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Dionne Verwey, Francesca Pichel and Rizal Iwan at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, 2019.

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, Shared history #6

Meet the artists of My story, Shared History: the 6th partnership and only trio is Francesca Pichel (NL), Rizal Iwan (ID) and Dionne Verwey (NL).

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

It is a sunny day in Jakarta, and Francesca Pichel, Rizal Iwan and Dionne Verwey sit on the second floor of the Komunitas Salihara building. On the wall behind them are two huge painted figures who greet each other. During the conversation the three talk about the preconceptions and impressions they had when they met for the first time, what them drives as artists, how family background plays a role in this and how they are motivated to find common grounds.

To know what you’re talking about, you need to know where you’re coming from. It goes hand in hand: personal stories, national histories
Dionne Verwey
Common grounds and balance in contradictions

They share that from the moment they met, they clicked immediately. Rizal is a writer and theatre actor from Jakarta. He is with the Jakarta Players, and recently participated in a performance with Rorschach Theatre in Washington DC. His short stories have been published in the Jakarta Post and his successful Creepy Case Club, a preteen horror series with an Indonesian twist, has recently been acquired for a movie adaptation.

Francesca Pichel and Dionne Verwey are both actors, performers and singers in the Netherlands and members of the music-theatre collective Sir Duke/Orkater. Recently Francesca played Mohammed Hatta and Dionne Anton de Kom, two freedom fighters from Indonesia and Suriname, supposedly meeting in the Netherlands during colonial times. Hatta & De Kom was a theatre performance that also echoed the family histories of the two makers themselves. Francesca’s Indo-Dutch family moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the 1950s. Dionne’s family comes from Suriname. Her grand-uncle lived as a KNIL-soldier in Indonesia around the 1950s. Now their stories come together in Jakarta. 

Dionne Verwey, Francesca Pichel and Rizal Iwan at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, 2019. Photo: Armando Ello
Understanding your (grand) parents is probably the biggest sign of respect
Rizal Iwan
Not one truth

The exchange project between Dutch and Indonesian counterparts starts with the shared history of Indonesia and the Netherlands. By sharing their family and personal stories, they shed a light on new stories within this master narrative and enrich each others' perspectives. Dionne tells how she is inspired by the stories that are not told. “By freedom fighters like Anton De Kom (De Kom, born in Suriname, became an important voice in the anti-colonial movement, ed.), but also the family stories of Francesca and Rizal for example. Those stories are also a reflection of myself, because the way I work is to look for common grounds that binds people together.” 

Francesca stresses that there is not one truth. She refers to historian Bonnie Triyana, one of the lecturers during the workshop program in July. “To approach the complexity of history, collect as many records of one event.” For her it is important to understand the past and look forward at the same time. “But it gives me a lot to learn more about my family history,” she says.

Dionne adds: “Personal stories are the start of everything. If you are a storyteller, in order to tell your story, you have to know where you come from.” Rizal agrees: “Things can be unearthed and dug up from the theme (My story, Shared history, ed.)". By digging up their family history in relation to the Second World War for the Hatta & De Kom performance, Francesca and Dionne pave the way for new perspectives within the bigger history.

For Rizal it is the first time that he explores his family history, in particularly his mother’s, whose family once moved from Manado in Sulawesi to Sumatra. He started this project to honor the story of her father, but while digging into his family history, he now feels more connected to his mother than ever. “Understanding your (grand)parents is probably the biggest sign of respect,” he says.

You can take a person out of a country, but not a country out of a person. Even when generations are passing
Francesca Pichel
Common grounds

Rizal, Francesca and Dionne point out that within their collaboration, there is a continuous shift of dynamics between them. With all three coming from a different background, they are motivated to find common grounds and similarities as a group, also from an artistic point of view. Three Fishes Out of One Bowl Trying to Find a Common Ground is therefore about three people from different backgrounds who come together to find the place in time where their own histories intersect.

Along the way, they discover issues that are not as simple as they initially thought. The result is a performative piece which explores cross-identities and intersectionalities as well as the weight of history that we carry with us throughout our lives. It will be performed at the Literature and Ideas Festival 2019 (LIFEs) for the first time.

Maria Lamslag and Adrian Mulya at Museum Sophiahof, The Hague, August 2019.

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, shared history #5

Meet the artists of My story, shared history: the fifth duo is Maria Lamslag and Adrian Mulya.

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

From the first moment you see Maria Lamslag, documentary maker from the Netherlands of Indo-Dutch descent, and Adrian Mulya, photographer from Indonesia with Peranakan-Chinese ancestors, together, you can tell how their co-creation plans will develop. 

Colourful theme

Both of them speak quietly and for the viewer they ‘ping-pong’ in reaction to each other’s ideas and working methods, intertwining family and personal stories, their love for photography and research all at the same time. They explain how they got inspired by the theme ‘personal stories and national histories’. Adrian tells it in a descriptive way: “It is a very colourful theme. We are not only talking about the Indo or the Dutch, but also about the Chinese-Peranakan perspective. It is a very interesting conversation. The theme is very plural. Like a rainbow!” 

Maria: “It' s a rainbow project! I think it is interesting, because if we are talking about our personal histories, our families might have been at the same place at the same time, but have never actually crossed paths.”

