Monday, September 30, 2019

A LONG BREATH FOR INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

The industry is one of the most exciting fields in cultural heritage to look at, especially in Asia, where industrial heritage is not widely known yet. The industry associates more with economic development but not yet with social and cultural development. This should be changed considering that the industry becomes one of the development backbones of Asia. Assets and potentials are tremendous. Interests and enthusiasm, especially from young professionals are huge. Everybody is hungry and thirsty for knowledge and examples from the field!

Those are my personal motivation why I dedicate my attention in the last few years to industrial heritage in Asia and in Indonesia specifically. It is with pleasure to be part of the ANIH (Asian Network for Industrial Heritage) with its newly launched website. Through this website, we can see we do our best to promote the industrial heritage of Asia for larger public. 

In 2020, ANIH will hold its Third Forum in Sawahlunto, Indonesia. For the first time, the Advisory Committee of ANIH consists of 15 experts,  will meet there as well. Surely, it will take a long time and a lot of effort to raise awareness about industrial heritage in Asia but something has to start somewhere. 




Tuesday, September 17, 2019

WHEN CULTURE IS YOURS?

A while ago I visited an exhibition with a theme Things That Matters in the Tropen Museum, Amsterdam.  In the exhibition, there were several angles were exposed: what we wear, when we feel at home, how climate changes our culture, our happy memories from home, how we create new life, the meaning of language, beliefs, fighting for our ideals, and celebrations. 

One of the topics in the exhibition is about claiming a culture. When can we say that culture belongs to us? These are the words quoted from the Tropen Museum:

Sharing or stealing?
Is it acceptable to take over things over from a culture that’s not your own? And who gets to decide? In the last few years, there’s been much debate about issues like these, particularly on social media. This debate focuses on cultural appropriation: the co-option of elements from another culture for one’s own purposes or profit. Things like symbols, clothing, hairstyles, dance, music or language, for example.

Obviously, culture is always in flux and serves as a rich source of inspiration for new creations. But if that’s done without any acknowledgment or respect, people can be offended. That’s particularly true within the context of unequal power relations; when the appropriating group is in the majority and therefore more powerful than the group whose cultural expressions are being used. Things That Matter offers dozens of examples that sparked controversy.



I came back to these thoughts often when I visit Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands with creativity and innovation in the culinary field. Sometimes, I hardly recognize a drink or a dish anymore because it is a bit too far from the origins. I love creativity and innovation, don't get me wrong. What I think we should do is to put an appropriate label into our creations so it becomes clear that a drink or a dish is inspired by Indonesian kitchen. It is not an Indonesian kitchen but INSPIRED BY. 

A small example I saw in the Hague this week. A poster about Surabaya Sate. Surabaya Sate? There is no Surabaya Sate in Indonesia. The closest famous place for sate with Surabaya is Madura. We will not feel anything odd about this Surabaya Sate unless we are indigenous Indonesians. 

The same feeling applies to everyone in this world, I guess. When parts of your culture are borrowed by others, you are deeper touched than the rest of the world. It is not necessarily negative. Exchanging and borrowing other's cultures is part of transnationalism. 

Indonesia and the Netherlands share histories and undoubtedly share many culture's elements in many facets of life. I often count that there is no day passes without Indonesian elements in the Netherlands: tangible (persons, books, buildings, etc.) or intangibles (languages, stories, documentaries, etc.) I am sure the same things happen on the other side. Try to look closely and you discover that the Netherlands has influences in the daily life of Indonesians.  

So the question of when culture is ours in the context of Indonesia and the Netherlands is naturally happening and unavoidable. We only need to be more careful when putting a label when it is adapted from other cultures. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

THE BEATLES AND HUMAN CAPITAL

When I had an idea to establish Sumatra Heritage Trust (BWS) in Medan, there was hardly anyone with appropriate skills available on the grass-root level. People who were familiar with the idea of cultural heritage, in this case, historical buildings, were mostly lecturers at the local universities. We need representatives from the private sector (for financial and facilities sources) and community (as volunteers for implementation of plans and programs). That was a general idea when I looked for who was in town that I could approach to set up the organization. Medan specifically and Sumatra generally are too precious to be left alone for their cultural heritage assets without local guardians.

It took me about a year to finally gather necessary numbers of the Founders of Sumatra Heritage Trust. A promising formation of 4 entrepreneurs, 2 lecturers, and 2 community representatives. 

