15 June 2017

India: Buried underground

Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands collaborates with local partners to safeguard old Dutch East India Company cemetery.

Tomb of Antonia van Steelant and Obelisk van Adriana Mossel-Appels.

From 17 to 19 May, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and local partners met in a workshop to work on a restoration and management plan for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) cemetery in Nagapattinam, India. Starting in 1690, the old Indian port city of Nagapattinam, then called Nagapatnam, was the seat of the VOC governor of the Coromandel Coast on the south-eastern shore of India. The old VOC burial ground in the city is a relic of this era, even though the Dutch were dislodged from Nagapattinam in 1781 by the English. The cemetery is presently in a rundown condition and has not been registered as a protected monument. Local partners are aware of the value of this heritage and recently some schools from the area have cleaned up the graves.

Despite this enthusiasm, there are not enough resources for regular maintenance. In the context of the Shared Cultural Heritage Programme, Dutch experts Leon Bok and Rene ten Dam, both from Stichting Dodenakkers, and Nanette de Jong from the RCE travelled to Nagapattinam. During a workshop there, they identified the core values of the cemetery in cooperation with the INTACH and developed a management and restoration plan.

Besides the workshop, they also visited various other old VOC cemeteries on the south coast of India.