Personal stories and national histories is a colourful theme, it is very plural. Like a rainbow!
Adrian Mulya
History on repeat

Adrian and Maria found out that they had a surprising mutual experience last year: Maria lived in a house in Yogyakarta which Adrian visited to photograph. When he arrived and entered the building, she had just left it. So it turned out they already crossed paths, before they actually met!

Maria: “Historically speaking, I think it so interesting that our families shared a history, but also didn’t share a history. So I am inspired to see whether we can tell through our personal stories, a new bigger history-story where these family stories combine.” Adrian continues to explain how they discussed this idea, and how to bring it into their joint project: starting with important historical events, and exploring how it affected their families.

Maria Lamslag and Adrian Mulya at Museum Sophiahof, The Hague, August 2019. Photo: Armando Ello
Mixed media

Together they are working on So far, so close, a mixed media project that combines factual and fictional images which have been culled from anonymous and private archives. It will highlight Adrian’s and Maria’s family stories as Peranakan and Indo-European “living different lives, leading different lifestyles, never travelled the same road. Or had they?” against the backdrop of larger historical narratives of Indonesia and the Netherlands. So far, so close is expected to be finished by the end of 2020. Adrian will present a first preview at the Literature and Ideas Festival (LIFEs) in Jakarta this October. Keep an eye out for their fascinating work!
 

Our families might have been at the same place at the same time, but never actually crossed paths
Maria Lamslag

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Robin Block and Angelina Enny at Sofiahof, The Hague, August 2019.

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, shared history #4

Meet the artists of My story, shared history: the fourth duo is Angelina Enny and Robin Block.

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

During the project My story, shared history six Indonesian and six Dutch artists with an Indo-Dutch background create work together on their shared history. The Indonesian writer and actor Angelina Enny and Indo-Dutch musician, writer, theatre performer Robin Block decided to work on a poetry book In between, Di Antara and to also turn it into a live performance Sebuah Antara with music and movement. What do they think about the theme personal stories versus national histories? At the Indisch Herinneringscentrum in The Hague last august, they ask each other this question.   

Robin starts: "I really like the theme, because it invites us to look at our history as a shared history. I think it is easier to share your history through personal stories, because it speaks more to feelings and emotions. When you connect on an emotional level, you are more open to other perspectives on the larger level. For example: when I read Dutch or Indonesian school books, these two histories seem two separate histories, but when you look closer at the personal stories, like the ones of Enny’s nanny Marnie or my grandmother, they have very similar stories. When the stories connect on a personal level, you can also connect on a larger or political level." 

Angelina agrees and adds: "For me, historic events consist of personal stories. Stories of people who have a lot to tell, but whose tales have been forgotten. This is why we should tell these chronicles." 

Robin asks: "Do you think poetry is a good way to tell them? When you compare it to theatre, photography…?" 

"Yes," Angelina responds, "Words can give many meanings to stories, but we can also say that words can be ‘everlasting’ because our next generation can read them."

When the stories connect on a personal level, you can also connect on a larger or political level
Robin Block

While Angelina was still in Indonesia and Robin in the Netherlands, the two decided to start sharing their most personal stories through poems - poems about their memories, family histories and dreams. From there on, they tried to reconnect them to the larger history shared by Indonesia and the Netherlands. 

Robin and Angelina met in August in Amsterdam to learn more about each other’s work and to work together on their performance. Angelina: "Robin's work is really good. I like how he turns his poems into songs and adds music to it. It gives a poem more perspective." 

As a writer, Angelina is inspired by authors like award-winning Ayu Utami. Bilangan Fu is one of her favorite books and inspired her to start writing literature. "I hope to learn from Robin how to become a better poet. Is this a wise answer?" Angelina asks with a wink. They start laughing. "Lebay!" they say out loud, meaning over-exaggerating. "This is one of the most important things I have learned from Enny," Robin explains.

Words can give many meanings to stories, but we can also say that words can be ‘everlasting’, because the next generation can also read it
Angelina Enny

Robin is inspired by the Indo-Dutch writer Tjalie Robinson. For him Robinson's work is a way to learn about history on a personal level. Robin's own Piekerans is a tribute to his Piekerans van een straatslijper, about Robinson's observations and reflections on daily life in Jakarta in the 1950s. Robin: "I like Angelina's poems. They are personal on the one hand, but they speak to many people at the same time. She mixes different worlds: ghosts, the past, ancestors, specific places, nature. But these worlds always speak of a larger story. And you don’t use many words," he says.

Angelina: "Yes, minimize!"

Robin: "I always need a lot of words."

Robin Block and Angelina Enny at Sofiahof, The Hague, August 2019. Photo: Armando Ello

Working together left a footprint in many ways. Miscommunications due to different working methods, time zones and language were sometimes part of the working process. Robin explains: "Since Angelina would write in Indonesian, and I mostly in English, some words and meanings were literally lost in translation." 

Their connections were found in their stories about belonging, violence, love, loss, ancestors and food, and resulted in the poetry book In Between, Di Antara and performance Sebuah Antara, a mix of poems, songs, movement and images, in which two worlds will meet. They will perform together for the first time during LIFEs in October. 