The next homework was to educate local youngsters to be cultural heritage professionals. We recruited students and fresh graduates as volunteers and sent them to uncountable conferences, internships, and programs mostly in Indonesia, the neighboring countries and the rest of the world. Penang Heritage Society has been a good counterpart for BWS by providing internship opportunities. ICOMOS Australia and some other organizations have hosted capacity building programs as well. The farthest opportunity came from Newfoundland, Canada, for an expert exchange program. 

Some volunteers took initiatives to study formally in cultural heritage from various angles, mostly the tangible one (historical buildings or landscape). Fast forward 20 years later, in 2019, there are several masters and doctoral graduates in Medan specifically and in Sumatra generally. They did it all themselves so we couldn't take any credits for the achievements. It is only a huge difference from the 1990s when no single graduates available in the profession. 

All of them, all of us, are human capital in the cultural heritage sector. It takes a very long process to keep education, formally and informally, ongoing. 

If I look back, I think human capital is the most crucial step that needs to be maintained all the time in any period of time by any leaders of the organization.  

On 15 August 2019, all the hard work to create the human capital harvested the fruit. The new generation took over the leadership of BWS. A new Executive Director supported by a promising team with a convincing set of programs. If you ever in a position of a (co) founder, you know how it feels to have a leadership estafet. It is a huge relief when you know that a system works and sustained when the founders have left. 

These young leaders of BWS are the local heroes. Taking care of cultural heritage in Medan feels almost like a suicidal attempt when nobody is being paid, while tasks and job responsibilities are very demanding and time-consuming. If we don't believe in what we do, we will not have survived this long. 

Congratulations the new leaders of BWS! As the Beatles said, it is a long and winding road.....be strong and never give up. 





Friday, August 02, 2019

X FACTORS OF HERITAGE CONSERVATION

Every time I was in the middle of discussions, trainings and any other events in Indonesia, I was often reminded about the presence of X Factors in heritage conservation.

The first X Factor is a superstitious idea about old (read: historical) buildings. The superstitious idea is mostly about ghosts that are believed to occupy rooms and buildings. I never encountered any scientific references about how to deal with the superstitious ideas in heritage conservation. The issue about ghosts might be considered not scientific, that is why. 

No matter how superstitious it is, the issue exists and as a professional, I have to deal with it. I have witnessed how this superstitious state of mind has affected the decision-making process in an adaptive reuse process of historical buildings. Layers of history are demolished and polished to be completely new features to invite visitors who are otherwise will not come to the historical buildings. It hurts and sad actually to see that the layers of history have disappeared in the name of fears for ghosts. 

It hurts and sad because the whole concept of conservation went in the wrong direction. Instead of keeping heritage values, it destroys them. Yes, the buildings look new and sterile, but what is the lesson learned from them?

The comfort I could try to say to myself is that at least the building is conserved for the time being and that is already an achievement for the Indonesian situation. What we need is assisting in having the right mindset what conservation is all about. A matter of time.

The fears of ghost prevent the Indonesians to reuse historic buildings as residences as well. Most adaptive reuse ideas are a cafe, co-working space, shop, and museum. Anything that is in operation during the day and early evening. I hardly see reuse as residences while I thought most if not all historical buildings are in prime locations, that would be perfect for young professionals to go to their offices without too much burden of traffic jams.  Besides, how many cafes and museums we will make in a certain square meter?

I dream practice of the Stadsherstel model (city restoration model) in Indonesia where adaptive reuse as a means to address current and future needs. This way conservation can save a unique cityscape but also actively use for contemporary life. Residences in walking distance to work in most city centers in Indonesia are very scarce so why not create ones? It is still unthinkable for the Indonesians to live for example in the Kota Lama of Semarang of Kota Tua of Jakarta. Too many ghosts are around.

There are few adaptive reuses as hotels and guesthouses already on the way. Most guests of those accommodations are foreigners. The Indonesians prefer new buildings as accommodations.

I think until adaptive reuse and revitalization initiative can transform a dead area into a lively live and workspace, it will still be very challenging to be sustainable in the long run. Revitalization might last for a few years and then dim again before return to the same old dead quiet area. It is exactly like a life cycle of many malls in Indonesia. 

The second X-Factor is "premanism". Premanism is from the word "preman" or further back from the Dutch word "vrij man". It means literally a jobless man who consoles himself (this is not sexist but so far they are always male) as a strong powerful mafia asking contributions from innocent people. These jobless people act as mafia claiming themselves as representatives from a police department or local government to mess up with anyone trying to save historic buildings. They sell window and door frames, woods and anything valuables from the buildings. 

