250 years in old jakarta.
Our first book is now available. 250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA by Sven Verbeek Wolthuys is for those who love Jakarta’s history and are searching for its lost past. It describes the adventures and tragedies of a Dutch family in colonial Jakarta (Batavia), with emphasis on the family’s prominent and influential presence in Tanah Abang, the area of Batavia where they settled.
About The Book.
More than 200 years ago the Bik family left the Netherlands and crossed oceans to seek a new life in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. They were draughtsmen, artists, and government officials, and eventually wealthy landowners. Tanah Abang is an intrinsic part of their story.
250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA is for those who love Jakarta’s history and are searching for its lost past. It describes the adventures and tragedies of a Dutch family in colonial Jakarta, with emphasis on the family’s prominent and influential presence in Tanah Abang. While 98% of the historic buildings of Tanah Abang sadly no longer exist today, the many unique and never before published pictures in this book not only provide a glimpse into a bygone era, but also give the history of Tanah Abang and Jakarta a deeply personal perspective.
Sven Verbeek Wolthuys (1968), a direct descendant of the Bik family, has been researching Jakarta’s history for over 30 years. In this book he has brought together a vibrant mix of his family’s stories and pictures, from the arrival of his very first ancestor in Batavia in 1776 to the current remnants of his family, the few dozen Bik tombstones still found in and around Jakarta today.
1. The Bik family; form draughtsmen to landowners
2. Tanah Abang: form camp ground to elite residential quarter
3. The Tanah Abang land during the time of the Bik and De Nijs Bik family
4. The burial grounds of Tanah Abang
5. The development of Tanah Abang
6. Tanah Abang street views
7. Turbulent Bik years in Jakarta
8. The metamorphosis of Tanah Abang
Introduction 250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA
On 26 December 1952, just past eleven o’clock in the morning, the 192 meter-long passenger liner “Willem Ruys” of the Royal Rotterdamsche Lloyd left the Djakarta harbour of Tandjong Priok. Destination: Rotterdam, the Netherlands. On board was Her Verbeek Wolthuys (1900-1974), grandfather of the author. He was leaving Indonesia once and for all. There was no one on the quay to wish and wave him farewell. Because he was the last to leave. Her left with mixed feelings. Deep in his heart he did not want to leave at all. But there were political developments between the new Republic of Indonesia and its former colony, and Djakarta was slowly becoming a less inviting place for foreigners to live. And thus Her left reluctantly, following the rest of his family, who had departed a few years earlier. Not only leaving behind his own footsteps but also more than two centuries of Bik family history in Indonesia. It was this family which Her himself had been part of since 1925 when he had arrived at this same port, full of hope, joy and excitement.
The Bik family was influential in colonial Jakarta throughout the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century. But the Biks were not a typical Dutch family with a predictable colonial career of departing to the Indies for a limited amount of time and earning enough money with the aim of returning to a comfortable retirement back in the home country. Most Biks were deeply rooted in the Indies culture, and in a number of cases even developed an outspoken aversion to what they called ‘Baru Belanda’, new Dutch arrivals, who in their eyes were not integrating into the society but arrogantly calling the shots without learning the culture, lifestyle and behaviors of those who were born, raised and educated in Batavia, the so-called ‘stayers’.
In 1863 Jannus Theodorus Bik became the owner of the country estate Tanah Abang. It became the jewel of the Bik family in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this site eventually survived until the mid 1980s after it had functioned as the headquarters of Indonesia’s powerful Air Forceafter independence. Tanah Abang also became synonymous with burials. And if the graves and tombstones at the Kebon Jahe cemetery (now Taman Prasasti) had remained untouched (which sadly did not happen), it would have been the oldest original modern cemetery in the world and heritage listed by UNESCO. One of the largest and most notorious Japanese internment camps in Indonesia during World War II, Tjideng (Cideng), was in the area too and marked one of the darkest chapters in Tanah Abang’s history.
Despite so many relevant historic events and sites, and being one of Jakarta’s oldest districts, Tanah Abang is very much underrepresented in most history books about Jakarta. Tanah Abang’s rich history and that of its multi-ethnic population has never been researched and described in detail before.
