Indonesian antiquities on sale

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Despite claims by antique dealers that their goods are ratusan (hundreds) years old, Indonesia’s 2010 law states no item more than 50 years old can leave the nation’s borders.

indo antiquesAccording to I Gusti Bagus Armanusa of the office for archeological heritage conservation across Bali and East and West Nusa Tenggara (NTT and NTB), the updated law came into effect last year, however copies of the new law were not available at his office.

“Any object 50 years old or older cannot be taken out of Indonesia without a permit from the minister of culture and tourism,” said Armanusa.

He stressed that to protect Indonesia’s antiquities was a job that demanded close relations between many government departments, particularly those within the customs office.

“We have a very close working relationship with customs here in Bali. If they are suspicious of an item they call and we go and check the object. Customs uncover around one or two objects in visitors’ luggage each year,” said Armanusa adding the new law on antiquities calls for a fine and jail time for offenders.

The loss of the nation’s cultural heritage through theft, such as a recent case in Bali where sacred Hindu relics were stolen and sold to an Italian national, now in prison, creates holes in the nation’s history. When an artifact disappears there is a potential gap in understanding history’s progress.

“When cultural artifacts are lost to Indonesia we are firstly angry, then we look at what has been cut out of our historical record. Into the future our young people need to know where we have come from,” says Armanusa of Indonesia’s more than 2,000-year long civilization.

Officers from his department make annual calls on all antique dealers to check their stock is licensed to sell, however Armanusa admits dating items is not always easy.

“We can date ceramics and objects from Java, Bali the NTT and NTB, but if a wooden object is from say Kalimantan or Sumatra, we don’t have the equipment to dates these items and we are not fully familiar with the styles of those regions,” says Armanusa of the difficulty his office faces in protecting the national heritage from criminals.


Author: Trisha Sertori | Source:The Jakarta Post [February 11, 2011]