October 31, 2018

Indonesia: Comparing the personal perspectives of young and old generations

Some of the most interesting things that happen behind the scenes of Shared Cultural Heritage projects may often go unnoticed by outsiders. Author Maarten Hidskes shares an update on his project 'South Sulawesi Reconsidered'.

Going beyond the myths
During recent discussions held in the former heartlands of the 1946 Dutch military campaign on Sulawesi, Dutch author Maarten Hidskes encountered openness and a positive attitude on the part of the Indonesians. Students, teachers, victims, veterans and children of veterans all acknowledged that exploring history is about ‘sharing and caring’. In Ujung Pandang (formerly Makassar) a teacher said, ‘This is about going beyond the myths.’ Says Hidskes, ‘Students feel instinctively that there is more to history than heroic stories only. They are eager to explore small individual stories and multi-angled ways to look upon history. Local history committees claim that the recognition of history lies in exchanges such as these, while the victims support the idea that these stories should be told to both Indonesian and Dutch audiences.’

Questioning widely accepted narratives
On both the Dutch and Indonesian sides, new perspectives opened up as a result of the conversations. Widely accepted narratives about ‘the other side’ turned out to be partly or completely the opposite. Perceived facts turned out to be buoyant assumptions. The guerrilla and counter-guerrilla fighters had a lot more in common than previously had been known. These stories will form the subject matter of a book co-authored by Indonesian historian Anhar Gonggong and Maarten Hidskes, to appear in 2019. Each will write about the events during this war from their father’s perspective. Moreover, there are ideas for a bi-national exhibition in Ujung Pandang. Support for the book and project has already been confirmed by local universities and history committees on Sulawesi.

Tip: on 15 October, the Dutch newspaper NRC published an article on the project.

This project is supported by DutchCulture’s Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund.