October 25, 2018

Indonesia: Mutual reflection on painful personal and shared history

For ‘South Sulawesi Reconsidered’, researcher Maarten Hidskes is travelling to Indonesia to speak with descendants, veterans and academics about a painful past.

Political drawing confiscated by the Netherlands. Celebes, December 14, 1946, Mandar area. The owner of the drawing was possibly executed. Text reads: rather to go up into flames than to be colonised again. Image: National Archives of the Netherlands.

Mutual reflection
South Sulawesi Reconsidered aims at connecting the shared colonial history between Indonesia and the Netherlands. It specifically researches the South Sulawesi Campaign, which is regarded as one of the most violent episodes in the colonial history of the two countries. Hidskes previously investigated the role his father played in the campaign in his book Thuis gelooft niemand mij (Nobody at home would believe it if I told them). Little is known about the Indonesian side of this history. The publication of Hidskes’ book in Indonesian this September will create room for mutual reflection by connecting multiple perspectives, emotions and opinions.

A joint narrative
At over twenty locations, Hidskes and his Indonesian publisher Obor are organising lectures, discussions and conversations with veterans, descendants, students and teachers from different generations. The preface of the book will be written by an Indonesian descendant of a revolutionary. With this joint narration, Hidskes hopes to bring about a feeling of mutuality and shared insight: “When a war is over, and you start looking for how it got that far, it doesn’t help to say to the other person: ‘But you were at least as bad!’ I ask the question: how could it get so far that we wanted to kill each other, and what could young generations of Indonesians and Dutch learn from this? It would be great if during a discussion an Indonesian stands up and says: ‘I’m going to write the Indonesian version of this story!’”

This project was made possible by the publisher Obor, DutchCulture's Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund (info in Dutch), and Maarten Hidskes.