No, I don't mention which cities have premans. In general, it can happen anywhere in Indonesia. 

I have experienced myself how to deal with premanism in a refurbishment project of a historic site. When the project was launched, all of sudden I saw some premans around to claim that the refurbishment was their job! I was furious with this low attitude and have chased them away from the site. I think I was lucky that they went away without asking for any money and hurting me. It could be different, you never know. 

The premanism issue is again not scientific and hardly found in any conservation guides. Believe me, it happens in many cities in Indonesia or even in Asian cities. It would be useful if conservation experts exchange experiences on how to deal with this barrier. We can not leave a faith of historic buildings in the hands of a few jobless men, they are too precious for the future of society.  



Monday, July 29, 2019

INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE IN ASIA

The Asian Network for Industrial Heritage (ANIH) has gathered in Chiayi, Taiwan, 30 June-5 July 2019. The theme was the history of railways heritage. I presented a paper titled "RAILWAYS HERITAGE OF INDONESIA: Celebrating Mobility in the Archipelago" and my junior colleague from Sumatra Heritage Trust, Shindi Indira presented a paper about railways history in Sumatra. 

I tried to bring the ANIH 2020 to Indonesia and I tried to convince all other members of ANIH. Indonesia is relatively left behind in the field of industrial heritage compared to Europe or other Asian countries like Taiwan. It is very challenging to raise awareness about the importance of industrial heritage conservation in Indonesia, moreover about the proper practice of its conservation and adaptive reuse. That is why I was and am motivated to bring the Asian network in 2020 with the hope that it will wake up the Indonesian authorities about how industrial heritage assets might contribute to the country's development.

Sawahlunto could be an attractive venue for ANIH 2020. The local government has a financial commitment already as a host, the former coal mining site has just put in the World Heritage List of UNESCO and it is in Sumatra (I support decentralization for anywhere outside Java!). Sawahlunto can be connected to railways heritage (Mak Itam locomotive), water and heritage (Emma Haven, the local port in West Sumatra) and relation to the Indarung I, the cement factory from the Dutch Indies period. I really need to sit down to formulate the whole program and to mobilize resources before the end of 2019. 

Another result of the ANIH 2019, I brought Shindi Indira with me. A young colleague from Medan whom I knew for about 20 years. This was part of the regeneration that is always becoming my priority. Shindi became a keynote speaker in the Field School program in Chiayi mostly for students. It was an icebreaker for her and she has done it very well. I was and am so proud of her. I took her to the Ten Drums Cultural Park as well to see how the former sugar factory is transformed beautifully into a creative cultural hub to revitalize the traditional music instrument drum in Tainan, Taiwan. We have accompanied by Theresa Tseng, an economics professor who has a mission to bridge dream and reality, money and heritage, accountant and artists. Three of us have come to an idea to organize a field school for Indonesian students to come to the Ten Drums Cultural Park early 2020.








Tuesday, June 25, 2019

THE FUTURE OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT IS HERITAGE MANAGEMENT IN THE FUTURE

That long title is the motto of the conference that I attended between 11-14 June 2019 at the University of Amsterdam in the frame of the ICOMOS UNIVERSITY FORUM.

It was organized by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden, and the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, in collaboration with ICOMOS International, ICOMOS Netherlands, and the City of Amsterdam.


It has been enlightening and inspiring 4 days of discussions and workshops with new angles of heritage practices. One of the workshops I have joined was about creating a museum for data that has been sent to a star planet. It was called "data crematorium". Or thinking about what we will do with former nuclear plants and the space shuttle. We also discussed a lot about cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Heritage has never been so advanced before this conference for me. That is why I liked this conference a lot after avoiding conferences for years because I hardly learn new issues anymore. I think heritage and the future can lift up image heritage being nostalgic and out of date. (Picture: the organizer).





Thursday, June 06, 2019

THE YOUNGEST PROTECTED CITYSCAPE OF AMSTERDAM: BIJLMERMUSEUM

Last week (week 22) Bijlmermuseum has got a status as a protected cityscape of Amsterdam. It is an ensemble of six highrise flats: Gooioord, Groeneveen, Grubbehoeve, Kikkenstein, Kleiburg and Kruitberg. This protected status comes along for all characteristic inner streets, metro line, water & greenery underlying structures and original bicycle and pedestrian bridges. 

The protection status ensures that Bijlmermuseum as a unity will have integral maintenance and emergency treatments. It also means that any inquiry of permit requires admission framework. 