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Medan Warenhuis, Istana Maimun and Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, October 2019. Photos: Remco Vermeulen

Photo: Remco Vermeulen
 

Blog: Remco's working visit in Indonesia 2019

Remco Vermeulen, country advisor Indonesia, is on a working visit in Indonesia and reports daily on the practices of cultural exchange on the spot.
Monday 14 October 2019

Finding common ground
Artists Rizal Iwan from Indonesia, and Francesca Pichel and Dionne Verwey from the Netherlands point out that within their collaboration, there is a continuous shift of dynamics between them. With all three coming from a different background, they are motivated to find common grounds and similarities as a group, also from an artistic point of view. Their performance Three Fishes Out of One Bowl Trying to Find a Common Ground is therefore about three people from different backgrounds who come together to find the place in time where their own histories intersect. Read more here!

Dionne Verwey, Francesca Pichel and Rizal Iwan at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, 2019. Photo: Armando Ello
Sunday 13 October 2019

Storytelling is not always easy
"Understanding your (grand) parents is the biggest sign of respect", performer Rizal Iwan states. It is the beautiful conclusion of two panel discussions on the difficulty of collecting and sharing family (hi)stories. In the two panel discussions, 'our' artists were well-represented: Francesca Pichel, Rizal Iwan and Dionne Verwey in the first, and Esmay Usmany, Felix K Nesi and Angelina Enny in the second.

Some of the lessons learnt: acknowledge the land you live on, make an effort in acknowledging its history and traditions. Unraveling your family's history does not require a certain methodology, just start with asking questions to your parents and grandparents. Stay open to other people's emotions, even though they may not be the same as yours. It is important for children to have a role model to whom they can relate. And finally, there is no such thing as one truth: there are as many truths as there are people: but when you try to collect many different truth, you can get a better sense of an overall, more inclusive and complete story. 

Two panel sessions on the difficulty of collecting and sharing family (hi)stories with among others: Francesca Pichel, Rizal Iwan, Dionne Verwey, Esmay Usmany, Felix K Nesi and Angelina Enny at LIFEs 2019. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
Saturday 12 October 2019

Your story is my story
In the circular space with white washed walls, Adrian Mulya and Maria Lamslag wonder whether their respective Chinese-Peranakan and Indo-Dutch families could have crossed paths. Armando Ello and Felix K Nesi have co-produced a photo series of the influence of colonialism on Timor today. Lala Bohang and Lara Nuberg share a few of the letters they exchanged on the topic of voilence in the Dutch colonial period and War of Independence fought in Indonesia and its influence on their families. And as part of the opening of these three exhibitions, Ardjuna Candotti and I told the stories of how the our Indo-Dutch grandparents met: Ardjuna told my grand parents' story, I told that of hers. 

Impression of the exhibitions at LIFEs 2019 'My story, shared history', October 2019. Photo: Remco Vermeulen

Magical storytelling
Young writers read from their own work underneath a dark, starry sky. Well it would have been starry except for Jakarta's smog and city lights. The works they read from are diverse and have one thing in common: they cover several social(ly sensitive) topics such as sexuality, the pressure of losing weight, infidelity and the educational system. The Indonesian writers read in Bahasa Indonesia, clear and as masters of their trade. Simultaneously, the English translations are projected on a screen next to the stage. The audience, it seems around 200-300 people are attending, laugh, frown and nod recognition. Among the writers are the Indonesian Lala Bohang and Felix K Nesi, and the Dutch Esmay Usmany. Well-known novelist and festival director Ayu Utami introduces the session. Afterwards, the attendees are invited to a literary dinner on another roof terrace of cultural centre Komunitas Salihara, in 'rijsttafel' style. In the end, Dutch and Indonesians find each other in that one common passion: eating. 

Impressions of the Starry, Story Night performances at the LIFEs opening 2019, with Ayu Utami, Armando Ello, Esmay Usmany, Robin Block, Lala Bohang and Felix K Nesi. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
Friday 11 October

The night before LIFEs
Outside the air is warm with traffic fumes and the smell of food stalls, but inside the modern steel-hardwood-concrete-glass interior is gently cooled by the AC. Students sit in groups drinking iced tea and work with laptops, play with their phones or simply giggle softly. The wifi signal is immaculate. The flatscreen tv has the festival trailer with artist interviews on repeat. Technicians walk back and forth, hanging up banners or setting light and sound for the upcoming performances.

One by one the artists, both Dutch and Indonesian, arrive, every one being greeted with cheers and hugs from the others. It feels like a group of friends coming together for a long overdue kumpulan, or reunion. Stories about the long trip to get here, by plane from the Netherlands and other parts of Indonesia, or by car through Jakarta's persistent traffic jams fill the little cafe. It is long dark when the group gets up to get dinner at the nearby outdoor foodcourt. Of course, every kumpulan requires makan-makan. Behind the chatter, the tension is slowly rising. Only one night of sleep before the Literature and Ideas Festival of Komunitas Salihara starts. 

