October 31, 2018

Indonesia: Post-colonial perspectives on botanical heritage

Exhibition Herman de Vries - 'Basic values' at Framer Framed (2016), with materials from the Bogor Botanic Gardens. (c) Michiel Landeweerd.

In 2018 and 2019, the Westfries Museum and Framer Framed are presenting separate exhibitions and a joint public programme on the heritage of botanical gardens from a post-colonial perspective.

Colonial history through botany
The theme of botanical gardens includes not only purely botanical subject matter, but also historical and aesthetic aspects. The botanical history shared by the Netherlands and Indonesia cannot be separated from their colonial relationship: plants were put to the service of colonial power in Indonesia, and the Netherlands’ pursuit of a botanical monopoly often led to violent conflict. Each from their own perspective, Framer Framed – a platform for arts and culture in Amsterdam – and the Westfries Museum – a historical museum in Hoorn – will address these many layers of Dutch-Indonesian botanical history.

Joint public programme
The project entails two separate exhibitions and a joint public programme. Through the photography of Dennis A-Tjak, the Westfries Museum’s exhibition (20 October 2018 – 20 January 2019) explores the fascination the Dutch had with the local flora of the Dutch East Indies, which was sparked when they visited the region in service of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries. The exhibition at Framer Framed (opening in 2019) will focus more closely on the colonial and economic aspects and effects of this botanical heritage. Botanical collections were firmly rooted in monetary worth, as Indonesia was valued by the Netherlands for its rich natural resources. And the Bogor Botanic Gardens, for example, saw the introduction of the oil palm tree, which later spread throughout Indonesia. The exhibitions will be accompanied by debates and discussions. The possibility of organising a complementary programme in Indonesia is currently being explored.

This project is supported by DutchCulture’s Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund.