The ‘kris’ of Prince Diponegoro returned to Indonesia

During the State Visit at the Bogor Presidential Palace, in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and President Widodo, the dagger of Prince Diponegoro was shown to the guests and the media.

Image: ©Dutch Embassy Jakarta

Research in the collection at the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden has identified an extraordinary Javanese dagger. Indonesian specialists have also confirmed that the dagger, a kris, belonged to the important Indonesian resistance hero Prince Diponegoro (1785 – 1855). As the leader of the rebellion against Dutch colonial rule, he was taken prisoner during the Java War in 1830. His kris was long considered lost, but has now been found.

In the Netherlands the valuable museum exhibit has since been handed over at the beginning of March to the Indonesian ambassador. “I’m delighted that careful research, endorsed by both Dutch and Indonesian experts, has confirmed that this is the long sought-after kris,” said Minister Van Engelshoven (Education, Culture and Science). “It will now be returned to the country where it belongs: Indonesia.’’

The kris was given to King Willem I by Colonel Cleerens in 1831 and then kept in the Royal Cabinet of Rarities (Koninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamheden). When that institution was dissolved in 1883, its collection was distributed across museums in the Netherlands. A lot of information about the objects was lost at that time, including which of the kris transferred to the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden had belonged to Prince Diponegoro. However, thanks to recent research by that museum, in which Indonesian experts were also involved, the kris has now been identified.

Prince Diponegoro is a national hero in Indonesia, giving any heritage related to him a unique value. In 1975, a committee of Dutch and Indonesian experts agreed to the transfer to Indonesia of cultural goods relating to historically significant figures. As a result, various objects belonging to Prince Diponegoro were returned in the late 1970s, including a spear and a saddle. The kris in question was already lost at that time and could therefore not be returned. Based on the agreements made in 1975, Minister Van Engelshoven has now decided to return the Kris – currently part of the Dutch State Collection – to the Republic of Indonesia.

In view of the agreements from 1975, this has been treated as a special case, separate from policy-making relating to the colonial collections and the Council of Culture’s Advisory committee for a National Framework for Colonial Collections (commissie Nationaal kader koloniale collecties). The committee’s advice will be published in October.

The kris of Prince Diponegoro is now part of the collection of the Museum Nasional Indonesia in Jakarta and will be exhibit there soon.