Bijlmermuseum is the youngest protected cityscape of Amsterdam. Previously, Amsterdam has already two protected cityscapes and one protected village scape on the municipality level, three protected cityscapes and three protected village scapes on the national level.  The plan area generally at the north is Bijlmeerdreef, at the east is Groesbeekdreef, at the west is 's Gravendijkdreef and at the south is Karspeldreef. 

Bijlmermeer area was developed about a half-century ago before it went to rigorous renewal actions with consequences of demolitions and new developments. In 1984 Bijlmer Museum Foundation was established by residents. In 1998 the Municipality has made a decision to respect the original design principles of the area and in 2008 Bijlmermuseum was inlisted in the Top 100 postwar heritage on the municipality level.  

(Source: De Echo, 5 June 2019)



(Pictures: Wikimedia Commons)




Thursday, May 30, 2019

COGNITIVE RECREATION

Amsterdam Research Institute of the Arts and Sciences (ARIAS) is a crossing platform for arts and sciences as clearly reflected by its name. Last night, 29 May, I have attented an event they organized about arts and archives in Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam. 

There was a presentation about research on the Myth of Rodin. 

Then participants could choose four group themes. I have chosen titled Reworking Colonial Photographs led by Leiden University’s Anne Vera Veen. She led the participants to look for strategies to rethink, reframe and rework photographs in colonial archives in order to imagine decolonial futures.

The discussion was lively and enlighting. It opened up a new perspective of how we can give meaning to photographs by exploring more backgrounds and categorizing them in appropriate contexts. I was very inspired and stimulated.

The participants of this relatively small group, 10 persons, came from archives, museums and heritage fields. Small and beautiful in true sense. Everybody focused and contributed seriously. Nobody looked at their mobiles. What a refreshing atmosphere.

Why do I give such a huge compliment about this kind of event? I went and lived in other places where there is a lack of opportunity for cognitive recreations like this. Amsterdam is a relatively small city but opportunities for cognitive recreations are in abundance. As its citizen, I am always triggered to dig creativity, new ideas, and dynamic networking. I feel alive.

My experiences in my previous cities were different. Administratively those cities are larger with many education institutions but cognitive impulses are limited exclusively for the insiders and mostly in the context of academic endeavors. There are not so many opportunities for the larger public. Available recreations are usually entertainment and food in the packaging of malls. Malls are everywhere. Old, new, small, large, ugly, modern. Malls, malls, and malls. I am concerned about this development.

Creating cognitive recreations do not require a lot of costs and complicated preparations. What we need are a bunch of free spirits, open minds, and creative souls. Those qualities are everywhere including in cities that are far away from capitals. No excuse to say that we live in a small city that is why nothing to do here. It is not true. Two or three souls are sufficient to start something valuable. I do hope my dear friends in Indonesia share this dream with me. 


Monday, May 20, 2019

ACADEMIC ENDEAVOURS

After 25 years working and learning in cultural heritage field, I feel an urge to contemplate what I have been doing and learning. To give a structure to my contemplation, I have sent my ideas to University of Leiden. They responded very positively in a very short notice. Before I knew, I have received a student card, welcomed to various facilities and received academic guidance to sharpen my ideas. 

It feels great to find out that an academic institution is accessible for a field worker like me. I like school that is open minded and gives freedom for everyone to develop. Education is supposed to be that way.

There are two books that influenced me about education system. First is Deschooling Society (1970) written by Ivan Illich. This book critized education institutionalization in modern society. Schools can be dangerous for creativity development. The second is Toto Chan, the Little Girl at the Window (1981) by Tetsuko Kuronayagi. It is about unconventional education experienced by the writer herself. 

My own mother didn't go to formal school, she didn't write and read her whole life I think. Few occasions I saw her read and write documents with difficulties, part because of age, part because she hardly did them. She also warned her children, especially me, of not too much reading because reading is a passive way of learning. "You should learn from practices, from real life,"she said many times. Luckily she went out everyday so I could read books freely especially outside school schedule. Nevertheless, she was very proud when she attended my bachelor graduation in Bandung. Now I am getting older,  I start to understand what she has meant by learning from practices and real life.  It was not that she prevented me from learning, what she meant was to be observance of facts and realities. School system in old days Indonesia, at least the schools I attended, could prevent children from being brave and unique due to requirement to be uniformed in all senses, physically and mentally. Uniqueness was rare those days. 

