The administration of Surakarta, widely known as Solo, will hold the Vastenburg Carnival for the first time on Friday and Saturday at the Vastenburg Fortress, in the hope that the event will pave the way for the city to take over ownership of the fort.
The event is also part of a move to turn the area into a public space. The Vastenburg Carnival will involve around 500 participants from seven regions, specifically Surakarta, Magelang, Pekalongan, Banyumas, Boyolali, Yogyakarta and Bengkulu.
The event will include a photo exhibition, a photo workshop and a batik parade.
Since 2013, the Surakarta administration and private sector have been organizing various cultural events at the Vastenburg Fortress, such as the Solo Carnival, Grand Gamelan Concert, Solo City Jazz Festival, Solo International Performing Arts, Solo Culinary Festival, Imlek Festival, Solo 24-hour Dance and Solo Kampoeng Arts.
‘The administration has been making concerted efforts to turn the Vastenburg Fortress into a public cultural space,’ Surakarta Culture and Tourism Agency head Eny Tyasni Suzanna told reporters on Thursday.
Surakarta Mayor F.X. Hady Rudyatmo said his office would make further efforts to take over the ownership of the Vastenburg Fortress, which is currently in the hands of the private sector.
Rudy expressed hope that continual use of the fortress’ 57,000-square-meter area as a venue for cultural events would create a sense of ownership by the city. Rumors have been swirling that the holders of the site’s right-to-build ( HGB ) licences were planning to build a hotel on the site.
‘Of the 442 fortresses in Indonesia, only Vastenburg is not owned by the government,’ said Rudy.
The fortress was built by the Dutch colonial government in 1745 and is located in the middle of Jl. Jenderal Sudirman in the city.
The city administration has been dogged in trying to acquire the fortress. It has taken several approaches, such as naming the fort a cultural site protected in bylaw No. 1/2012 on cultural preservation, attempting to go through the Education and Cultural Ministry and even consulting the Corruption Eradication Commission ( KPK ). Vastenburg is estimated to cost up to hundreds of billions of rupiah.
The city has also met with the HGB owners. The bylaw precluded seven of them from extending their permits, but two holders had extended it until 2032 before the law came into force.
‘We hope the owners are willing to grant the fortress to the administration, and as a token of appreciation, their names will be engraved on a plaque that we will place inside the fortress,’ said Rudy.
Meanwhile, Surakarta historian Heri Priyatmoko supported the measures taken by the administration. He said besides formal legal procedure, the most important thing was to make people aware of the issue. ‘When people have a sense of ownership and when activities are constantly held at the fortress, which were not held by the HGB holders, we hope they [the current owners] will have the awareness to hand over the fortress to the government,’ said Heri.