The Netherlands will return a total of 472 historical artifacts belonging to Indonesia that were acquired during the colonial period. Among these items are a keris (traditional Indonesian dagger) from Klungkung and 132 pieces of modern art from Bali known as the Pita Maha collection.
According to documents from the Colonial Collection Committee, the Klungkung keris was previously part of the National Art Collection managed by the National Museum of World Cultures (NMVW) with inventory number RV-3600-193. Currently, the Klungkung keris is still housed in the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, awaiting its return to Indonesia. The origin of this keris has been investigated by researcher T. Quist from the NMVW. The keris was seized or taken by the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) in April 1908, before Indonesia gained independence. This incident occurred during the puputan (a ritual fight to the death) in Klungkung, southeast Bali.
The puputan battle took place between the KNIL forces and the Kingdom of Klungkung. The King of Klungkung, along with more than a hundred followers, relatives, and local residents, perished in the battle, while 50 other Balinese individuals were injured. The KNIL expedition in Bali, which began in 1846, also ended during that time.
However, it is still unclear whether the keris was seized on the battlefield or after the battle had ended. The ownership of the keris, whether it belonged to the king or not, has also not been definitively established.
Subsequently, the keris was sent to the Netherlands in November 1908 and transferred to the Royal Military Academy Ethnographic Museum (KMA) in Breda, the Netherlands, in March 1909. In 1956, the collection was handed over to the Dutch Ethnology Museum.
On July 10, 2023, the process of transferring ownership of cultural artifacts, including the Klungkung keris, was completed by returning these items to Indonesia.
Westerlaken Foundation/Yayasan Bali Bersih, a culturally-focused organization committed to preserving cultural heritage, has played a crucial role in facilitating the proper return of these cultural artifacts. Acting as a mediator between Puri Klungkung and the Indonesian Repatriation Committee, the foundation has been involved in negotiations to ensure the Klungkung keris is returned to its original home, the Puri Klungkung.
During the period of 2019 to 2023, Westerlaken Foundation/Yayasan Bali Bersih has successfully returned cultural artifacts, including one keris and four spears, from private collections to Puri Klungkung. These valuable items are now securely housed in the Semarajaya Museum in Klungkung. The foundation expresses its hope that the Klungkung keris will be integrated into the museum's collection, enabling the people of Klungkung to observe and appreciate the keris's historical significance firsthand.