Collage of the LIFEs 2019 My Story, Shared History posters. Posters: Komunitas Salihara. Collage: Esmay Usmany
Thursday 10 October 2019

The story of heritage conservation
Today I had meetings, and on- and off-topic conversations, with the curatorial team of the upcoming exhbition'Segar Bugar: the story of conservation in Jakarta from 1920 till present'. This exhibition is curated by artist collective ruangrupa and Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur (Centre for Architectural Documentation) and co-funded by DutchCulture. 'Segar bugar' translates to 'fit and healthy' and refers to 'jamu', a traditional herbal drink; this jamu is a metaphor for heritage conservation (Curious what this means? Keep an eye out for further information to be shared through our website!).

The exhibition will reveal the story of heritage conservation in the city of Jakarta, through the phases of 'Menjaga vitalitas' (Maintaining vitality), 'Mengembalikan stamina' (Restoring stamina), 'Menyegarkan jiwa' (Invigorating the soul) and 'Menambah gairah' (Stimulating passion). Yes, those are all jamu-related terms, but do refer to the different consecutive political regimes Jakarta went through: the Dutch colonial period, the Japanese period, Sukarno's national-building, Suharto's New Order and today's Post-reformasi. Needless to say, I expect this exhibition is going to be quite the ride.

Museum Bank Indonesia (left), the venue of the exhibition, and an artist impression of the exhibition's interior (right). Photo: Remco Vermeulen
Wednesday 9 October 2019

A night at Erasmus Huis
When I arrived at the Erasmus Huis after an adventurous ride on the back of a GoJek motor, straight through Jakarta's rush hour, many, primarily young, people had already gathered in the entrance area. After the doors to the auditorium opened, it turned out the crowd was filling up most of the ca. 400 seats. Quite a turn-out! But the programme of tonight was quite exceptional, to say the least.

After opening words by Joyce Nijssen, manager of the Erasmus Huis, followed a quick-painting performance under the guidance of modern eclectic gamelan music by Dhalang Ki Gamblang and Wayang Gamblang Nusantara. Then the young Dutch singer Sanne Rambags took the stage with guitarist Bram Stadhouders and percussionist Joost Lijbaart for a short but mesmirizing concert influenced by many different musical styles from around the world, combined with a wayang (shadow puppet) performance.

The climax of the night was a modern and at times hilarious (if you speak Bahasa Indonesia...) take on a traditional wayang peformance by Dhalang Ki Gamblang, with music by Sanne, Bram and Joost in duet with the Wayang Gamblang Nusantara orchestra. A true, completely improvised, co-creation concert was the result. Beautiful example of a Dutch-Indonesian co-creation. 

Impressions of the performances of Sanne Rambags and friends, 9 October 2019, Jakarta. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
Tuesday 8 October 2019

Reactions Indonesian media on visit Rutte
The Indonesian media covered prime minister Mark Rutte's visit extensively. A few examples of the different headlines. Antara News and Republika refer to the prime minister's affinity with Bahasa Indonesia: "Dutch Prime Minister declared Indonesian language has a special meaning" and "Special meaning of Indonesian for the Dutch PM". Antara News also shares that "Netherlands expected to tackle discrimination against RI's palm oil". Koran Jakarta writes "Jokowi and the Dutch PM Discuss HR Improvement", while Kompas notes Rutte's view on the need of "Regional Cooperation To Maintain Global Order". Liputan6 covers that "Indonesia and the Netherlands Agree to Extend the Collaboration on the Jakarta Giant Sea Wall Project", with Berita Satu writing that the "Dutch PM Requests Issues of Islamophobia Not To Be Exaggerated". While the Jakarta Post analyses that "Jokowi, Rutte tiptoe around past war crimes", Tribun Manado concludes: "Jokowi and Dutch PM Cohesive in Batik: Call for Vocational Cooperation.

Headlines of Indonesian media covering Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte's visit to Jakarta, October 2019. Created: Remco Vermeulen
Monday 7 October 2019

Towards a shared future
In the Erasmus Huis, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines hosted a unique three-day(!) exhibition on their 100-year anniversary, especially commemorating its first intercontintental flight from Amsterdam, via many stop-overs, to Jakarta (then Batavia) in 1924. The celebration coincided with the official visit of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte to Jakarta and Bogor.

As part of his full programme, Rutte spoke with Indonesian politician Dino Patti Djalal in a large room packed with students, young professionals, Dutch expats and journalists. The prime minister emphasized the warm relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia, often enriched with personal connections. He also stressed the importance of cooperation between countries, not only bilaterally but also within regional blocks, such as within the EU for the Netherlands and within ASEAN for Indonesia. 

KLM 100 years exhibition at Erasmus Huis and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte addressing the crowds, Jakarta, October 2019. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
Sunday 6 October 2019

First exploration in Medan
During a stop-over in Medan, Sumartra, I had the opportunity to visit some very interesting sights in the historical inner city, thanks to the excellent guides of the Sumatra Heritage Trust (terima kasih banyak!). I got to see the dilapidated Medan Warenhuis which may finally be renovated by the local government in the near future (left on the photo), the Istana Maimun with its eclectic architecture with Malay, Islamic and Spanish architecture and which was designed by a Dutch architect for the Sultan of Deli (middle), and the absolutely impressive mansion of the wealthy merchant, partriarch and former Mayor of Medan, Tjong A Fie (right). Medan is definitely worth a (more extensive) stay! 

