Lighting sets the mood in this exhibition. Those who have been to Indonesia might agree that the light there is quite different than the light in the Netherlands. Inspired by this difference in atmosphere, we leveraged the scenography’s light and colour to mirror the families’ emotions. In the first room, today’s Netherlands with all its cultural and political expressions is captured in a kaleidoscopic symphony of image and sound.
Museum Sophiahof, The Hague (NL)
With the permanent display OUR LAND – Decolonization, generations, stories Museum Sophiahof shows how the Dutch East Indies’ colonial past lives on in Dutch society today. Through personal family stories, you will discover how this past has marked and influenced human lives, and how it continues to do so. The exhibition takes you on a trip back in time, starting today, via the 50s and 60s in the Netherlands, and all the way back to colonial times in the East Indies. We follow eight families from one generation to the next.
Eight animations created with shadows show how the colonial system permeated every fibre of existence in the second half of the 21th century. The exhibition shows where it led today: the youngest generation shares how their family stories made them who they are. Instead of stigmatising, visitors are invited to take pride in the diversity of their stories. Personal, emotional narration is central throughout the exhibition. Interactive screens, infographics, an audio tour and a booklet provide factual historical interpretation and context.
One of the rooms is a chilly, bleak Dutch winter world. This grey setting is the backdrop for the families’ migration stories. Through film portraits, family members describe the cold reception in the Netherlands. While some neighbours were welcoming, the family members also experienced homesickness, racism, and feelings of not belonging in the Netherlands. Beyond this cold reception, fragments of memories from Indonesia are projected onto voile cloths that evoke associations of waves at sea. Why did they leave, and which precious objects they chose to carry along their journey? In the end you learn why family members left their homes.
Everyone looks differently at this piece of history and that often leads to tensions and misunderstanding. To honour the complexity of the living colonial past, we selected family stories that represent as many perspectives as possible. While the stories in this exhibition do not provide a complete picture of the living colonial past, they show how the Dutch East Indies’ colonial past is a story with many faces.