Friday, April 09, 2021


 Now Indonesia is one of the largest importers of sugar in the world. It used to be the other way around. During the economic depression in the 1930s, Indonesia was the second-largest exporter of sugar, after Cuba, produced by 179 sugar factories.

Sugar crop has been founded in Java around Batavia since the 12th Century but the sugar industry potential of East Java (Oosthoek in Dutch, including Pasuruan and Probolinggo) was firstly noticed by Deandels at the early 19th Century.  This idea was continued and realized by the British colonial government led by Charles Etty Esq., a captain of the British sugar industry who has also initiated the sugar industry in Calcutta, India.

The story of the Eastern tip was one of the episodes of the successful sugar industry. Other areas around Java, especially Central Java, has significant history episodes as well. 

Nevertheless, it is worth remembering to remind the younger generation of Indonesia that it used to be possible to fulfill domestic sugar needs without exporting from other countries.

The last statistic shows that now Indonesia runs 62 sugar factories, 50 factories are state-owned (33 factories are more than 100 years) and 12 are private companies.

I visited Pasuruan and Probolinggo in spring 2019 to learn about the sugar history of Indonesia and to investigate a possibility to create a sugar heritage trail with the locals. These two cities with several other cities in the Eastern tip of Java until the Bali Strait used to be a sugar industry center. Pasuruan had a special position as a sugar town or the holy city of sugar.

Pasuruan was a location for a research institute of sugar (Proefstation Oost Java) that became the pioneer of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists (ISSCT). Now it becomes the Indonesian Sugar Research Institute.

Other thing that brought me to Pasuruan is the roman of Louis Couperus, de Stille Kracht (Kekuatan Misterius in Bahasa or the Hidden Force in English). This story of life and work of a Dutch resident was at the beginning written in Pasuruan in 1899. You can see the picture of the house in Pasuruan through this link. Later, this roman was translated into many languages, was and is still produced in many forms for theater, television, and film.

My adventure and discovery travel to Pasuruan and Probolinggo was accompanied and only possible with the company of my younger colleague, Priyo A. Sancoyo, an architect and community development specialist. He and his parents have generously hosted my visit and we had a great time sharing stories from two parts of the world.

The most impressive discovery in Pasuruan was Hotel Syariah Daroessalam, a renovated colonial building. Most of the footprints of the sugar industry are decaying but this hotel shines, alone.

Back to the core business: I have researched, exhibited, drafted, and contacted all necessary parties to raise awareness about the sugar history at the Eastern tip of Java. The dream is to create a sugar heritage trail from Pasuruan, Probolinggo (Banger), Situbondo (Panarukan), Besuki (Bondowoso, Jember), Lumajang until Banyuwangi (Blambangan). I have approached the locals about this. They should be the engine behind the trail. It might take time to enjoy the sweetness of sugar history but it will come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Reviving the Deli Planters!


Industrial Heritage of Indonesia Series #1

Reviving the Deli Planters!

Indonesian Plantation Museum (Museum Perkebunan Indonesia-Musperin)

An exemplary public-private partnership in heritage conservation of Indonesia. Two plantation museums in 5 years period is a relatively huge achievement for the industrial heritage of Indonesia. This is only possible with the ideal combination of financial support of the plantation state company, in this case, PTPN II, museum professional executive the board led by Sri Hartini, and active involvement of community organizations like Sumatra Heritage Trust.

Soedjai Kartasasmita, the leading figure of plantation industry of Indonesia has taken an initiative to establish a museum to convey history of plantation of the country to the young generation. He was and is still supported by the energetic museum director, Sri Hartini, to fulfill the dream.

The museum was formally opened on 10 December 2016 at a complex of historical buildings in Medan, North Sumatra (built-in 1917). The buildings belong to the AVROS, the Dutch abbreviation for the Association of Rubber Planters in the East Coast of Sumatra. This Association was established by plantation investors such as Horisson and Crosfield and Goodyear Rubber Company. In the end, this was not only an association for the rubber planters, but also oil palm, tobacco, and other commodities planters.

In front of the building, the visitors will see the locomotive of Ducro & Brauns made in the Netherlands that was in operation until 1996, a lorry to transport oil palm made in Germany that was in operation until 2015, and an airplane to spray pesticide made in America that was in operation until 2007.

In 2021, Musperin is busy preparing the second museum at Badan Kerja Sama Perusahaan Perkebunan Sumatera (BKS-PPS) Building, also in Medan. This institution is the continuation of AVROS. Now, this association consists of 162 plantation companies in Sumatra from all sorts of backgrounds (domestic, international, government, private sector).

The BKS-PPS Building has a strategic location at the corner of the business and historical district Kesawan. The green dome with its clock at the highest point is in the renovation process so the general public would be able to climb to this point and the floor will function as a working space as well. Those who will enjoy the busy city center could sit at a café at the same level as the museum display.

