This used to be the entrance to the Koloniaal Museum. The frieze relates the story of Cornelis de Houtman’s ‘first voyage’ to Java in 1595. His journey led to the establishment of the VOC in 1602, which is once again treated as a precursor to later colonial history.
The First Ocean Voyage is presented as a tale of adventure and daring, honest trade and good intentions. Alternatively, it can be viewed as the beginning of a system of occupation, violence, exploitation and domination.
The voyage could also be seen as the beginning of a series of conflicts resulting from cultural differences in behaviour. In one of the scenes, senior trader De Houtman and the Sultan of Bantam meet on the island of Java. Houtman thought he was showing respect by standing up, taking off his hat in accordance with Dutch custom, placing his hand on his sword and launching into speech. To the Javanese, this violated all the rules of polite behaviour and was no less than a declaration of war. It was only the first in a long series of confrontations that marked the Netherlands’ relations with Indonesia, lucrative for the Dutch but also marked by violence, with incomprehension and distrust.