Medan Warenhuis, Istana Maimun and Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, October 2019. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
Lala Bohang and Lara Nuberg at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, July 2019.

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, shared history #3

Meet the artists of My story, shared history: the third duo is Lala Bohang and Lara Nuberg.

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

During the project 'My story, shared history' six Indonesian and six Dutch artists with an Indo-Dutch background create work together on their shared history. The Indonesian writer and visual artist Lala Bohang and Indo-Dutch writer and historian Lara Nuberg decided to write a collection of stories. In The Journey of Belonging, Lara and Lala explore what binds them. What are their thoughts after the first week of working together?

Impact of history

“The theme of this project Personal stories, national histories, is great,” Lara tells. “I think it is important to understand the impact of history on a personal level. That’s why I really like the idea of Indo-Dutch and Indonesian participants working together.” During the workshop week in Jakarta in July, the artists explored their shared history, learned about new perspectives, talked about identity and how they relate to national history. 

Lala called her mother to ask more about her family history, something the family never really talked about. She discovered she had a European ancestor. “I always thought I was a mix of Chinese and Indonesian and a bit of German, but that’s never officially confirmed by my grandmother. But during this project, I found out I am also Eurasian and my great grandmother is a Dutch-German. That is huge for me, in terms of the realisation that I know so little about the history of my family! After this project, I want to explore more about my family history. In my work, I usually talk about the struggle of human beings in general from various themes and their feelings: the grey spectrum of humans. Now I feel I want to dive more in my history.”

The realisation that I know so little about the history of my family is huge
Lala Bohang
The reason why we are here

Lara, who is currently writing a novel about her family history, blogs about her research and daily observations. “It is interesting to see that there are so many similarities between us as human beings. We were talking about equality and inequality and how the western world sees Indonesia, and how Indonesians see the western world. For example, when I was young, we lived next to an Indonesian family; they moved to the Netherlands in the 1960s. My parents would always say: 'They are Indonesians. They are not like us because we are Indo-Dutch.' But what I see in this project is that we actually speak the same language. There is not so much difference between us. It doesn’t matter if you’re Indo-Dutch or Indonesian. You’re just both human and you have your ideas and dreams. I think getting to know people from different countries, everyone should do that. It will make you understand that there’s not so much difference in the end." 

Lala: “I agree with you, it opens our minds. You are very curious about your personal history and your identity. People in Indonesia usually just accept who they are, and are not digging deep into the history of their family, but of course, it has a reason. So I hope to learn from your curiosity on our personal history. It is the reason why we are here and why we are who we are.”

Lala Bohang and Lara Nuberg at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, July 2019. Photo: Armando Ello
I think it is important to understand the impact of history on a personal level
Lara Nuberg

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Esmay Usmany and Aziz Azthar at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, July 2019. Photos: Armando Ello

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, shared history #2

Meet the artists of My story, shared history: the second duo is Esmay Usmany and Aziz Azthar.

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

The project My Story, Shared History is part of Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. This programme focuses on the historical, current and future relationship between the Netherlands and the city of Jakarta. Singer, writer and performing artist Esmay Usmany from the Netherlands and Indonesian actor Aziz Azthar, who lives and works in Jakarta, explain what Jakarta means to them. 

The theme ‘personal stories, national history’ pushes me to learn more about my family’s history and about my country
Aziz Azthar
A new beginning

"Jakarta means growing up for me," tells Aziz, who was born in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. "I came to Jakarta after finishing university. Here, I got my first job and made new friends. Jakarta is the place where I started to accept everything about myself." 

"So, Jakarta means ‘change’ for you?" Esmay asks him. "Yes," replies Aziz, "freedom and change."

Esmay can relate to that. She explains that over the past few years she became more interested in her family history. Her grandmother, born in Indonesia, fled to the Netherlands during the Dutch-Indonesian-Dutch War for Independence and never talked about her experiences. "I am curious to learn more," Esmay says. "This was one of the reasons why I joined this project. To see what it brings. Jakarta is the start of a new inner adventure and the place where my family once started. Here are my roots. So Jakarta is also a new beginning for me." 

Jakarta is also a new beginning for me
Esmay Usmany
Who am I?

Within this project, the artists who work together, have different professional backgrounds. Aziz is an actor and writer. Esmay is a singer, performing artist and writer. Aziz recently played in the YouTube series Bengkel Kopi, about the daily life of Jakarta's citizens in the popular coffee cafés of Jakarta. Esmay combines music, monologues and poetry. In her book Altijd onderweg (Always on the Road) she describes her journey back to her Indonesian roots. Her next book will be Allerlievelings (Dearest darlings). In their collaborative work, Esmay and  Aziz will combine their expertise. 

"I like the theme Personal stories, national history," Aziz continues. "This theme pushes me to learn more about my family's history and about my country." Through their family and personal stories, Aziz and Esmay explore what defines them as individuals and what connects them. While sharing thoughts about  who inspires them, it turns out their grandmothers have had a big influence on both of them. "It might be a bit cliché within this project. But, my grandmother is the example of having the courage to go on an adventure and to see what it brings. That was exactly what she did when she came to Holland, even though she had no choice. The way she lived her life, was always with a big smile," Esmay tells. Aziz adds: "My grandmother had a big influence on me. Like a second mom. To be honest, she is also the person I sometimes avoid," he smiles. "But she is still my biggest inspiration."

