Mayor of Depok signs heritage decree for Cimanggis Manor. Who will move to preserve the building from further deterioration?

(photo: IO/Fino Suhanta)

IO – The Mayor of Depok Mohammad Idris Abdul Shomad finally signed the long awaited decree declaring Cimanggis Manor House a regional heritage building, thereby providing legal protection for the building. He said that responsibility for restoring and maintaining a heritage building is with the owner of the building which in this case is the Ministry of Religious Affairs. After the nationalization of Dutch assets in the 1950s the government gave the building to Radio Republik Indonesia Recently it was transferred to the Ministry of Religious Affairs after it was decided that the government would build an international Islamic university to promote Indonesia’s tolerant version of Islam on 142 hectares of land in Depok. The land  includes Cimanggis Manor House.

Small baby at centre of fanlight reflecting Adrianna Bake’s love of children at Cimanggis Manor House. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Aisjahbana)

Cimanggis Manor House is a Baroque manor built between 1771 and 1775 by  a man named David J. Smith. It was later bought by Adrianna Johanna Bake, the widow of Governor General Petrus van der Parra and kind Mrs Van der Parra raised many orphans there. The building has beautifully carved teak fanlights above its doors and windows, one of which has the carving of a baby or cherub at its centre, probably a reflection of Adrianna Bake’s fondness for children. The fanlight measuring 1.62 x 1.48 meters and made of solid teak was stolen together with extremely valuable old teak beams and rafters several months ago. Fortunately, the items were recovered with the assistance of some of Depok’s heritage activists.

The Manor House is an important example of the style known as Indonesian Baroque and is not only an important example of the development of Indonesian architecture but also a remnant of Depok’s history. Issues arose when Vice President Jusuf Kalla insisted that the Manor House be pulled down as he considered colonial history of no relevance to the nation. Fortunately, the Heritage Law prevailed and after a lengthy procedure the Mayor of Depok signed the decree protecting the building and both the Universitas Islam International Indonesia and the Ministry of Religious Affairs are now agreed that the University and the Ministry will preserve the building.

The City of Depok would like the Manor House to be used as a cultural house for the inhabitants of Depok while heritage activist Ratu Farah Diba whose Depok Heritage Community has been instrumental in helping to save the building dreams of a museum for Depok in Cimanggis Manor House. Komaruddin Hidayat who heads the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia Development Committee and is rumoured will be the first rector of the University stated, “Any heritage activists who have proposals regarding the future use of the building may send me the proposal via our Committee.”

So, far it is the City of Depok which has responded to Komaruddin Hidayat’s suggestion. It is hoped that the City of Depok will work together with the heritage activists of Depok who have made such an effort to save the building. The town has an extremely interesting history and the Manor House would be a good place to tell Depok’s story. If in turn the City of Depok is prepared to help the University move squatters now occupying parts of the future University’s land, cooperation between the two institutions has the makings of a mutually beneficial situation.

It will however take time for restoration work on the building to commence as budgets and plans are drawn up and approvals are sought. Meanwhile, Cimanggis Manor House is rapidly deteriorating due to weather, insects, rot and theft. The question now is who will take steps to preserve the valuable wood work, the old tiles and the 18th century glass panes before they all deteriorate any further? (Tamalia Alisjahbana)