I never had difficulties in schools. I enjoyed friendships. But when I grew up and attended universities, I started to be unhappy at schools. Universities are so segregated into faculties and specializations without too much freedom for combination and crossing diciplines. I think I passed my bachelor and masters degrees with relatively a lot of confusions in my mind. I loved journalism but I studied social welfare. I like cultural heritage but I studied regional planning. I taught myself to be an autodidact. I went to as many journalistic courses as my obligated classes at social welfare. I went to hundred conferences and trainings of cultural heritage more than my classes at regional planning. At the end, the universities were sort of legitimation, on papers, of fractions of my interests. They tell only parts of my history, my interests and my capabilities. I am glad I have gone to schools, though, because in this world, we all need papers. It is part of a game. 

This time I come back to school with full awareness of my rights and obligations. Yes, some parts will be administrations, but hopefully most parts are joys, enthusiasms and passions. At my age, I don't need a new academic title. I don't go to school to waste my life. I go to school to receive inspirations and cognitive sparring partners. 


Sunday, May 12, 2019

MAGIC OF ANDALUCIA

I was very curious how Andalucia, Spain, with its warm climate and world famous monuments, manage its crowd (read: tourists). The province receives about 11 millions international tourists per year plus domestic tourists (about 80% of the population means about 140 million tourist trips per year). In main destinations like Granada, Cordoba and Seville, most tourists visit main destinations so concentration of crowd is relatively high.

In Al Hambra, Granada, ticket has to be purchased by internet and only available at certain dates and certain hours. Most tickets have gove weeks and months in advance. In this way, crowd could be well managed and distributed every day from morning to evening. It is still crowded but manageable. There is no long queue at entrance.

The Mezquita-Cathedral de Cordoba, sells tickets on site and if lucky, taking at least half hour to get the tickets. Queueing under the sun is not a joke for some people who forget to bring hats or umbrella. Inside, there are no signs to arrange flow of tourists so it ends up that too many people at certain spots taking pictures creating congestions.

The Alcázar of Seville combined the two system, tourists can buy tickets on internet or on site joining tour guide. Queue is not too long especially when joining the tour guide. The tour is about one hour. The guide that I joined told more than what I found on books and internet. It gave an added value.

All in all, the palaces are impressive. They tell so much about wars, politics, religions and nature of human beings.

But Andalucia has more to offer than only palaces. Its people.

Seville, as the capital of Andalucia, has more vibrants due to the famous bull fighting and the Spring Fair or the Feria de Abril,  especially this year at the first week of May. Males and females dress up, for themselves, for their customs and traditions. They dress up seriously, not half casual, half formal. Areas around the bullring (the Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de CaballerĂ­a de Sevilla) and the huge recinto ferial (fairground) in Los Remedios transform into extraordinary natural organic spontanious largest catwalks in the world! Views and atmospheres are very festive and joyful, all ages, all genders, all backgrounds.

The best of all is that they do that for themselves, not for tourists. I think this is a true intangible heritage of Seville that doesn't need a recognition from any cultural authorities whether or not it has a world heritage status. It is a world heritage. This custom and tradition is soul of Seville, spirit of Andalucia, gives life into all ancient palaces. This genuine living intangible heritage is so priceless in my eyes because I have seen so many touristic places with fake shallow cultural practices. We can build cultural parks but not the spirit of the culture owners. That is the challenge for all heritage sites and that is also the tricky side of world heritage status. How many world heritage sites become soulless destinations?















Saturday, April 20, 2019

RIGHT DIRECTION: ERADICATE CORRUPTION

On Thursday evening 11 April 2019 I went to KPK (The Corruption Eradication Commission) in Kuningan, Jakarta, for what they called "Sarasehan Budaya" (Cultural Talks). The speakers were Emha Ainun Nadjib, Najwa Sihab and Novel Baswedan. The intention of this talks was to commemorate two years of assault againts Novel Baswedan, an ivestigator of KPK. This assault is not solved until now so public requests responsibility of authorities for an investigation. This request is important to prevent similar accidents in the future.

I came to this event for Emha Ainun Nadjib (Cak Nun). During my university times, I listened a lot to what he said, I didn't follow him blindly but I liked his poetical ways of analysing social economic and political phenomena. It was a kind of intellectual recreation for me. I was thankful that I got tips about this Cultural Talks at KPK Building during my short stay in Jakarta. I certainly came for nostalgic reason and updated myself about life dynamics in Jakarta.

There was a very large crowd that evening, mostly were youth at their 20's. It was great to be amongst them, sweaty and hot, but I could absorb energy from this young generation that hopes for a corruption free new nation. They clapped everytime Cak Nun said some kind fo encouragements. 