Esmay and Aziz' performance, entitled Who am I?, will be performed for the first time at the Literature- and Ideas Festival this upcoming October in Jakarta. 

More info?

Esmay shared her experiences through several columns, vlogs and pictures. Curious? Check out her website and her travel blog for My story, shared history.

Esmay Usmany and Aziz Azthar at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, July 2019. Photos: Armando Ello

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Felix S. Nesi and Armando Ello in Kota Tua, Jakarta, July 2019.

Photo: Armando Ello
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition. Meet the artists of My story, shared history #1

Meet the artists of My story, shared history: the first duo is Armando Ello and Felix K. Nesi.

My story, shared history is part of the Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition project

By Ardjuna Candotti, educator and curator at Indisch Herinneringscentrum

Felix K. Nesi is a writer, publicist and runs Fanu Books: an independent bookshop in Kupang in West-Timor, Indonesia. His novel manuscript, Orang-Orang Oetimu (People of Oetimu) won Jakarta Arts Council’s Biannual Competition for Novel Manuscript in 2018 and was published with the same title in 2019. His goal is to shed more light on the history and people’s stories of Timor.

Armando Ello is a photographer, filmmaker and influencer within the Indo-Dutch community in the Netherlands. Armando successfully crowdfunded his own photography book Twijfelindo’s (‘Indos who doubt’). He is currently taking this project to a next level, by portraying Indo-Dutch around the world and further exploring Indo-Dutch diversity. 

The work of both Felix and Armando touches on topics like colonialism, diversity and racism, but always with a touch of humour. Like Felix, Armando’s mother is from Kupang. That makes them a perfect match to work together. How do they relate to the theme ‘personal stories, national histories’? During the workshop week in Jakarta in July, the artists asked each other this question.   

National histories are built on personal stories
Armando Ello

Armando begins: “I think it’s a very important theme. National histories are built on personal stories. Personally I am not interested in hero stories, but interested in stories of people walking in the streets”. Felix explains that when Timor became part of the Indonesian Republic, the system of education was centralized. This meant that students in Timor got to learn the same history at school as those in Jakarta. Within this narrative, the history of Timor is underexposed: “When we read about our national history, it is not about us. It may not be a bad thing, considering how big Indonesia is, but I do think it alienates people from their local history. Especially when that history is not written down: Timor is known for its oral history. I sometimes think that my story is not important to people, because the national history is not the same as my personal story. But in these last couple of days, I am really realizing I have to do something with that”. 

The national history is not the same as my personal story
Felix K. Nesi

Armando recognizes this realization. Earlier that week he explained that one cannot expect from Dutch society to know what a term like Indo means, as for him the school curriculum in the Netherlands has a narrow view on colonial history. “The only way to discover more about this term and its origins is through one’s own family history”, he explained, “It feels that national history is often not my neighbours story, not my friends story. The history that is written down until now often is written by people of higher power. Now we live in a time that everyone can write or post something on social media about someone’s family. I really look forward to building history from the base, instead of from a higher position”. 

Felix: “Shall we get started?” Armando: “Yes! Yeah man!”.

Felix S. Nesi and Armando Ello in Kota Tua, Jakarta, July 2019. Photo: Armando Ello
I hope to learn more about Felix’ work and about Kupang so that I can understand my family and their history better
Armando

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'Read My World' festival curators Mahi Binebine and Fedwa Misk

Photo: Read My World
 

In the spotlight: three days Morocco, multi-linguality and feminism at Read My World

Read My World is an annual independent festival that celebrates literature and poetry in all its forms. This year's edition will be organised in Amsterdam.

The festival focuses on a new region every year, and this seventh edition of the festival has Morocco as its theme. The festival will host seventy writers, journalists and artists from Morocco and the Netherlands. By inviting two native curators - journalist and public intellectual Fedwa Misk and writer and visual artist Mahi Binebine - Read My World wishes to present Morocco's literary world in all its multi-lingual and multifaceted glory.

Photo: Will Matsuda
Going beyond the mainstream

It is Read My World's mission to create a platform for talented writers and storytellers whom may not be known outside of their region, to tell their personal and professional stories, giving their audience a unique insight into what moves them and what lives beyond the mainstream production of literature. The festival also wants to understand what literature can mean in the broadest sense of the word and pivots on the power of language, the written and spoken word.

In 2019, Read My World hopes to achieve so by designing programs which focus on essential and pertinent matters. With an all-female editorial team, the festival addresses matters such as sexuality in the Middle East, the Hirak (or Riff Uprisings), Berber identity in the diaspora, Motherhood and the importance of cultural heritage.

For this edition, the festival will collaborate with likeminded organisations such as the Nomadic Arts Centre Moussem, SLAA (organisation for literature activities Amsterdam) and theatre company and cultural platform Adelheid + Zina. Together with these partners the festivals has designed both traditional readings as well as theater performances, spoken word performances, dialogue and panel sessions and public debates.

When and where to attend RMW?

