Sri Lanka

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Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
File:Flag of Sri Lanka.svg
Demographics
Population 20,238,000
Social
Ethnic Groups Demographics of Sri Lanka
Mutual cultural heritage
Dutch presence During the 17th and 18th century (VOC)
Types of heritage Maritime Heritage
Built Heritage
Museums
Archives


Contents


Introduction

The Sri Lankan history is rich in close encounters with many nationalities. Different traditions, faiths and ethnicities have mixed. It was during the first half of the 17th century that the Dutch first set foot on Sri Lanka with the arrival of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) in the early seventeenth century followed by the hegemony over the coastal areas in order to monopolize the export trade of Sri Lanka.

What remains today of the Dutch Period is a mutual heritage that evolved from interaction and exchange between the Sri Lankan and Dutch cultures. This had an effect on the social, cultural, religious, economic and political spheres, resulting in influences on both the tangible and intangible heritage of Sri Lanka.

This page on the heritage cooperation between the Netherlands and Sri Lanka provides an overview of past, present and future projects in the field of Dutch-Sri Lankan heritage.

A shared history of Sri Lanka and the Netherlands

VOC

The Dutch presence in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) lasted 150 years, officially from 1658 when the Dutch expelled the Portuguese, until 1796, the year of the British occupation.

However, the first encounter with the island dates back to 1602, when Joris van Spilbergen arrived on the eastern coast. Ceylon was known to produce the best-quality cinnamon. In addition, the Dutch East India Company (‘VOC’) achieved the monopoly on the trade of tamed elephants directed to the Indian market. The VOC was a leading supplier on the intra-asiatic shipping market, and that meant that the Dutch had to deal diplomatically with the King of Kandy, in the interior of Ceylon, where cinnamon and elephants were found. The Dutch needed to control the islands’ coasts, as well, particularly the harbours of Colombo and Galle. After Batavia (now Jakarta), Galle, as the departure point for loaded ships sailing directly to the Netherlands, was the most strategic VOC hub in Asia. It had a natural bay to give shelter to ships, but reefs made entering the harbour dangerous. Many shipwrecks are still lying on the bottom of the bay waiting to be recovered (see Avondster project).

Migration

In the 16th century, the coastal areas of Ceylon were subject to Portuguese influence, while the indigenous kingdom of Kandy in the interior was cut off from the sea. The majority of the population was Sinhalese, followed by Toepas, Muslims, Portuguese and Mestizos (descendants from mix marriages).

During Dutch rule in Sri Lanka, no major migrations took place, other than some isolated episodes like the Javanese and Ambonese soldiers that were sent around 1650 to fight against the Portuguese and later, after 1760, against the King of Kandy.

Among the VOC personnel in Ceylon, many settled down with and married indigenous women. The descendants of this mixed group were identified as Dutch Burghers. Dutch Burgers formed an elite to a certain extent, but by 1948, when Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain, they were being forced to learn the Sinhala and Tamil languages and many chose to leave the country. In present times, the tendency has been reversed, and some Burghers are returning to their motherland.

Thematic Overview of the Cooperation

Archival cooperation

The tropical climate of Sri Lanka makes it an even bigger challenge to preserve these historical documents. Climate control and storage facilities need to be kept under close surveillance. During the last few years, experts from the Netherlands have worked jointly with Sri Lankan experts, in order to establish and maintain sufficient conservation standards.

Built heritage

Due to the presence of the Dutch in the 17th and 18th century, Sri Lanka has been left with a specific Dutch-Sri Lankan built heritage, such as: churches, forts, libraries, warehouses, dams, dwellings, ramparts, cemeteries, and sewerage. At times, one can even talk about a Dutch-Sri Lankan cultural landscape. In the case of the conservation project of Conservation and Landscaping of Star Fort of Matara, the surrounding landscape was also reconstructed. And in Galle, a project was initiated to refurbish the buildings in Galle Fort and thus its urban landscape.

Maritime Heritage

Since the early 1990’s an international team of maritime archaeologists, historians and museum curators have conducted research on request of the Sri Lankan authorities in the Bay of Galle and in the extensive archives in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. Underwater surveys have revealed an impressive number of heritage sites, dated from the 13th century up to modern times. Based on this first inventory of maritime heritage sites in the Bay of Galle, an ambitious capacity building programme was formulated in order to establish suitable infrastructure for maritime heritage management. In 2001, a Maritime Archaeology Unit (MAU) was formed.


Museums

There are many major museums that play a key role in the public understanding and awareness of mutual cultural heritage. Since 2003 Sri Lankan museums planned and implemented mutual cultural heritage projects in collaboration with Dutch counterparts with the intention of laying the solid basis for sustainable museological development in the future.


Overview of Projects, experts and organisations

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Sites (12) where projects have activities
Click on a marker for the list of projects at the site.