A special element from this second museum, on the third floor there is a room that used to be called the Dactyloscopy Bureau (dactyloscopy is a method of using fingerprints for identification). Here hundred thousand fingerprints of plantation workers from Java and China are well kept.  These fingerprints are witnesses of the heyday of the plantation industry not only on the East Coast of Sumatra but also in the Dutch Indies and Indonesia. It is worth consideration to registering these important fingerprints in the list of Memory of the World. For that purpose, Musperin has a digitalization program to record all the fingerprints.

Historical Snapshots Plantation Industry in Indonesia

Coffee came to the Dutch Indies in 1646 and in 1712 the first export to Amsterdam. In 1900 the new coffee variety Robusta from Congo was introduced and now the most common commodity from Indonesia.

Oil Palm was in the early 19th century only planted along with street shadow plants. In 1902 an oil palm processing machine was discovered in East Sumatra. In 1911 an oil palm plantation was opened by the French-Belgium company SOCFIN (Société Financiére des Caoutchoucs). In 1918 England opened an oil palm plantation in Malaya with Deli Dura seeds from Buitenzorg (the current Bogor).

Tea was produced in Malabar and Tanara, West Java, by Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha, in 1686. The first tea factory outside Java was in Simangulun, North Sumatra, opened in 1910. Now the famous tea from Sumatra is Kayu Aro Tea from Jambi.

Cacao was already planted in Indonesia since 1560 but widely exploited in Central Java around 1880.

Tobacco was exploited in Sumatra by Jacobus Nienhuys and in 1869 Deli Maatschappij (Deli Enterprise) was established following the economic booming of tobacco exports from the East Coast of Sumatra. After the Independence, Soekarno represented Indonesia and Conrad Adenhaver represented Germany, opened the tobacco auction center in Bremen, Germany, called Tabak Bõrse. Deli Sumatra Tobacco was famous in the world due to this place.

Other types of tobacco were from Jember, East Java, called Besuki Na Oogst (BNO), and from Klaten. Both are called Javanese Tobacco, and from Deli called Sumatran Tobacco.

(Resource: BKS-PPS and Musperin, pictures: Hasti Tarekat, Harditaher Musperin)

Monday, March 22, 2021


Pan Sumatra Network for Heritage Conservation (Pansumnet) presents: 

FACES OF SUMATRA: 500 Postcards 1900-1945’ by Scott Merrillees

There is a saying that a picture speaks a thousand words and a postcard sends a thousand messages. Scott Merrillees, author of a published book ‘FACES OF SUMATRA: 500 Postcards 1900-1945’ in 2019. The book highlights the diversity of the people of Indonesia before independence was declared on 17 August 1945. There are 500 postcards presented in six chapters—Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Lombok, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Eastern Indonesia. 

This time Scott will talk about the 96 postcards in Chapter One: SUMATRA.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021
15:00 - 17:00 Jakarta Time
19:00 - 21:00 Melbourne Time
(Zoom cloud meeting & Facebook Live Streaming)

Tuesday, March 09, 2021


Several years ago I was at NAi (the old name of the New Institute, Rotterdam) for a meeting. When I  was walking to the exit door passing by the library, all of sudden, I saw a picture of a palm tree on a desk library. My tropical DNA instinctively rang and I shouted, "Palm tree!" The man who was using the reference book looked up and smiled. 

That man was Obbe Norbruis who becomes a good friend of mine. When he was in the library, he tried to collect information about the architecture bureau Hulswit-Fermont-Cuypers in the Dutch Indies. He wrote two books about the subject in Dutch and now they are also available in English. 

The launching of the English version is tomorrow, 8 March 2021. 

I am lucky to bump into a friend like Obbe. He is diligent and perseverant in following his passions to write something that he thinks will be useful for the shared heritage of Indonesia and the Netherlands. 

Besides a good writer, he is also a good speaker. I listened to his presentations and every time I never got bored to learn new things. 

Good luck Obbe, thanks for your friendship and keep sharing. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021


What we are lucky to live in an era when new ways of communication are discovered continuously. The latest discovery is Clubhouse, a platform to exchange thoughts or simply to chat. Personal or professional. The four ladies from Indonesia Diaspora Netherlands, Task Force Liveable Cities keep up with this new trend. On Thursday, 4 March, we are going to talk to the audience in Indonesia about public space, housing, heritage, and landscape, in an informal way.