10, 11, 12 Oct at the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. More information and tickets: Read My World

In the spotlight

Are you a Dutch or Netherlands-based artist performing abroad in the (near) future and would you like to be in the spotlight? Send us an email with detailed information and two horizontal high res images. The editing team will make a selection and get back to you.

Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in Morocco in our database.

If you are a cultural professional who wants to go to Morocco, feel free to contact our Morocco advisor Myriam Sahraoui.



Photo: DutchCulture
 

Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition

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Medan Warenhuis, Istana Maimun and Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, October 2019. Photos: Remco Vermeulen
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Compression Cradle, Lucy McRae.

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In the spotlight: Dutch entry at the Milan Triennale ‘I See That I See What You Don’t See’

From 1 March until 1 September, the 22nd edition of the Milan Triennale took place with an official Dutch contribution by Het Nieuwe Instituut.

The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, commissioned Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) to create the Dutch contribution to the XXII Milan Triennale. The theme of the 2019 edition was Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, which referred to the role that design can play in restoring the relationship between man and his environment.

Design curator Angela Rui, HNI Director of Research Marina Otera Verzier and HNI Head of Agency Francien van Westrenen joined forces to develop a cutting-edge project in which various artists, filmmakers and designers participated. The project was called I See That I See What You Don’t See. 

Panorama I See... by Rudy Guedj. Photo: Daria Scagliola

I See That I See What You Don’t See combines research, film, performance, sound and scent-scapes to draw attention to air pollution. The project speculates on design as both a problem and solution, a destructive as well as restorative endeavor. I See... was created for, and frequented by, an international audience at the Milan Triennale.

The project will continue to be in the spotlight at HNI in Rotterdam until the end of December. In an interview with De Groene Amsterdammer, Francien van Westrenen emphasized that the project was shaped with an international group of makers, who were driven by an international team. Internationalisation is at the core of HNI and plays a role in almost all its activities.

When and where to visit I See...?

1 March – 1 Sept at the XXII Milan Triennale

5 Oct – 29 Dec at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam 

 

Participating artists

Ramon Amaro, Danilo Correale, Design Academy Eindhoven, Het Nieuwe Instituut, departments of Research and Heritage, Academy of Urban Astronauts, Melvin Moti, Oscar Pena, Lucy McRae, Bregtje van der Haak, Richard Vijgen, Leanne Wijnsma. 

In the spotlight

Are you a Dutch or Netherlands-based artist performing abroad in the (near) future and would you like to be in the spotlight? Send us an email with detailed information and two horizontal high res images. The editing team will make a selection and get back to you.

Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in Italy in our database.

If you are a cultural professional who wants to go to Italy, feel free to contact our Italy advisor Tijana Stepanovic.

Still from 'INSTINCT' with Marwan Kenzari and Carice van Houten

Photo: Kris Dewitte
 

In the spotlight: Halina Reijn's film debut 'INSTINCT' is the Dutch Oscars submission

'INSTINCT' (2019), directed by Halina Reijn and written by Esther Gerritsen, is already receiving unprecedented international acclaim.

INSTINCT is the opening film of the Netherlands Film Festival and will be released in Dutch theatres on 3 October. The film attained international prominence at its world premiere in Locarno, Switzerland, when it was awarded the Variety Piazza Grande Award. The North American premiere took place in Toronto, Canada, and INSTINCT will also be screened at the BFI London Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival. Furthermore, INSTINCT was selected as the Dutch Oscars submission in the International Feature Film category.

Still from 'INSTINCT' with Carice van Houten and Marwan Kenzari. Photo: Kris Dewitte

Synopsis

In INSTINCT, Carice van Houten plays Nicoline, a psychologist working in a penal institution who finds herself trapped in a power play with her client Idris. Idris, portrayed by Marwan Kenzari, is about to go on his first unaccompanied probation. Nicoline is skeptical and tries to push his probation, which causes Idris to slowly transform into the manipulative man she had seen in him from the start.

 

Award-winning artists

Director Halina Reijn has received multiple awards for her work as an actress, author, director and producer. She works with director Ivo van Hove at the International Theatre Amsterdam. INSTINCT is her debut as a film director, aside from it being the first outing of Man Up, the production banner of Halina and Carice van Houten. Carice is one of the most celebrated Dutch actresses and winner of prestigious awards. She is perhaps best known for her role as Melisandre in Game of Thrones. Finally, Marwan Kenzari is an award-winning Dutch actor and was most recently seen as Jafar in Aladdin.

 

When and where to see INSTINCT?

27 Sept, 2019 – 5 Oct, 2019 at the Netherlands Film Festival, released in Dutch theatres on 3 October

2 Oct, 2019 – 13 Oct, 2019 at the BFI London Film Festival

16 Oct, 2019 – 27 Oct, 2019 at the Chicago International Film Festival

Still from 'INSTINCT' with Marwan Kenzari and Carice van Houten. Photo: Kris Dewitte

INSTINCT is produced by Topkapi Films in co-production with Man Up and BNNVARA. The film was realized with the support of the Netherlands Film Fund, the Netherlands Film Production Incentive and CoBO.

