The Villa Patumbah in Zurich’s Seefeld district – home of the Swiss Heritage Center since 2013 – is an impressive testament to a certain era and outlook, to pioneering spirit and entrepreneurial initiative, but also to colonial entanglements. To this day, it reminds us of the story of the tobacco planter Carl Fürchtegott Grob, who had the villa built upon his return from Sumatra. He was one of the many Swiss who travelled to Southeast Asia in the second half of the 19th century to make their fortune.
The exhibition addresses the lives of the "planters" and the system of plantation management. This involved people from a wide range of cultures, including many who worked under exceedingly harsh conditions. Photographs, films and letters provide an insight into everyday working life and living conditions in colonial Sumatra.
The Villa Patumbah itself also conveys something about its builder. The Patumbah Guide invites visitors to view the building and its surroundings in a new way and to explore these stories.
Our trilingual publication, in the form of a handy little book, makes a lasting contribution to the debate on Switzerland's role in colonialism beyond the exhibition.
Swiss Heritage Center
gasser, derungs Innenarchitekturen
Dr Andreas Isler, Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich
Dr Andreas Zangger, Historian, Amsterdam
Botanical Museum of the University of Zurich, PanEco Foundation, Verein Zürich Kolonial, Zurich Zoo.
Pro Helvetia, Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Baugarten Stiftung, Migros Culture Percentage