Time for Confession
Okay, I have to admit that I was culturally and geographically ignorant on the topic when I started this project. I did not know, for instance, that the Dutch East Indies had morphed into Indonesia. In truth, I used to wonder what became of the Dutch East Indies, as it just kind of disappeared.
A little further along the learning curve, I did not know why Ilse bristled one day and told me never to call her Indonesian. I realized I’d stumbled onto a cultural canker. It was tricky, writing the story. I could not talk about Indonesia–it did not exist in that time frame. Nor could I talk about Indonesians–they did not exist, either. They had to be Javanese, Sumatran, Balinese, etc, depending upon which island they came from. Ilse said she was an Indiesa; she’s not terribly keen on today’s term, “Indo,” but she accepts it.
So I thought I was doing quite well until we got toward the end of the story and I made the mistake of saying she emigrated to Holland. “Emigrrrrate? Emigrrrrrate?” she said, her r’s rolling indignantly. I knew I was in trouble again. “We did not emigrrrrate–we were Dutch citizens, with Dutch passports.” Her eyes flashed, and once again, I learned something about this complex culture we now call Dutch Indo, or just plain Indo.
Their ethnic roots are in a country that stopped existing in 1949. Their Dutch citizenship worked against them. In the country of their birth, they were the despised oppressors; in the “motherland” they were not welcome. My learning curve goes on, as I gain insight from my blog responders.
Daniel says, “The Dutch Indonesian (Indo) has always been an outsider.” Calvin points out, “The Indonesian History books deleted all the involvement of Indo in the collective knowledge. I guess it can’t be helped because Indo was always considered as ‘Dutch’ by the natives.” Mark says, “Let our culture not become a figment of the imagination…” Tina says, “As a very ‘watered’ down Dutch/Indo, I would love to know the history of my roots.” Jack says “…you have an almost incalculable number of third generation Indo’s….I think they are silent, because they are lost, not because they don’t care.” David speaks for many when he says, “I would like to show my friends who don’t understand about my heritage and how it shapes who I am today.”
From the beginning, my passion has been to get Ilse’s story out for the world to hear. Now I have extended my passion to getting the story of a dispersed culture out to the world and to the Indos that need to know their proud heritage.