In the spotlight

Are you a Dutch or Netherlands-based artist performing abroad in the (near) future and would you like to be in the spotlight? Send us an email with detailed information and two horizontal high res images. The editing team will make a selection and get back to you.

Dutch and Indonesian artists in Kota Tua, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Photo: Adrian Mulja
 

Writer and LIFEs director Ayu Utami: “My aim is to create an inclusive history”

Six artists from The Netherlands with an Indo-Dutch background cooperate with six Indonesian artists to create several productions on their shared history.
By Lara Nuberg

 

This year DutchCulture, Indisch Herinneringscentrum, the Netherlands' Embassy in Jakarta and Komunitas Salihara work together on a project called My story, shared history. Within this project, six artists from The Netherlands with an Indo-Dutch background cooperate with six Indonesian artists to create several productions on their shared history, to be presented at LIFEs, the Literature and Ideas Festival, in Komunitas Salihara Jakarta in October 2019. This project is part of Indonesia Now: Jakarta edition, a thematic programme taking place in 2019 which focuses on the historical, current and future relationship between the Netherlands and the city of Jakarta, initiated by DutchCulture, the Netherlands’ Embassy in Jakarta and several partner organisations.  

Award-winning writer Ayu Utami is the festival director of LIFEs. Blogger, historian and participant of the project Lara Nuberg spoke with her after the first week of artists workshops, in which the participants from both countries met each other and followed classes on colonial history and the importance of personal stories within national narratives.

How did the idea of connecting Indo-Dutch and Indonesian artists to dig into their personal side of history together come about?

“Actually the idea of adding the Indo-Dutch perspective into this project was added later - after I met the Indo-Dutch performer Robin Block in Jakarta in 2018 and curator Ardjuna Candotti from the Indisch Herinneringscentrum. In the first place, my idea was to bring Dutch and Indonesians together for a program at LIFEs. That idea was in my mind for a very long time, since I have my own concerns about the historiography of Indonesia. The history lessons we get here in school are full of nationalism and patriotism. It is black and white. The histories we learn are always stories of good Indonesians against an abstract cruel enemy, as if no human being was involved. With this project, I hope to bring back the personal agency of common people within the bigger narratives of national histories. My aim is to create an inclusive history.”

If you know your own personal story and the ones of others, it is easier to connect
The history that I was taught in school was also mostly black and white. For example, in the Netherlands J.P. Coen is still present in street names or statues, although his policy meant a human disaster for people in the Indonesian archipelago.

“Yes, I am aware of this discussion. I travel to the Netherlands quite often and with my friends over there like writer Marion Bloem and historian Nancy Jouwe I talk about this dilemma a lot. In general, I think we should be careful with heroism and dualism. Histories based on heroes and dualism are often embodied to oppress others. In the Netherlands, you might have J.P. Coen [Dutch seafarer and Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies in the early 17th century, ed.] as a symbol to create feelings of nationalism. In Indonesia we have for example Imam Bonjol. He was the winner of the Padri Wars on Sumatra around 1800 and is considered to be a national hero. But that passes the fact that he killed thousands of Batak-people – a story that we never hear about. It is the same for important events in our more recent history. The massacre of the Chinese community in 1965-66 is erased out of our history books; the same goes for the important role leftist intellectuals played in gaining our independence.”

How can personal stories influence the way we perceive history?

“The way we look at history in Indonesia now creates limitations on peoples’ identities. It divides people in boxes: left, right, Chinese, Javanese, Muslim, Christian and so on. By focussing on personal stories we can challenge these kinds of structures. If you know your own personal story and the ones of others, it is easier to connect. It makes history more human and thus easier to relate to each other.”

Dutch and Indonesian artists at a mosque in Central Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Esmay Usmany
Why is the Literature and Ideas Festival in Salihara the perfect place to have this conversation?

“Since LIFEs is a literature festival and not a history festival; it gives us a certain freedom. Maybe in an academic context, you have to be more rigid, but through literature, art and performances you can add emotions, doubt, different perspectives. I think it is a good way of researching shared aspects between each other and to show the complexity of history.”

How do you look back on last week’s programme?

“I am very happy about last week. I see this project as a personal quest and passion. I really loved to see how all of you enriched each other. The Indo-Dutch perspective is new for most of the Indonesian participants, but there were also a lot of events out of Indonesian history that the participants from the Netherlands never heard of. I think the combination of the participants was really good. I am touched.” 

Personal experiences make history more human. It is something we need to challenge dogmatic ways of nationalistic history-telling
Is there a moment in particular that you will remember?

“Well, I know that the Dutch correspondent in Indonesia, Michel Maas, who recently quit his job here, is bitter about Indonesia for becoming too religious. Dogmatism is indeed on the rise. But during the last session of this week, in which all participants presented their projects, I felt sparks that remind me of a mixed, diverse Indonesia that can work; that there is hope that we can look further than segregation. I am really thankful for that.” 

Novelist Ayu Utami at Kommunitas Salihara, Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Armando Ello

The final projects of the participants, consisting of performances, books and photo exhibitions, will be presented at the Literature and Ideas Festival in Salihara in Jakarta from 12 to 20 October 2019 and on 12 November at the event Indonesia Now 2019 in Amsterdam. 

Do you want to know more about working in Indonesia? Find more info here.

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