Najwa Sihab said that KPK should be more supported  by Indonesian public because what they do is very important.  That support including protests and protections from assaults such as what happened two years ago. 

Novel Baswedan ensured that the assault didn't discourage him at all as the investigator to chase corruptors and to bring them to courts. 

Cak Nun talked the longest, not only about corruption mentality but also about leadership and role of public in reshaping Indonesia. He got applauses many times. At the end, he asked the crowd to pray for a better Indonesia together with him. KPK does its tasks in this world, but in another world, he said that all of them should believe in role of God in assisting Indonesia to be a better nation.

To this point, I found myself split into two world. Rationalism of the Netherlands, spiritualism of Indonesia. I appreciated humbleness of Indonesians in praying to ask God's assistance in solving many problems. My other side of brain told me that people have to take actions in this world as well, real actions, to the best possible they could, to solve those problems. I think what I experienced that evening was fascinating process to learn about Indonesia: creating strong and reliable KPK to eradicate corruption and surrendering to the Greater Power to ask help. That makes Indonesia interesting. 



Dare to be honest, great!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"INDONESIA-NESS" MOVEMENTS

I have spent three weeks in Indonesia to meet friends and colleagues in various parts of Java who are trying to put their beliefs into something tangible and real. In the words of Bram Kushardjanto from Negeri Rempah Foundation, "we use spices to explore our sense of Indonesia." His foundation has just organized a program called International Forum on Spices Route in the National Museum of Jakarta. One full week  program to explore history and potential of spices richness of the Archipelago. Almost all experts from abroad and Indonesia took part in the program in various ways: as speakers, demo leaders, field workers, activists and phylanthropists. A good begin for raising awareness how rich natural resources of Indonesia. 

Through some events, I have also encountered with Javara initiated by Helianti Hilman and Kaum initiated by Potato Head Family. Both promote food and agriculture heritage of Indonesia. Both are world class products, very high standards and the best you could get of Indonesian authenticity. Just looking at their packaging, feasts to our eyes. Tasting the food and drinks, feels like in heaven. More than anything, I am so proud that there are Indonesians who work professionally, full of pride and dedication to agriculture richness of Indonesia. They travel to all corners of the country for researches. They do assist farmers on the field to be "food entrepreneurs" in the word of Helianti Hilman. 

I am impressed with the idea of exploration of "Indonesia-ness" : proud to be Indonesians and try to promote resources of Indonesia. 

I think that happens now when the middle class grow larger, relatively young, educated and well buying capacity society. This movement might still limited in a small circle but everything starts small. In a such extensive archipelago, someone has to start somewhere. I only can hope and wish everybody goodluck with this fantastic movement. You all stay in my heart. 






Monday, March 18, 2019

JAMES BOND OF QUESTIONABLE ARTWORKS

I visited TEFAF 2019 yesterday in Maastricht. TEFAF stands for the European Fine Art Fair. I was speechless to see such high quality and rarely art works from all over the world. It was so fascinating to think of capability of humankind to create beautiful stuff beyond believe. A lot of details to observe and a lot of stories behind to find out. TEFAF was a spiritual journey for me. 

In one of the exhibition corners, my eyes catched a very interesting information. The Art Loss Register (ALR). It is a database about half million art objects that are stolen, missing and looted, as well as those subject to title disputes, freezing orders and financial liens, and within permanent collections. The database also includes details of works that have been reported with authenticity issues by police and foremost experts (resource: ALR brochure). This organization (or company) was founded in 1990 in England. Their service basically are three things: Register, Search and Recover.

Will Korner, the one who represented ALR in TEFAF 2019, told me that ALR is the only one in the world of such kind organizations. I couldn't help myself to say "Wow..." when I heard this, considering of time span and number of art works that have been stolen or looted. 

For Indonesia, this issue is very up-to-date and actual. In TEFAF 2019 I saw some antique objects that I wondered how they ended up there. I open options that they were legally acquired but knowing regulations about protection of national heritage, those objects must be related to the past.

In recent years there were some accidents happened in Indonesia that museum collections were stolen or dissapeared. If they are not solved yet, ALR can be of good option for solutions. The good news is that ALR offers its service for free for governments and public sector. Here we go! Please check the website link above to see more details of this organization. 


