maandag 9 oktober 2017

Iswanto Hartono fights against Dutch Colonialism and finds a way to annihilate JP Coen

Europalia is a programme of the European Union to pay attention to 'the other' (alium), in case another big coutry. For 2017 the EU has planned a programme on Indonesian culture, society and history. There is a big exhibition in Brussels, encounters in many places in Frans, Belgium and the Netherlands with intellectuals and artists. Ayu Utami will also come, next November.
For Amsterdam there is an exhibition by the artist Iswanto Hartono.
The Oude Kerk or Old Church in Amsterdam was built for mediaeval Catholic liturgy: a central hall or choir for the clergy (seven times per day prayers were said) and a nave for the common lay people. Some chapels, for societies of workers (guild) and for rich families to bury their beloved. A chapel of Mary. But after reformation the church was only used for Sunday service and now this giant building is only used for some 100 churchgoers  on Sunday morning. They use only a small part of the nave, from 10:30 tot 13:00. Outside these hours tourists may look at the building, there are some concerts (Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck played the organ outside the service: it was in early Calvinism not allowed to use the organ!), and exhibitions. For Europalia 2017 Iswanto Hartono made some works of art, in critical memory of Dutch colonialism.

He brought an image of the great Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen: the lower part is plaster, the upper section is wax with the idea that it burns like a candle and after the six weeks of the exhibition the wax has disappeared and so the (bad) memory of Coen disappears day after day. We were only three days after the opening of the exhibition, but the image was unpacked, the wick of the candle had burnt for some time and now the inner side of the head was empty, but the outside soemwhat damaged but still standing.
Coen stand here in a side chapel, in the back of the church (West-side). On the northern side in some chapels Hartono had made images of the murder of the population of the Banda Islands, some 2000 people. The great castel, Benteng Belgica stand also with burning candels, waiting to be destroyed.

In the centre we see the great castle of Banda of wax waiting to disappear, while in the back the church of Batavia is shown: is this the Emmanuel Church? Top and below are images of animals that were shot by the Dutch who loved the hunt and finally killed all wild animals in the Banda islands, while the original population only had killed the animals in so far as they needed meat for eating.
Spice harvesters are depicted here with the horns of deer.
Colonialism is ere never seen as an encounter of different nations and cultures, not as an opportunity for international trade and promotion of some agriculture, but quite simply and only as oppression and exploitation. Or should we consider the image of the Batavia Church as something different from the rest: probably not, because it is also temporary, made of wax.

For Hartono the personality of Coen is equal to corruption, to the oppression of the Chinese, to Soeharto's New Order. Does he work in the line of Mangunwijaya, who wrote a book  on early colonialism under the title Ikan-ikan Hiu, Ido, Homa [Sharks, tuna and sprat, after the big fishes who eat the smaller ones, who again live from the smallest]. The novel depicts the period of Western expansion in the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch tried to take over the Portuguese spice trade in the Moluccan archipelago. Both parties had to win the support of the Muslim Sultanates of Ternate and Tidore. In this novel the arrival of the colonizing powers is not depicted as a conflict between West and East or between Christians and Muslims, but as just another stage in the history of the rich and powerful who manipulate and exploit the poor. Sharks eat the tuna fish or middle class and they eat the sprat.

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