Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage – Country Report: Indonesia

Emiline Smith,

Rucitarahma Ristiawan,

Tular Sudarmadi


This article provides a broad overview of Indonesia’s current post-independence legislation and practice with respect to cultural heritage protection and repatriation. We highlight several challenges that hamper the effective implementation and enforcement of this framework, particularly in relation to repatriation processes of foreign-held cultural objects. We furthermore explore how the State-centric discourse that surrounds Indonesia’s cultural heritage protection and repatriation policies impede locally-led activism related to cultural heritage, particularly in relation to value production and sense of ownership. Overall, we highlight the importance of co-creation in knowledge production processes and crime-prevention methods concerning cultural heritage to maximize effectiveness. Agency, access, and ownership were violently removed through the colonial looting of Indonesian cultural heritage, so the first step towards restorative justice should be reinstating this to the communities of origin, or to the Indonesian government when the rightful origin community cannot be identified. This concerns not only the cultural objects themselves, but also their digital and physical lives, i.e. the knowledge and expertise created based on these objects.

Słowa kluczowe: Indonesia, cultural heritage, antiquities, repatriation, heritage protection

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