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Surat Terakhir/ Last Letter

Digital print on cotton, antique mirrors


I am inspired by the site of the post office in Jakarta’s old town that was built by a Dutch architect during the colonial era. Many letters have passed through this place. It has been the centre of communication for so many years and sending letters has been a very important mode of communication between Indonesia and the Netherlands especially. When I started living in Jakarta in 1984, writing and posting letters to my family and friends in the Netherlands was a part of my daily routine also.

During the colonial era, a letter was the only contact with the family far away. In fact, during the first decades of the VOC (The Dutch East India Company), when sending a letter one had to wait for one and half years to receive an answer back. The experience of time in the 17th century compared to nowadays are so very different.

‘Surat Terakhir / Last Letter’ refers to the idea that the ‘Kantor Pos’ is entering a new stage in history. Part of its history has been cut off or made obsolete. It occupies a new purpose now, searching for other ways of transmitting messages. In this transition a certain chapter closes. ‘Surat Terakhir’ is an installation about the many letters that have passed through this post office bearing within them so many stories and emotions.

I collected some of these postcards from my Dutch family members that were sent from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the 1940’s. Some postcards and envelopes I found in various Internet archives that still bare stamps from the 18th and 19th century. This collection of postcards and handwritten envelopes shows certain aesthetic conventions that have lasted for so many centuries, but which will not be carried on by the generations to come.

With thanks to KITLV, Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

Photography by Mie Cornoedus.