Linggarjati revisited by Joty ter Kulve

31 Aug 2008

On August 4, 2008 we left for Indonesia, due to an invitation to attend the wedding of Sonya Suganda, the daughter of the Bupati of Kuningan, and the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Admiral Santoso in Jakarta. Combined with that I revisited my childhood house in Linggarjati, where we have lived and been so happy – for the first time after so many years. The Indonesian Government declared this house to become a museum in 1970, as it marks the beginning of decolonization with the ‘Linggadjati Conference’, attended by the founding fathers of the Republik Indonesia.

Visiting this house was very inspiring. They really left everything just as it was when the conference took place. At one point I sat by myself in the beautiful park around the house. And I thought of all the immigrants to Indonesia: Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, English, German, Belgian, and Indian – who with their small and bigger boats had crossed the oceans to start a new life there. And I thought they were the forerunners of all the immigrants who are finding their way into all the continents.

For the Indonesians this little museum means a symbol of their Independence, but for the Dutch this is a place were they just can ponder their forefathers and the energy and life they have poured into this continent.

Is it not a miracle how in forty years our perception about the meaning of ‘Linggadjati’ is now shared by both governments? ‘Linggadjati’ is not only the definite beginning of the decolonization, is not only about politics; it is about two nations, Indonesia and the Netherlands, finding a road from a shared heritage to a new future.

‘Linggadjati’ is about the emancipation of the Indonesians. Is about them taking responsibility for their own destination. Is about the realisation that the colonisation of the Dutch was part of their history, but also that they had a rich history long before the Portuguese and Dutch came and took away their Independence. ‘Linggadjati’ to Indonesians is the symbol that they again took their destiny in their own hands.

For the Dutch who lived there for over 350 years, there will always be the yearning and nostalgia for a lost homeland. And at the same time, as a result of them having to leave Indonesia, the emigration to and integration in the Netherlands. Mixed feelings, which often have often been confusing. Both emotions, the lives of their forefathers and what they built in that lost homeland, their having to build a complete new life in the Netherlands, is still sometimes haunting the third generation. That is something to be explored to understand. Our experiences are the experiences of millions of immigrants and refugees all over the world, as many continents are flooded with immigrants, especially nowadays. It is not only about cultural and religious adjustment, but also about money and economics and fighting poverty. How do we treat minorities? How do citizens from different cultures get along?

On this visit I met a admiral Urip Santoso, who fought against the Dutch and yet still talked in Dutch with his wife. He told me ‘I decided not to be a prisoner of the past’. A wise lesson.

What struck me this time is that many Indonesians tend really to stick to the Pancasila and their own culture. They are such friendly, kind people and their families are still very important to them. At the same time you see that especially the youngsters embrace the hamburgers and rock music of the West. Divorce is also starting to be a factor.

All in all an amazing experience. I loved every day we were there.

Joty ter Kulve – august 2008

See also the documentary that was made by Twan Spierts of the visit of Mrs. Joty ter Kulve to the museum in Linggarjati