Vatican shows Indonesia’s rich cultures, diverse religions and artifacts

(Jakarta Post) The largest window on the rich, diverse cultures, religions and artifacts of Indonesia, a country with the world’s largest number of Muslims, is located in the Vatican Ethnological Museum in Vatican City, virtually the global capital of Catholics.

The Indonesian collection of the Vatican Ethnological Museum consists of more than one thousand objects representing the people, cultures and religions of the vast archipelago. Many of the artifacts were brought by Catholic missionaries from Indonesia and gifts or souvenirs from Indonesian Catholics to the Pope.

As part of the Vatican Museums, perhaps the most visited historical sites in the world with more than 6 million visitors a year or more than 18,000 a day, the Ethnological Museum is home to over 8,000 rarely seen artistic cultural achievements from around the world.

The collection, which began in 1692, illuminates diverse religious beliefs and practices through works of art and includes gifts presented to the Pope from heads of state and spiritual leaders.

“Just assume a mere 10 percent of the about 18,000 tourists to the Vatican Museums daily visit the Ethnological Museum, and say just five percent of them visit the Indonesian collections. That already means almost one thousand visitors every day all the year long,” notes Budiaman Bahar, the Indonesian ambassador to the Holy See (Vatican).

Occupying 400 square meters of exhibition grounds, perhaps the largest ever space ever granted to a single country at the Vatican Ethnological Museum, the selection of artifacts presented in the Indonesian pavilion allows visitors to appreciate and learn about the rich artistic heritage of Indonesia through ancient and contemporary objects.

“This is really quite a big showcase and effective medium of communications to the whole world as regards the vast diversity of our cultures, religions and artifacts. And we don’t pay any rentals for these exhibition grounds,” Bahar told The Jakarta Post during a recent visit to the Vatican Ethnological Museum.

It was indeed to the diplomacy of Bahar, who in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, succeeded in convincing the Holy See of the strategic importance for granting Indonesia such a vast exhibition grounds, even though only for one year, starting last November.

“We are now preparing special grounds for permanent ethnological exhibitions from the whole of Asia, but Indonesia will still get a lion’s part the space,” Prof. Nicola Mapelli, the curator of the Ethnological Museum, told The Jakarta Post. [More]


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