Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preservation of Dutch buildings urgently needed

by Charles Roring

Two or three days ago I walked around my neighborhood. I was accompanied by a four year old and beautiful niece, Grace. I brought with me a small but very good digital camera. It was a Sony Cyber-shot 6.0 mega pixels. I took some interesting pictures as I was slowly walking with Grace.

One of them was a Dutch house built on top of a hill. An old Papuan named, Jan Manusawai, told me that the house has been around since before the World War II. It had been used as hospital before becoming the residence for Catholic priests. Now it belongs to the Catholic church of the diocese of Manokwari – Sorong. There are many beautiful buildings, houses, and shops that were built by the Dutch in this town. Unfortunately, they are being demolished one by one by the new ones. It seems that today’s rapid growth of population or development does not pay particular attention to the preservation of old buildings. Dutch houses are seen as old fashioned constructions that have to be replaced by bigger multi-story buildings. People might think that they are “more suitable” for a modern city.

Such perspective is misleading in terms of historical preservation. The development of a city or town has to be in line with its own historical background and nature. Current civilization is built upon the previous civilization. It means that there has to be a continuation between the past and the present civilizations. European cities like Praque, London, and Madrid are good examples for this matter. Old buildings exist side by side with new ones. We should not destroy all the old ones that are still good. But it doesn’t mean that we always live in the past.

The Nusantara archipelago, which is now called Indonesia, used to be a Dutch colony. Western civilization grew in these beautiful islands. Although the Dutch had returned to Europe, they left behind many beautiful buildings which we should preserve as part of our history. Many of them can still be used as offices, houses and even as hospitals. Therefore, there are no excuses that we can use to demolish them.

Japan, one of the most modern state in Asia, knows well how to preserve old buildings for future generation. There is a park in Nagasaki. Its name is Huis ten Bosch park which is also known as Holland village. Tourists like to visit it as they considered it as a unique cultural heritage. The existence of this park strengthens the relation between Japan and the Netherlands.

We can learn from Japanese experience who knows how to maintain past heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. By preserving Dutch buildings in Indonesia, we can maintain and increase the relation between the two countries in such aspects as economy, trade, culture and education and etc.

I hope that one day, people will appreciate old Dutch buildings, restore and preserve them as part of their history for the sake of present and future generation.