zaterdag 30 januari 2010


Arriving in the harbour city of Semarang, the final interview was scheduled with Els Marijn, the 82-year old great-granddaughter of African soldier Floris Marijn. As Els grew up with her paternal grandparents, she has an amazing knowledge of the pre-war African community. She even remembered two phrases in an African dialect of which 'sika ni ho' turned out to be 'There is no money' in the Fanti and Ashanti languages. When her parents, brothers and sisters all left for The Netherlands in 1954, Els applied for a Dutch travel visa, but was denied the document. Up till this day she doesn't understand why. After marrying Johannes Kippuw, she gave birth to four sons. Still living in the house that her grandfather Petrus Marijn built on Jalan Pesangrahan, she's surrounded by her children and 14 grandchildren.

dinsdag 26 januari 2010


While staying in Purworejo, the production team tried to locate the last African descendants who are the children of the late Eveline Sujarno, a granddaughter of African soldier Gerrit Artz. After asking around in the former kampung Afrikan, the Setyobudi family came to the rescue. Their son Emmanuel offered to contact Sumara Sujarno who lives in the desa of Lugosobo near Purworejo. Riding his cool motorbike, Emmanuel dropped off the team one by one at the wooden house of Sumara and her husband Pak Pun. After an initial shy reaction, the ice was broken when photographer Armando joined the conversation by responding ' Saya masih bujang'. The portrait he made of Sumara shows her as a Black Madonna, posing with her youngest child Deno.


saya masih bujang - I'm still single

maandag 25 januari 2010


Travelling by train from Bandung to Yoygyakarta, the production team got off at the village of Kebumen round midnight. As there are no taxi cabs in this tiny town, two ojek's were hired to drive the 50 kilometer to the old garrison town of Purworejo. When in Java, do as the Javanese. The next day, the former kampung Afrikan was visited where remarkably all the former houses of African soldiers and their families are still standing. Several new houses have been added, but the old houses of the Klink, Land, Cordus, De Ruiter, Beelt and Artz families next to many others, can still be admired. The owner of house number 28 near the sawahs asked the team if they were interested in purchasing her asli home.

Next, the European cemetery, called kerkop, offered a very sad sight. Practically all the old graves of African KNIL soldiers and their sons and daughters have been demolished. Any remembrance of the old colonial times has been wiped out here. With many marble plates gone, the team still was able to track down seven graves of Indo-African inhabitants. Considering that this cemetery used to be one of the most beautiful in the island of Java with marble graves and statues, the current sight of it is very depressing. With the Indonesian history starting at August 17, 1945, when Sukarno proclaimed the independent republic, the history of the Black Dutchmen has become an almost forgotten episode in Indonesia.


ojek - small motor bike
kampung Afrikan - African neighbourhood
asli - authentic

woensdag 20 januari 2010


The second and last interview in Bandung took place with Ivonne Hasania, daughter of the late Johanna Stap. Ivonne's great-grandfather is African soldier Govert Stap who was born in 1837 in the the northern region of Ghana. In 1862, he enlisted in the Dutch Indies army and settled in the garrison town of Soerakarta (Solo) after his military career. Govert Stap's son Albinus also joined the KNIL army; his daughter Johanna grew up in Purworejo and Solo and married David Hasania, an Indonesian policeman. Because Johanna was the only daughter of Albinus and Maria Stap, her parents decided to stay in the new republic of Indonesia and became Indonesian citizens. Johanna Stap, who passed away in 2006, lost contact with her family when they moved to The Netherlands and sometimes felt lonely, being the only descendant of soldier Stap left in Indonesia when her parents died. After the interview, a visit was paid to the Pandu cemetery where Ivonne's mother Johanna is buried together with her grandparents Albinus and Maria Stap.

dinsdag 19 januari 2010


Right after the hujan stopped during the current monsoon season, the production team travelled to the desa Ranca Ekek south of Bandung where Benny, Eddy and Yetti Niks live. Their great-grandfather is African soldier Najoersie who came from the region that nowadays is Burkina Faso. Soldier Najoersie's son Willem requested official permission to change the family name into 'Niks' (which means 'nothing' in the Dutch language). Dutch KNIL-soldier Willem Niks owned a beautiful home in the village of Salatiga where his seven children grew up. His son Tjalie Niks also enlisted in the KNIL army, but decided to stay in Indonesia after the country gained independence. He joined the TNI as an Indonesian citizen. Benny, Eddy and Yetty were born in the late '50's, but were never informed that they could have requested Dutch citizenship as their father was born as a Dutch citizen. They have to struggle to get by, but receive support from their family in The Netherlands, the US and Canada.


