|An old Dutch inscription carved on the cell wall within the Fort Marlborough|
By: Adriansyah Putera
Last Updated: September 14th, 2017
The Fort Marlborough is a historic site to stop if you are visiting the city of Bengkulu. This massive 18th century fort which symbolizes centuries of the British and Dutch colonial power in Bengkulu still stands tall on a hill surrounded by other interesting sights of interest and is today the city's top historic landmark.
You can read more details about the Fort Marlborough here. This time we would like to present an article which is focused on the old Dutch graffiti carved on the cell wall within the Fort Marlborough. Although the Dutch graffiti still survive and can be seen today, yet many visitors don't know about them and even miss them when they're looking at them.
At the Fort Marlborough, visitors will see more than old cannons and headstones. In a small inner room within the guard cell secured by a barred door, with daylight coming from a barred window, visitors will be able to see two old Dutch graffiti. The apparent graffiti include an old Dutch compass drawing and an old Dutch inscription carved anonymously. These two graffiti are low on the cell wall near a barred window as if done by a person sitting on the floor.
If you look closely you can see that the compass drawing has a shape which looks like a 32-wind compass with Dutch abbreviated compass directions written in capital letters. This compass drawing was partly made with charcoal scratches, while the compass direction points were carved into the cell wall with a piece of pointed metal perhaps an iron nail.
|The graffiti are low on the cell wall as if done by a person sitting on the floor|
However, the one who made the compass drawing wanted to leave more than his/her compass drawing. Taking perhaps a small iron nail, right beside the compass drawing, he/she incised a message with capital letters in the cell wall. The message reads,
“DIE DIT KOMPASS AANZIET
BERISP DEN KNOEIJER NIET
BEDENK DAT LEEGEN TIJD
TOT KNOEIERIJEN MIJ LEIDT
EN DAT VOOR TIJDVERDRIJF
IK DIT HIER NEDERSCHRIJF”
Which translates as,
“TO THE ONE WHO SEES THIS COMPASS
DON’T REPRIMAND THE SCRIBBLER
THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT EMPTY TIME
LEADS TO SCRIBBLING
AND THAT FOR PASTIME
I WROTE THIS HERE DOWN”
(Translation by Nilca van Leyen)
After that, he/she awaited his/her fate. And if he/she died, the graffiti would serve as a “memorial”.
Who did make the graffiti? Why and when were the graffiti made?
As there is a clear connection between the compass drawing and the inscription, it is widely accepted that they were made by the same person either a Dutch prisoner or a Dutch soldier who spent time within the cell wall. However, the basic questions of who exactly the author of the graffiti was and when exactly the graffiti were carved on the cell wall remain mystery that is puzzling archaeologists and historians who have been studying the graffiti.
The graffiti do represent their author’s feeling. The graffiti author’s motivation behind leaving the compass drawing and the carved inscription anonymously was more than just a desire to pass the time. The graffiti author wanted to express what he/she felt, experienced and hoped. From the carved words, “Bedenk dat leegen tijd, tot knoeierijen mij leidt,” he/she expressed that he/she felt trapped in a forced empty time, no place to escape. A feeling similar to unbearable pain that forced him/her to carved graffiti on the wall. Through the carved compass drawing he/she made, he/she tried to relieve the repetitive heavy boredom he/she felt, and also hoped that he/she would return home safely.
|Fort Marlborough at sunset|
Today the carved graffiti are widely accepted as a reminder to the unknown Dutch soldier. Many people believe there are likely to be other old graffiti in the Fort Marlborough, which have since been lost or painted over.
How to locate the graffiti?
If you want to find these old Dutch graffiti you need to enter the colonial guard cell, then go inside the smaller room that is on the left side. Look to your left, you will see the graffiti are low on the cell wall near a barred window. Keep an eye out as you are likely to miss them.
A Request to the Fort Marlborough Authority
We really hope that the Dutch inscription can soon be transcribed and displayed on a board in the original Dutch text with its translation to Indonesian and English so that both local and foreign visitors can have a deeper insight into all those who spent time within the cell wall.
A special thanks to Nilca van Leyen who has helped to transcribe and translate the Dutch inscription.
About Nilca van Leyen
Nilca van Leyen was born in Curaçao to a Dutch couple. Her parents were born in Java and had lived in several cities in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) until World War II. She has wonderful memories about the Netherlands East Indies life in the past time from her beloved parents.