Resident organisations
… further results

Organisation involved with projects in Sri Lanka (as implied by the projects registered on the Organisation pages)
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Resident experts
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Experts involved with projects in Sri Lanka (as implied by the projects registered on the Expert pages)
… further results

Projects related to Sri Lanka

Projects Type Category Discipline Activity Experts involved Organisations involved
A New Dutch Imperial History. Connecting Dutch and Overseas pasts Public awareness & Presentations World heritage History Symposium Gert Oostindie Koninklijk Nederlands Historisch Genootschap
A new life for historic cultural landscapes: examples of creative policy plans Public awareness & Presentations Built heritage Heritage management Event Benedict Goes
Peter van Dun
Michael Doortmond
Hasti Tarekat
Frank Dragtenstein
Michel Newton
Dirk Laporte
Stephen Small
Claus-Peter Echter
Annelien Kappers
Philip Dikland
Stephen Fokké
ICOMOS Shared Built Heritage
Royal Dutch Embassy, Surinam
Advanced Course on GIS Application in the Management of Underwater Archaeology Research Maritime Archaeology Archaeology Knowledge exchange Martijn Manders
Will Brouwers
Wim Dijkman
Manithaphone Mahaxay
The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Amsterdam Elsewhere Public awareness & Presentations Intangible heritage History Publication Marielle Hageman
Assistance for the conservation of private houses in Galle Fort (continuation; reduced target to 50 houses) Care & Management Built heritage Conservation Sustainable development Galle Heritage Foundation
University of Moratuwa
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Central Cultural Fund
Urban Development Authority
Galle Municipal Council
Assistance to Cultural Tourism Promotion in the Southern region Public awareness & Presentations Heritage tourism Technical assistance Tissa Abeysekara Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority
Ministry of Cultural Affairs & National Heritage, Sri Lanka
Assistance to private house owners in Galle Fort Care & Management Built heritage Conservation Sustainable development Tharanga Liyana Arachchi Galle Heritage Foundation
Ministry of Cultural Affairs & National Heritage, Sri Lanka
Ministry of Tourism, Sri Lanka
University of Moratuwa
University of Ruhuna
Central Environmental Authority
Athapattu Building at Galle, Sri Lanka Pali Wijerathna Central Cultural Fund
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Atlas of Mutual Heritage Research Built heritage Cartography Research Martine Gosselink
Tristan Mostert
National Archives Netherlands
The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
National Library of the Netherlands
Avondster project Training and Education Maritime Archaeology Archaeology Capacity building Robert Parthesius
Ross Anderson
Kevin Cambridge
Jon Carpenter
Wijamunige Chandaratne
A.M.A. Dayananda
Jeremy Green
Anusha Kasturi
Menno Leenstra
Rasika Muthucumarana
Wessel Pil
Gamini Saman
Kamal de Soyza
Darshani Samanthilaka
Janake Warusavithana
K. D. Palita Weerasinghe
Amsterdam Museum
Central Cultural Fund
Mutual Heritage Centre Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
University of Amsterdam
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Balance of the Museum Complex including Avondster Gallery Public awareness & Presentations Archaeological heritage Museology Exposition P. L. Premathilake
W.H. Wijayapala
Nanda Wickramasingha
Senerath Dissanayaka
Martine Gosselink
Robert Parthesius
Central Cultural Fund
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka
Bridging Two Oceans. Slavery in Indian and Atlantic Worlds Public awareness & Presentations History Symposium Filipa Ribeiro da Silva Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation
Budget Support to Central Cultural Fund as post Tsunami support Care & Management Heritage tourism Sustainable development Sudharshan Seneviratne Central Cultural Fund
Ministry of Cultural Affairs & National Heritage, Sri Lanka
Collection Management Workshop Training and Education Moveable heritage Collection management Capacity building National Archives Netherlands
National Archives South Africa
Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia
Public Records and Archives Administration Department of Ghana (PRAAD)
National Archives of Suriname (NAS)
Department of National Archives, Sri Lanka
National Archives Brazil
National Archives of India, Delhi
Conservation Laboratory for Maritime and Underwater Archaeology at Galle Care & Management Maritime Archaeology Collection management Sustainable development Central Cultural Fund
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Amsterdam Museum
Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka
Conservation and Landscaping of Star Fort of Matara Care & Management Built heritage Conservation Sustainable development Prasanna B. Ratnayake
Harry Boerema
Senerath Dissanayaka
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Matara Municipal Council
Citizens’ Association of Matara
Centre for International Heritage Activities
The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority
Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka
Conservation and landscaping of Dutch Fort of Katuwana Care & Management Built heritage Conservation Sustainable development Prasanna B. Ratnayake
Harry Boerema
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Southern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka
Community Associations from the Area
Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Amsterdam Archaeology Centre University of Amsterdam
Centre for International Heritage Activities
UNESCO – Asia Pacific Region
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority
World Heritage Centre
Conservation and presentation of the Urubokka ancient Dam site Care & Management Built heritage Conservation Sustainable development H.D.S. Hettipathirana Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Irrigation Department, Sri Lanka
Conservation and renovation of the Dutch Reformed Church, Matara Care & Management Religious heritage Conservation Sustainable development R. L. Brohier
Senerath Dissanayaka
Prasanna B. Ratnayake
Antoinette Le Coultre
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
ICOMOS Sri Lanka
Wolvendaal Church Foundation
Conservation of Drawings Prints and Painting Collection Care & Management Moveable heritage Conservation Capacity building Indian Council of Conservation Institute
Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka
Ministry of Cultural Affairs & National Heritage, Sri Lanka
… further results


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