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The Coasters I

Wood, stainless steel, video projections, sound

2011

This work is made in collaboration with Nindityo Adipurnomo. It was created especially for children and was first shown in KAAP, the Netherlands, in 2011. It is about ‘departures and journeys’ and we tried to imagine the feelings of people, which many centuries ago left their families on boats crossing dangerous seas to reach a new land full of discoveries and uncertainties. In a video projection of the Java Sea, children can step into wooden shoes - like the Dutch klompen - in the shape of boats, and ‘sail’ to the horizon, accompanied by the sounds of heavy waves.

This work and some other works developed in 2011 were inspired by the Peranakan culture. The Chinese that started to settle from the 15th century onwards in Indonesia (as well as what would become Singapore, and Malaysia) assimilated with the local culture, intermarried with local women while keeping strong ties with their own culture. However, the Peranakans in Indonesia created a specific culture, which is more than adding individual elements of the three main ethnicities – Chinese, Indonesian, and Dutch.
Generations of Paranakans passed through different, often difficult, political situations in Indonesia. What does Peranakan and its local heritage mean in this global era in which Peranakan culture is declining? Retaining ethnicity could be interpreted as ‘claiming’ and legitimizing an identity. We are interested in the Peranakans, because we see them as unique. For us the strength of Peranakan is the ‘search for the better’, in which people used their ethnicity and authenticity as a starting point to develop and prosper.