hujan - rain
TNI - Tentara Nasional Indonesia; the Indonesian army

maandag 18 januari 2010


Right before leaving for Bandung, the production team visited the war cemetery Menteng Pulo where Dutch war victims (both military and civil) are buried. In the beautiful church, the wooden cross from Burma that serves as a memorial for all the victims of the railway, has been given a central place. In the register, the names of KNIL-soldiers Adriaan Adeboi and Achilles Marijn were found who are buried in the war cemeteries of Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar (Burma). The book 'Black skin, Orange heart' includes interviews with descendants of both Indo-African soldiers.

Next, the team took the morning train to Bandung which was a wonderful experience, crossing through the hilly landscape with sawahs and mountains. Bandung is the city where reporter Griselda Molemans's buyut lived with his sons and grandchildren, so for her it's an extra special experience. Photographer Armando Ello discovered a typical Dutch image of skaters in the reception of the guest house. While the cold winter reigns
in The Netherlands, the team sets off to meet the great-grandchildren of African soldier Najoersie who live just outside the city.

buyut - great-grandfather

zaterdag 16 januari 2010

On the road

The next interviews were planned with Dien Bonimbie (who goes by the name of Ibu Tiny) and the sisters Irene and Helena Artz. Ibu Tiny lives in the 'wilayah' of Senen in the heart of Jakarta. Contrary to her brothers and sisters who all left for The Netherlands after Indonesia gained independence, she was never informed about the temporary procedure to request a travel visa. When she finally did apply, it was too late to leave the country. For the past 50 years, she's been an Indonesian citizen and has converted to islam. Her children have to scrape by, but all support their mother who turns 80 this year. Ibu Tiny proudly posed for the photographer with her authentic Dutch
Singer sewing machine.

Irene and Helena Artz are granddaughters of Gerrit Artz who was the last African soldier straight from Africa living in Purworejo. In 1950, Irene opted to become an Indonesian citizen because her father chose to stay in the new republic. Helena, who was underaged at the time, automatically became a 'warga negara' through her father's choice. The sisters, who grew up as privileged Dutch girls in a big house with three cars and a 'dokar', have fallen on hard times ever since. As second rate citizens, they have been living in poverty. Because Indo-African (which equals the Dutch nationality) is not a popular ethnicity in Indonesia, they prefer to call themselves 'Javanese'. Irene described their lives concisely: "In the old days we used to have baboes, now we've become baboes ourselves".


wilayah - district
warga negara - Indonesian citizen
dokar - small carriage pulled by two horses
baboe - housemaid

woensdag 13 januari 2010


Photographer Armando Ello and reporter Griselda Molemans touched down in Jakarta for the final interviews for the book production 'Black skin, Orange heart' which is due in May this year. As usual, the capital city of Jakarta had an overwhelming effect on them. The city's 12 million inhabitants make for a non-stop flow of traffic, hustle and bustle. In a quiet corner of the Menteng Park however, the statue of a young Barack Obama was paid a visit on the first day of the trip. 'Barry' used to live in the Menteng area with his mother Ann at the age of 10 years. Most Jakartans are proud of the achievements of this young 'Betawi' who became the 44th president of the United States, although protesters last week threatened to pull the statue down.

The first interviews with descendants of African soldiers who served in the Dutch army in the Netherlands Indies took place at the Church of St. Joseph on the Matraman Lane where the Dutch charity organization HALIN hands out small financial support to former Dutch citizens. Every month, about 150 elder people of Dutch-Indonesian, Moluccan and Indo-African descent (who used to be Dutch citizens, but opted for Indonesian citizenship in 1949) visit the HALIN support day in Jakarta. Among them were Adriana Adeboi, a descendant of African soldier Adeboi and Benny de Bakker, a great-grandson of soldier Van Steenbergen. Their live's stories testify of the hardship that many former Dutch citizens encountered after choosing to stay in the new republic of Indonesia.