A final goodbye

A proper send-off for some of HIZKIA Amsterdam's oldest friends.

25 years of packing, unpacking, moving, and transporting these life-sized statues came to an end for HIZKIA Amsterdam over the summer as they prepared them for their final journey home to Indonesia. Part of a historical transfer of ownership, these statues and 474 other cultural artifacts made up the beginning of the first official repatriation by a Dutch museum to a former colony.

Last July marked the official start of a significant shift taking place in The Netherlands towards acknowledging the importance of repatriating artifacts that were wrongfully claimed and stolen in colonial times, starting with collections from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. These artifacts make up a valuable part of a nation’s cultural heritage and identity, and their return allows them to reclaim their place in the communities they left behind by force.

The decision to return them was made by Secretary of State for Culture and Media Gunay Uslu, following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Return of Cultural Objects from Colonial Context, with the first official transfer of ownership to Indonesia on July 10th, 2023 at the Wereldmuseum Leiden.

Among the historical artifacts being returned are four of the six life-sized statues of gods and mythical figures from the Singosari temple site that have been a part of this collection since 1903. HIZKIA Amsterdam has worked with these statues, moving, packing, unpacking, and shipping them whenever necessary for over 25 years, and felt great pride and responsibility when asked to prepare these old friends and 474 other artifacts for their final journey homeward.

HIZKIA Amsterdam’s specialist Carpentry Shop built custom crating, in which the objects moved from the museum in Leiden to the Amsterdam depot where they were soon collected by a delegation from Indonesia who would be escorting them to the Museum Nasional Indonesia in Jakarta. With all the official paperwork done, it was just the unofficial but emotional transfer of care for the artifacts left from the Amsterdam team before saying final goodbyes.

The Wereldmuseum Leiden is proud of this achievement that heralds the long-awaited recognition of centuries of injustice for nations that suffered under the inequality and power abuse under colonialism. On display, visitors will now find a sign addressing the museum’s broader policy on this subject: “Restitution – the return of these objects – gives concrete form to the Netherlands’ acknowledgement of a long and painful history. Ongoing research, some of it conducted in collaboration with Indonesia, will focus on enhancing our understanding of the precise process of colonisation, and our knowledge of objects.” HIZKIA is equally proud to be a part of this ongoing process, which will undoubtedly become an increasingly important aspect of the work we do as time goes on.