Tanah Abang’s historic remnants are also rapidly disappearing. Since the late 1970s, the appearance of Tanah Abang has undergone an unrecognizable metamorphosis following the mass demolition of colonial era homes along the main streets and Chinese style shophouses around Pasar Tanah Abang. It has sadly led to a severe loss of character too.
250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA is for those who love Jakarta’s history and are searching for a glimpse of its lost past. This book describes the exciting history of a Dutch family in colonial Jakarta from 1776 onwards, in all its ups-and-downs, with a large emphasis on the family’s prominent and influential presence in Tanah Abang. But there are two centuries of Tanah Abang before the Bik family arrived, and Tanah Abang changed after the Biks departed.
By providing a full historical description of such a unique Jakarta district, elaborating on its multi-ethnic population over the past centuries, and at the same time showing how a wealthy family lived in Tanah Abang during the last century of colonial Jakarta, this book is not a traditional history book as such, but gives the history a personal perspective.
250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA is enhanced by a large number of never-published drawings, maps and pictures which show the development over four centuries of Tanah Abang in all its facets. These are interspersed with a large collection of precious Bik family photographs, a significant number of which have only been rediscovered in recent years.
Scott Merrillees, author of "Batavia in Nineteenth Century Photographs" and "Greetings from Jakarta: Postcards of a Capital 1900-1950"
This wonderful book is an important contribution to our understanding of the history of Jakarta. It is overflowing with ground-breaking and outstanding new research into the city’s development, much of which has been made possible due to the recent digitization of archives in Europe, particularly the Netherlands, combined with Sven’s relentless pursuit of information about his subject. In a very original way, this book overlays the evolution of one particular part of Jakarta (Tanah Abang) with the lives of many of his ancestors who were prominent members of Jakarta’s society during the last century of the colonial era. It is also a lively and fascinating read.
Toni Pollard, (Indonesian teacher, literary translator, editor/proofreader)
This is a book for anyone who treasures the rich colonial past of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. Sven’s enthusiasm shines through in every line of his family’s story, and the excitement he must have felt on discovering each photo, each remnant of an historic building, each tombstone with the Bik name on it, is palpable throughout his book.
About the author.
Sven Verbeek Wolthuys (1968), a direct descendant of the Bik family, has been researching Jakarta’s history for over 30 years. He became fascinated by his family’s history in Indonesia during the many ‘kumpulans’ (Indies gatherings) in Holland where old aunts and uncles told interesting tales and delightful stories about their youth in Batavia. Most of these stories have disappeared. Because people pass away, and memories fade away. Photo albums get lost or simply thrown out.
Sven felt the need to capture all these precious stories in a book. His research journey started back in 1989. Sven: “This book could never have been realized without the wealth of information I obtained from talking to my grandmother Welly Verbeek Wolthuys-van Garderen (1905-1991). It felt at times like a race against the clock as she was well into her 80s when as a teenager I became interested in the family’s history in Tanah Abang. However she was able to provide me with historical details about the family’s estate in Batavia (now Jakarta) and her childhood in Tanah Abang. I also treasure the ninety minutes of audio, recorded over 30 years ago. Apart from still hearing her voice, she revealed details and juicy stories of her youth in Tanah Abang. During my research for the book I often referred back to this audiotape to verify facts, and it frequently provided answers to mysteries and burning questions”.
Apart from publishing, Sven is a corporate consultant in retail and food, specializing in operational excellence and managing transformations. He has also worked as a DJ for various radio stations in the Netherlands and can still be heard weekly on Dutch alternative station KINK NL where he promotes new music from Australia and New Zealand. Sven is active on social media and manages the Lost Jakarta pages on Facebook and Instagram, where he shares pictures and stories of a Jakarta that no longer exists.
Sven Verbeek Wolthuys was born in the Netherlands but moved with his family to Sydney (Australia) in 2007.
The book 250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA has brought together a vibrant mix of Sven’s family’s stories and pictures, from the arrival of his very first ancestor in Batavia in 1776 to the current remnants of his family, the few dozen Bik tombstones still found in and around Jakarta today.
Sven Verbeek Wolthuys
250 years in old Jakarta
250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA by Sven Verbeek Wolthuys is for those who love Jakarta’s history and are searching for its lost past. It describes the adventures and tragedies of a Dutch family in colonial Jakarta, with emphasis on the family’s prominent and influential presence in Tanah Abang.
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