History is never been too far in all places in the world if we look for it but sometimes in same cases, history comes so close to daily life, even when we do not look for it.
I biked in Amsterdam on a sunny Saturday last week and couldn't stand to stop in front of buildings with names of places in North Sumatra. Places where Deli Tobacco or Deli Tabak as the Dutch called it, grew and distributed to all over the world. It was a long time ago but in Amsterdam the traces of Deli Tabak is so vivid and present.
I used to live in North Sumatra, I used to translate a book about History of Deli Tabak and up to now fascinate with industrial heritage so these names are close to my heart. My imagination went to the tobacco plantations and processing places in Medan where I visited few years ago. The tobacco industry of Sumatra now is only a fraction what it used to be in the Dutch Indies period.
Deli Maatschappij, the tobacco enterprise, started its operation in 1869 with land consession from the Sultanate of Deli after several years of succesful experiements of tobacco plantations. Quality of Deli Tabak was very high and received international recognition in the world. In 1889 in Medan there were 179 tobacco companies.
This economic achievement was not possible without dark pages of history such as forced labours and colonialism. The forced labours from Java, India and China left their traces until today in the former plantations and the colonialism left its traces in grand built architecture and city morphology of Medan and surroundings. Reciprocally, in Amsterdam, history speaks for itself from the other side.
|To commemorate Cornelis de Houtman|