansjah

In the early sixteenth century spice cloves, nutmeg and pepper were exotic commodities for Europeans, not only because of their values as preservatives and their restorative power but also because of their mysterious place of origin. Firstly the Portuguese came, later the Spanish, followed by the Dutch and British. They all came to Indonesia to establish their presence and attempt to take over the monopoly enjoyed by traders from Arab nations, india and China and to keep prices down. To defend their business interests, they built fortfiled trade stations or forts all around Indonesia.

The 16th century was dominated by the Portuguese, while from the 17th century to the first half of the 19th century, the Dutch (VOC and the Dutch East Indies government) followed by a brief English (EIC) influences in specific areas. The Dutch established trading post and built forts in every strategies loaction to control the trade  routes. On a bigger scale, the forts included a whole town or parts of the town centre but usually the forts  were built in a much simpler version than those tuilt in the home country. The main objective was not to provide comfortable living vacilities, but to control the spice trade with as little cost outlay as possible.

There are more than 300 fortresses or fortified trade stations in Indonesia. Nowadays the forts could be considered a shared heritage of the two countries. On the main and smaller island, these witneses of history exist in various conditions. Some are still in a proper condition, but manya are neglected and in a poor condition. For example, the former main fortress, ‘the castle’ in Jakarta was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century; but in cities  like Makassar in South sulawesi and Bengkulu in West Sumatera, the forts Rotterdam and Marlborough are still very significant to the urban environmnet and the identity of these cities.

Realising that htese historical sites are assets of cultural heritage according to Law number 5/1992 on preserved Buildings and Regions, the Directorate General of History and Archaelogoy – Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, considered it necessary professional way. For this purpose the directorate set up a cooperation with Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitertur (PDA) and Passchier Architercts and Consultants (PAC) and they together drew up a porposal. The Dutch government decided to make ample funds available through the facility of Cultural Funding HGIS. The project ran for three years and is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

The goal of the project is to produce a comprehensive database on the forst to support the government in making regulations or laws to protect the forts and any future efforts to preserve and revitalize the forts and theri surroundings. Therefore, the focus is on identifying the type of forts (structure and material), the existing conditions, common damage, development opportunities and risks of the forts taking into account their characteristics. For example, when these fortesses are already included in the list of monuments they will be protected and preserved under the law and any threat of damage or demolition would be responded to accordingly.

Attention wil be given to building assessment, urban and site assessment, and historical assessment. For the purpose of this study, forts are defined as military constructions or structures bulit for defence purposes, usually consisting or high walls, or enforced earth, including walls built to protect a city from hostile acts. Sometimes forts have trenches dug around it.

The project commence in July 2007. firstly, the team set out to survey forts in the Moluccas, North Moluccas, Papua and West papua Provinces; then they focused thier attention on Java, Sumatra and Madura and in the final phase towards the end of October 2010, the team will identify forts in Kalimantan (Borneo), sulawesi, Bali and Nusa Tenggara (formerly known as Lesser Sunda Islands).

Up to the end of the second phase, the team made an inventory of 282 forts; the number of which will obviously increase when the last phase is completed. A number of exhibitions, pertaining to the results achieved in the project, hav been made: at the Bank Indonesia Museum and the National Museum. In the meantime, the dat on the forts and information about the project can be obtained through the following website: Besides nothing the relevant field and historical data, at the end of the project in November 2010, a book will be published with descriptions of all fortresses in Indonesia, Furthermore, exhibitions and seminars will be organized.

The porject also functions as a way to increase awarness building, in this case the awarness of the value of historical sites, by working together and encouraging particpation of the people living arround the fortresses, local government and non-governmental organisations as well as local univeisities.

Fort surveyed in the Project
Local or Indienous Forts
These forts hav been built by the people of Indonesia, including traditional forts, royal forts and forts that wre built to fight colonial powers.

Colonial Forts
Forts buitl during the time Indonesia was colonised by foreign powers, including forts built by the Dutch, Portuguese, Spansih and Biritish.

Second World War Defenses Systems.
Fortification structures built during World War II as defence structures; such as pillboxes, bunkers, defence caves, built by the Dutch and Japanese.

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