Category Archives: Indonesia

Departing the Indies

 A historical perspective of life in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia.

Indonesian NationalismImmediately following WWII the Dutch East Indies found itself embroiled in yet another conflict. This time the fight was with Indonesian nationalists striving to attain the lofty ideals required to form a republic rather than the exploitation of commodities that had catapulted the islands into violent struggles in the past.

They were demanding from the Dutch colonialists the right to pursue independence on their own terms and were fully prepared to take up arms, dictate the timeline, and sacrifice life in order to achieve their goal.

Considerably weakened by years of fighting the Japanese, the Dutch army was now in no condition to take on a new adversary.  Over the next 7 months the island of Java would bear witness to a mish-mash of nations either fighting, protecting, or attempting to remain neutral.  Continue reading Departing the Indies

Surviving in the Indies

 A historical perspective of wartime life in colonial Indonesia based on family accounts.

1939 Hotel des IndiesBatavia had once been known throughout the world as the Amsterdam of the East. With its city-wide labyrinth of canals, drawbridges, cobblestone streets, trams, harbors, and European cultural awareness Batavia was now adding to this romantic exotic moniker and focused on becoming a world class city; one that could attract people by boasting opportunity, success, and lifestyle.

The ever increasing population required infra-structure. Civil servants from the Netherlands were offered incentives to pack-up and move to the Indies.

The promise of a life in the tropics was hard to resist. With unrest in Europe becoming more and more likely, a chance to escape and start again was appealing. People flooded into the Indies throughout the 1930’s.  Continue reading Surviving in the Indies

Living in the Indies

A historical perspective on life in colonial Indonesia based on family accounts.

1931 School PlayAs the Dutch and European populations in Java grew it became clear that certain fundamental aspects needed for a good quality life were absent. Boredom, especially for women, contributed to many ultimatums and early return voyages to the Netherlands.

It was simply not enough to live in paradise, as the shipping and immigration posters had advertised it, but rather a sense of purpose, culture, and sophistication also had to be developed in order to maintain this population that had traveled half way around the world in search of a better life.

Batavia (modern day Jakarta) and Bandung especially, began a campaign to deliver European culture to the Indies. Society clubs, concert halls and theaters were built in haste. Performers and entertainers in music, dance, stage, and opera, were brought to the Indies to provide an opportunity for certain residents to elevate their social standing; for most though it was a way to enrich the  lives of those who now made the Indies their home…a morale boost for its citizenry.  Continue reading Living in the Indies

Arriving in the Indies

A historical perspective on life in colonial Indonesia starting in 1927.

Johan de WittFrom all accounts the arrival in Batavia during the latter part of 1927 must have been one full of incredible anguish coupled with limitless possibilities for a richer life.

Stories must have run rampant during the ocean crossing about what to expect upon arrival in the Indies and many of these would have been either highly exaggerated or completely fabricated.

Nevertheless, for those passengers on board, the tales, whether tall or not, were none the wiser during this stage of their journey east.

It has become clear through written accounts of the time that for a lot of people making this voyage from Holland, assimilation to the East and its way of life was simply never to become normal.  Continue reading Arriving in the Indies

Indonesia and Me

Northern Sumatra WomanLiving in the United States I feel far removed from the hectic pace and stunning beauty of Asia; especially Indonesia. I shouldn’t complain, I see this more as an observation of the grass being greener since the US has been very good to me but whenever I return to the archipelago of the Indonesian islands I feel a sense of home.

It would be easy to dismiss and say that it’s because New Zealand is so close, I am a Kiwi, but it is a feeling that transcends geographic boundaries and falls more squarely on the proverbial nails head of spiritual connection.

Before I lose you and you begin to wander down the path called “What the Hell is He Talking About” let me reign you back in and explain myself.

Growing up I was not completely unaware that my family, on Mum’s side, had lived in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) nor was I completely unaware that they had lived in Holland for a period. What I failed to grasp however was the importance of the story and the significance such a heritage would, and should, play on the way I see the world.  Continue reading Indonesia and Me