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Patumbah is a place in Sumatra

Until Sun, 31/10/2021
Swiss Heritage Center
Gruppenbild von Pflanzern in Deli, 1872 Stehend ganz rechts: Carl F. Grob. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. RV-A14-1-19
Arbeiter sortieren den Tabak nach Längen und Farben, 1898 Stadtarchiv Zürich

PATUMBAH – the mysterious and exotic sounding appellation is not only the name of this extravagant villa, but also a place in the northeast of the island of Sumatra. There Carl Fürchtegott Grob, the builder of the villa, earned his riches with tobacco plantations. He was one of a number of Swiss who travelled to Southeast Asia in the second half of the 19th century to make their fortune.

Grob and many other European “planters” played an important role in the expansion and consolidation of Dutch colonial rule. They gained easy access to land, displaced the indigenous population from their habitats, and established power structures and an exploitative system of contract labour. The social and ecological impacts of European plantation culture can still be felt today.

We will investigate the diverse relationships that linked Grob and other Swiss with Sumatra, take a critical look at the history leading up to the villa, and examine the challenges faced by present-day inhabitants of the former tobacco Eldorado.

Swiss Heritage Center

Zollikerstrasse 128
8008 Zürich

+44 254 57 90

Tram 2/4, Bus 912: Fröhlichstrasse
Bus 33/77: Botanischer Garten

Photography allowed

Opening Times

Wednesday: 14–17
Thursday: 12–17
Friday: 14–17
Saturday: 14–17
Sunday: 12–17

Until Sun, 31/10/2021

Public holidays: see website


Exhibitions: CHF 10/5*
Families: CHF 25

*reduced for children up to the age of 16, students, IV, members and holders of the Kulturlegi

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