If this medium is useful to spread positivism, I am in.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Diskusi Bulanan Pansumnet
Narasumber: Ir. Ari Siswanto.,MCRP., PhD- Prodi Arsitektur Fakultas Teknik - UNSRI
Moderator: Dr. Ing. Listen Prima, ST., M.Planning - Dosen Prodi Arsitektur Fakultas Teknik - UNSRI

Rabu, 24 Pebruari 2021
Jam 19:00 - 21:00  WIB
Media: Zoom Cloud Meeting dan Facebook Live Streaming
*sertifikat tersedia sesuai permintaan
085262036767 (WA Only)

Palembang selalu identik dengan Kerajaan Sriwijaya, Sungai Musi dan Rumah Limas.
Karena letaknya yang strategis di tepian Sungai Musi, Palembang menjadi pusat pemerintahan sejak masa Sriwijaya dan  pusat berkembangnya budaya sungai seperti pertumbuhan permukiman dengan beragam jenis arsitektur rumah tradisional.
Ada dua jenis rumah tradisional di Palembang yaitu Rumah Panggung dan Rumah Rakit.
Rumah Panggung diantaranya: Rumah Limas, Rumah Gudang, dan Rumah Panggung (Limas) Cina.
Rumah Limas tidak hanya ada di Palembang, tapi juga ada di bagian lain Sumatera bagian Selatan bahkan dikenal juga istilah Limasan di Jawa Tengah.
Namun, mengapa Rumah Limas sangat identik dengan Palembang?
Mengapa Rumah Limas?
Apa filosofi Rumah Limas dan
Apa kisah/cerita dibalik Rumah Limas?

Monday, February 15, 2021


February is a special month for me. I have migrated to the Netherlands in 2005 arrived at the Schiphol Airport on 11 February. Seven years later, in 2012, I became a Dutch citizen and took an oath at the Amsterdam City Hall on 23 February. 

I took those two events as crucial events of my life, together with several others.

Migration and new nationality, how does it feel?

Personally, I felt all processes were naturally happening as if they should have happened as a continuation of my life stories. I have met a Dutch partner, I brought my daughter to migrate to the Netherlands, and after several years I felt the necessity to have clarity for my daughter and myself about our nationalities. Both of us have Indonesian blood, nothing can and will change that, but nationality is a choice and we have chosen to be Dutch citizens. 

The Netherlands is a good country to live in, factually. The facts are: 

relatively well-managed basic needs infrastructure (health, education, social welfare, information, election, transportation, etc);

relatively a small country with a small number population in the center of Europe. If I need to experience a new atmosphere, just travel to neighboring countries more or less is comparable with traveling between islands or provinces of Indonesia; 

and many more details and practical reasons for me to stay where I stay now. I am not getting younger and I need to settle. In the Netherlands, I could afford to have beautiful fresh flowers, delicious cheese, and chocolate, the Champion League footballs at the normal schedule (in Indonesia I had to stay awake middle of the night), biking everywhere and anytime, and those little things in daily life which I appreciate.

On more abstract surfaces, choosing a place to live on this earth and feel right about it in my experience is like choosing a partner for life. Nobody is perfect but somehow you feel right when you are with this person. The Netherlands is not a perfect country but I feel right every time I arrive at the Schiphol Airport from traveling. There is a sense of relief that I arrive in a safe and comfortable place. 

And I feel humbled and honored to have the privilege to professionally connect to the country of my DNA. I feel and understand almost everything naturally of Indonesia which for non-Indonesian DNA'ers might be confusing. Too many to tell but you understand what I mean. Great things happen in Indonesia, especially initiated by the younger and newer generation than my generation, and that keeps me going all these years despite my disappointments about several elements. 

In heritage and development fields, I have the privilege to learn from the Western world and to select which ones suit the needs of Indonesia. And I take a look at what elements from Indonesia can be good as lessons learned for the Western world. Many of them, and the longer I live in the Western world, the more I appreciate the positive and unique values and practices of Indonesia. 

So it both sides that enrich my life (plus the sides from other parts of the world, too). 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Capacity development is an effort that lasts for my whole period of interest in cultural heritage. It means in the mid1990s. It means more than 25 years and I am still doing it. I am still doing it independently because I started it in Indonesia and in Indonesia, nobody employs you if you work in the cultural heritage sector. 

In 2005 I moved to the Netherlands and I am still doing what I did in Indonesia: capacity development in the cultural heritage sector. I am still doing it independently because of the nature of my works that focuses more on the needs and characters of the cultural heritage sector of Indonesia. 

Fifteen years forward, I am content with my capacity development efforts. They can be seen on my website. They are limited and humble, but I did them all with my best intentions. Just to share a daily experience, yesterday, 25 January 2021, I had an online meeting for the Historic Urban Landscape cooperation. I saw the logo of my own affiliation (Heritage hands-on) was among other affiliations from both countries. It gave me a fine feeling. The logo didn't appear there for no reason.  

If I can say something to my younger colleagues, try to find your place as an independent person in this big world, full of competitions and jealousies. The world needs labels en entities for anyone to exist. I don't emphasize labels and entities so much, but I have learned that I couldn't present myself to the world simply just by my name and my performances. First, your affiliation, then yourself. If I could choose, first, your performance, then why you do what you do. So when you stand up on behalf of yourself, it will take a lot: persistence, performance, and perseverance. And, time! Of course, quite a number of people in the world have chosen to be themselves with their own affiliations. Those who believe more in the essences than packaging. They are my inspirations. 

Entering 2021, I will continue my passion for capacity development in the cultural heritage sector. There is a lot to be done, a lot to be learned.