Friday, March 08, 2019

STUDIO SHARED HERITAGE

Yesterday I attended a seminar of Studio Shared Heritage, a cooperation between ITB (Bandung Institute of Technology)  and TU Delft. It is a three years program to provide opportunities for students to exercise about shared heritage projects in both Indonesia and Netherlands.

They have just finished the first batch with a case study of the Art Deco City of Bandung in Indonesia. Yesterday, the students presented the ideas covering various subjects from adaptive reuse to climate issues. I think their ideas are amusing since these young scholars are not burden with realistic problems of bureaucracy and typical challenges for heritage projects in Indonesia. 

Some of them have brilliant ideas to transform densed kampung behind Braga Street into vertical kampung with bamboo materials. Other student will transform colonial buildings into housing of the kampung people to solve density problems.

The student didn't understand why the kampung is so densed while many colonial buildings few hundred meters away are still vacant? That is typical Dutch approach which is logic. But in Indonesia? It is still unthinkable to transform historical grand buildings into kampung style housing. Any Indonesian experts will understand that is impossible for the time being, but I supported the idea of the student because it helps to shift a paradigm of heritage practice in Indonesia. 

The current heritage paradigm is to freeze history and make historical buildings as sacred sactuaries. The appropriate heritage paradigm (at least appropriate according to form and function) is to conserve dynamic historical values and make use of historical buildings for current needs. 

These students will have various jobs and positions in the next 10 years, they will remember what they exercise today. That is why it is important to give them freedom to exercise their heritage ideals. That is a school for. 

Once they enter the real world, they will lost that luxury and have to swallow painful facts. They will need knowledge and experience of today as students to stay strong and pursue  of their ideals. 




Friday, March 01, 2019

RURAL HERITAGE

The theme of Heritage Day 18 April this year is Rural Heritage. I couldn't agree more with this theme since I have seen myself how heritage can play an important role in rural economic social cultural development in Temanggung. Spedagi with its Pasar Papringan in Temanggung so far is the best practice that has been surviving indepedently without subsidies. Outsiders are simply taking roles as triggers but the main actors are local people. I think it is one of the few cases in Indonesia and in the world in general. 

Close to home is a suburb area along the Gein River where I often bike or walk. The farm Anna Haen is transformed into restaurant and accommodation facilities because the farm doesn't provide adequate income anymore. It also offers cooking workshops, boat trips and promotes local farm products.

I observed from the beginning several years ago when the restaurant only opened at weekends for breakfast and lunch. Now, they are open every single day until 20.00. When the sun shines, it packed up with bikers and families. 

Food in Anna Haen is guaranted local, healthy and delicious. That might be the reason why it becomes so popular. Organic, vegetarian and local are new ideology in Holland, especially for high educated middle upper class type. 

With a setting of the Gein River and cows on the meadow, the farm Anna Haen is the best postcard ever for everyone. I am one of them. I am happy to see this entrepreneur grows and succesfull, especially after I read a story about them in a national newspaper how difficult for them to survive as a farmer. This might be a fact of 21st Century that farms must switch into creative entrepreneurships. 

Spedagi and Anna Haen are vivid examples of rural heritage without use a single word of heritage in their businesses. That might not needed since action is more valuable than a term. 





Monday, February 18, 2019

WHY OH WHY...

Water expertises of the Dutch fascinates me. It has been and it always. Netherlands is a country below the sea and all children MUST learn to swim. Taking care of dikes and dams are priority number one in this country, otherwise all population sinks into the sea. This obligation forms certain mentality that are positives: discipline and strive for the best solution. You tell the Dutch your problem with water and watery areas, they always have answers.

That was my impression yesterday when I attended a symposium about water management during the Dutch Indies colonial period and post Independence Indonesia in Bronbeek. On a sunny Sunday morning and afternoon. It was worth listening. 

As the Indonesian Ambassador, H.E. I Gusti A. Wesaka Puja, yesterday said that Indonesia has had its local wisdom about water management, such as Subak irigation system in Bali, far before the Europeans came to colonialize the country. It is true and Indonesians should be proud and conserve it. And Indonesia does its best to improve its water management on all levels as the Ambassador tried to convince the audience. These all are positive development. 

But what about mismanagement of canals, rivers and dams so they all full of waste and lose their functions as water traffic and water resource? What about sinking cities in Java about 12 centimeter per year? What about deforestation of mangrove in North of Java? It used to be the largest mangrove habitat in the world and provide  so much benefits for Indonesia but now almost dissapears and in such a poor condition. All these problems are man-made creations that actually could be avoided from the first place. So sad and so worrying.




