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Netherlands’s Rijksmuseum to start talks about stolen art with SL

12 March 2019 03:02 pm - 5     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam is starting talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia about some 1,000 pieces in its collection that may have been stolen and become part of the Dutch ‘colonial heritage’, the Netherland Trouw reported. 

The move comes after last week’s decision by the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures (NMWC) to publish guidelines for countries to claim stolen art or art that is of great cultural significance to a country. 

‘It’s a disgrace that the Netherlands is only now turning its attention to the return of the colonial heritage’, Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbets told Trouw. ‘We should have done it earlier and there is no excuse.’ Talks in Sri Lanka will begin in two weeks’ time and will centre on the return of some ten objects. 

They include a ruby-encrusted canon which was taken as booty following a military campaign in 1765 and the Banjarmasin diamond which was the property of Sultan Panembahan Adam of Banjarmasin (South Borneo) which was colonised by the Dutch in 1856. 

The Rijksmuseum has around 4,000 colonial objects, not all of which, Dibbits says, were stolen. All objects are owned by the state so museums cannot take the decision to return an object on their own. 

The NMWC guidelines have come in for criticism because they don’t include much about the steps museums themselves could take before claims come in. ‘Before there is any negotiating to be done, the Netherlands already sets out its conditions. It’s a typically Dutch approach. 

How is that going to lead to a satisfactory joint decision? Trouw quotes historian and stolen colonial art expert Jos van Beurden as saying.

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  Comments - 5

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  • Carl Tuesday, 12 March 2019 03:07 PM

    Here we have politicians who steal from meuseum too, recently swords were stolen, think twice before handing over

    deprived citizen Tuesday, 12 March 2019 03:13 PM

    Please dont return it.. it is safe and will survive where it is now... return it to us and it will magically disappear. citizens are robbed every day here let the artefacts be a reminder of what we could have been blessed as a colony.

    Roshanaly Tuesday, 12 March 2019 03:33 PM

    Good they did not return these during MR time otherwise it would have gone missing like at the Museum.

    SL Tuesday, 12 March 2019 04:07 PM

    Colonial robbers!

    Museum Visitor Tuesday, 12 March 2019 06:21 PM

    I have been to the Museum. The number of artifacts from Sri Lanka is not 10, but over 30-40 items. The brief descriptions attached to each of those items and displayed at the museum, are testimony to this. Some are amazing; a full tusk of an elephant is carefully carved with traditional Sri Lankan carvings. However, I have a different opinion of what we shall do with our request to return the artifacts: these artifacts have been preserved so far, because they were kept at the safe custody of Netherlands Museum authorities. If we had brought those here, either most of those items got disappeared by now, or destroyed due to negligence. Hence, my suggestion is to discuss and agree on transferring the ownership of the items to Sri Lanka, but to continue to keep those items at the Rijks Museum, Netherlands. This will at least ensure that these artifacts could be seen by the future generations as well.


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