Monday, May 30, 2011

At the Dutch Festival

When I started learning Dutch, I never thought I would talk to anyone. In this region there are few opportunities to use it. Yesterday, I got to use it all day long. There was a high point, where I responded in Dutch, and I had understood everything. There was a low point, where someone who had been previously introduced addressed me, and I had no idea what was going on. Most of the time, I was 2/3 in and 1/3 out. I knew most of what was going on, but could rarely add anything.

The Dutch language is held dear by a group that came from all over. I was in line behind someone with ID from Nevada. For many, the festival was the end of a very long drive.

You never know where a language will take you. As long as you keep up with it, the road keeps going. Yesterday, I felt honored to work at the Indo Project's booth. I was the map guy for the morning shift. Jan had saved an old map of the Dutch East Indies from a trip to the dump. I was there with some pads of tags and some pens, encouraging people to mark where they were from.

While we talked, I explained how I got there, and held forth about how independence could have been much different under the 1936 Soetarjo Petition. Their stories explained long journeys, from the camps, when it looked like that was the end, to all sorts of destinations. The most moving story I heard came from a man who was separated from his family and found that he was an orphan at war's end. When the camps closed, he reunited with his grandmother, and they went to the Netherlands. She died there at 96. She had been through two world wars, but she couldn't take the cold. He felt that she had a few years left, but the inactivity and the changes were too much.

Another man, a Dutchman, said that he didn't belong in the Netherlands any more than he belonged in Indonesia, where he was born. I suppose belonging is a state of mutual acceptance. The Indo Project booth and the festival were very welcoming. Although many sad stories were told for the first time, the tone was happy. People were glad to see each other.

A continuous succession of Indo Rock bands set the tone. They used instruments taken from the Portuguese play hits from the United States in the early 60s in a genre that they had invented in the Netherlands. Everyone heard them jam in the here and now. In a sense, they pointed the way ahead.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Indo Project at The Holland Festival

The Indo Project will have a booth at the Holland Festival in Long Beach on May 29. I have met them at other events, and other editions of this event. Their booth will definitely be worth a visit.

The Indo story is largely unknown. Their recent history fell between the cracks of narratives by those who were either for independence in a way that forgot the past, or colonialism. Indos have been around since the Age of Discovery, and the Project is making their instructive history available to everyone.

The following post was forwarded to me by Director of Development, Jan Krancher. I mentioned the project on March 6, 2010, and I linked to some of his work.

The post was written by Co-Founder Priscilla Kluge McMullen, who was at last year's event. It will remain up through July 2.


Only a small percentage of the English speaking world know who or what a Dutch Indonesian is, or Indische(n),or Amerindo, or Indo, and you can go down the list of names that we prefer to call ourselves. The non-ending discourse on this topic is an example of the reason why. I wonder why it is that we cannot be united in what we call ourselves? Ourselves, meaning we who have roots in the former Dutch East Indies. I can understand why we would want to differentiate our own particular family history since most of us have that unique mixture, an intermingling of race, culture & nationality.

However, let’s think of the bigger picture, far into the future, how will we be identified in the history books of the world. Will we be known as a fractured people with just as a fractured description known by different labels? All because we cannot agree on what we want to call ourselves? Or do we let others label us? We continue to confuse people outside of our community by these different names we apply to ourselves.

I, who was born in Indonesia and have German/Dutch/Indonesian blood, and currently maintain dual citizenship (Dutch & USA), have “captured” the word INDO as that is how I want to describe myself in my personal and professional life. I want the English speaking world, that I come in contact with, to know me as an Indo. Of course, first and foremost I am an American but I want people to stop guessing my heritage. I am “taking claim” of the word Indo as my own because the beauty of the word Indo is that it is a shortened form of Indo-European, meaning exactly that! It encompasses everyone in our community. Not only people of Dutch Indonesian descent but also individuals who are descendent from any mixture of Indonesian and European blood. Whereas the term Indische Nederlander or Dutch Indonesian is exclusively of Dutch Indonesian descent.

We cannot be exclusive, we are a dying culture. We need to be inclusive --and rather than bicker about what we want to call ourselves why not go into the world and raise awareness about our history, culture and values. It is my hope that in the far future when my children and grandchildren say that they have Indo roots, the rest of the world will know exactly what Indo means… a proud, strong, and united people that had their roots in the former Dutch East Indies.