Saturday, February 09, 2019

PLACE MAKING: CUTE VILLAGES

When I am in Netherlands, I like to explore villages or better to say, suburban areas. Mostly close to home around Amsterdam but often are also far away in other provinces. 

Last weekend, I explored Monnickendam and Broek in Waterland in North Holland.

The reason that brought me there was a presentation from Tim Voors about his walking adventure in the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. This Literature Cafe took place in a church called Sint-Nicolaas in Broek in Waterland. 

First, the Broek in Waterland. Such a cute little village with expensive cars parked a long the roads. This is a village for the have's, absolutely. It is not a village like my friends in Indonesia think about. Some houses have solar energy panels on the roofs. It is not something for farmers in Kandangan, Central Java, with buffalo's and dark dirty nails.

I love both types and enjoyed Broek in Waterland as much as I enjoyed Kandangan. No sin to be rich as long as you earn it honestly. What I found admiring is that even in a small village like Broek in Waterland there is a restaurant slash cafe on Sunday afternoon with live music. That was besides that attractive presentation of Tim Voors next door. Living in a small village with style!

I think that what people should do in villages in Indonesia and everywhere in the world. Creating interesting programs to enjoy and making villages as up-to-date as cities. There are enough interesting people in villages to share stories and skills. Farmers can tell a lot. Youth can play a lot. Look at Broek in Waterland. The speaker, the music palyers, all come from the village. Being creative and proud of themselves. I heard too much complain that villages (in Indonesia) do not get attention from the government, do not have enough resources and brain drain is on the way. We probably have to contemplate more often before we complain.

Second, the church of Sint-Nicolaas. This church is still used for mass on Sunday morning and the rest is used for social cultural program like the Literature Cafe. All is organized by local volunteers. They are professional (on time, accurate info on website and newspaper) and wholeheartedly did their taks. They sold drinks and delicious homemade lemon cake to collect money for maintenance of the church.  

Lastly, the village of Monnickendam. I visited Museum of Waterland telling history of the village completed with historical carillon and its amazing water management skills. I was the only visitor of the museum on that afternoon, so apparently this kind of situation happens too in Netherlands. Not all museums are busy. 

I noticed some announcements about Historical Walks and a jazz performance in Monnickendam. Being in a village doesn't stop creativity and involvement of the residents. Living in a village doesn't mean a boring weekend. 

What I am trying to say is: stop complaining about village being a stranded place for backward lifestyle. We can make it as a cute, original and creative place. Placemaking!

Broek in Waterland




Museum of Waterland in Monnickendam







Sunday, February 03, 2019

SPIRITUAL DIVERSITY

Lately I visited two places that show spiritual diversity. Fascination for spiritualism brought me to these places.

First, I stayed over a weekend in the Gedong Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa, Bali. This place was established by the late Ibu Gedong whom I met in my 20's in one of conferences I attended. Ibu Gedong is a spiritualist based on Hindu teachings especially Gandhi philosophy. The ashram is now run by her family and local community. 

I went to the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India, some time in the early 2000 but only as a passerby. I didn't stay. This time I allocated time at least 3 days to absorb more atmosphere of an ashram. 

The Gedong Gandhi Ashram lies beautifully between the famous Candidasa Temple and beaches. Everyday, there are two yoga sessions, chanting in Sanskrit language at 5 am and 8 pm, meditation and three times vegetarian meals. For me as a guest, all programs are optional. 

Just being in this peaceful and well maintained ashram gave me positive energy. Vegetarian meals were delicious and specially prepared by experienced local cook. I loved one dish made from a pink flower that I couldn't remember the name. The smell and taste of this dish stay until now in my mind. 

Listening to the chanting during the dark of early morning and evening was calming. I didn't join the chanting sessions but I did listening from my veranda. 

I took a walk to the surrounding areas, beaches, hills and kampongs. 

The beauty of this ashram is that the Gandhi teachings are in subtle ways conveyed and practiced. This ashram is not demanding all guests to be Hinduists or followers of Gandhi teachings. Respect is enough.





Second, last January I joined an open day of the Ortodox Jewish Synagoge in Amsterdam called De Raw Aron Schuster Synagoge (RAS). I never been to a synagoge before, at least not an active one. Mostly I went to a synagoge that has been transformed into new functions. 

During the open day, some speakers delivered presentations. They talked about the architecture but also history of Jewish in Amsterdam and socio cultural customs of Jewish community played comically by a female artist. I learned a lot about Jewish and Jews during this half day open day.