Mention Indonesia to a large proportion of the Dutch population, and they see an idyllic holiday destination where you’re served drinks in coconut shells. But behind this squeaky-clean travel guide
Mention Indonesia to a large proportion of the Dutch population, and they see an idyllic holiday destination where you’re served drinks in coconut shells. But behind this squeaky-clean travel guide image lies a history that has shaped our complex cultural identity. Even today, the legacy of the colony is still very much in evidence – in the Netherlands, in Indonesia and in the stories featured in the exhibition Indo, Indië, Indonesië: through the eyes of generation NOW.
In 1808, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies Herman Willem Daendels ordered forced Indonesian labourers to build the Grote Postweg. Over two hundred years later, Eric Kampherbeek biked along this infamous colonial road connecting East and West Java, taking pictures of daily life along the way. The photographer discovered just how clearly the colonial past is still echoed in present-day Indonesian society. He noted his findings in letters addressed to his dead grandmother, who came to the Netherlands as an Indonesian-Dutch woman after independence.
Why didn’t the Netherlands try to help earlier? The ‘widows of Rawagede’ court case immediately raises this question. On 9 December 1947, Dutch soldiers executed 431 men in the village of Rawagede on West Java. For decades, the Netherlands tried to play down this incident but in 2009, a group of elderly widows pressed charges against the Dutch State. Photographer Suzanne Liem made portraits of the women pressing the charges, who won their case and inspired widows from Sulawesi to seek justice too.
For many Indonesians, their colonial past lives on not only visibly, but also invisibly. They believe that the spirits of the Dutch still roam the ruins of the colonial buildings. The occupiers, who managed to instil a serious inferiority complex into several generations, are still very much present in the country and lives of ordinary Indonesians. The Jakarta-based artist couple Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina discovered the ultimate embodiment of the power of the invisible in a famous Indonesian film actress: Suzzanna van Osch (1942 – 2008). The ‘Queen of horror’ speaks to us through an installation comprising holograms and video footage.
Lara Nuberg, best known for her blog Gewoon een Indisch meisje (An ordinary Indonesian girl), worked in and around The Hague for her project. But the stories that this writer and podcast maker collected reach much further than this. Her audio installation Het Rood-Wit-Blauwe Huisje (The Red-White-Blue House) consists of five short stories, some amusing and some moving, which can be seen as a fleeting or more serious comment on being Indonesian in the Netherlands. Her interviewees include first, second and third generation Indonesian Dutch people, who talk openly about subjects such as homesickness and nostalgia in Indonesian families and dealing with a complex cultural identity.
Cultural identity is also the main theme of an extensive live programme. In collaboration with the Migration Museum and The Hague Freedom Weeks, Het Nutshuis is organising a varied range of interactive programmes including films, interviews and workshops. You can find all the events in our agenda.
This project was realized with financial support by Stroom Den Haag.
Please note: the exposition is closed on Friday 29 March from 1pm till Saturday 30 March 4pm.
saturday 02 march 11:00 - monday 06 may 16:00