Two KNIL soldiers on the Rotterdam quay, a traditional Moluccan dance group and a DJ who flies all over the world – “Yes, on the surface the diversity is enormous”, says photographer Elizar Veerman about Moluccan legacies – the photo series in which he wants to capture the Moluccan diaspora in a timeless document to draw attention to the National Moluccan Monument. “But when you enter the living rooms, you see the connecting lines.” Moluccan flags, with name, are popular. Also family photos of the crossing, the ‘temporary’ reception camps, or the Moluccan neighbourhoods. “But the real similarities are in the stories.”
“The largest part of the Moluccan community entered the Netherlands on twelve ships. 1951, seventy years ago. Now their families live from Groningen to Limburg.” Sometimes Veerman meets people whose grandparents were on the same ship as his. Or who live in the same ‘hometown’. “After arrival, my family was taken to Camp Westerbork, the ex-concentration camp,” says Veerman. “Barak 14 my father was born there,” he added. “Those stories connect us.”
More than four thousand Moluccan soldiers and their families arrived on the bleak quays of Rotterdam and Amsterdam seventy years ago this year. The Netherlands had submitted the Dutch East Indies to Indonesia in December 1949. In the east of the archipelago, the Republic of South Moluccas was named the RMS. perceived the Moluccan KNIL soldiers as a danger. It was decided to bring some of them to the Netherlands temporarily. The reception was cold. The men immediately became homely, the families were often housed in old concentration camps. Long before the families found them. Many cling to the idea of returning to RMS. That was also the ideal of Moluccan young people who carried out terrorist actions in the 1970s, which resulted in deaths. Then apply the focus on integration of this population group.
Elizar Veerman made Moluccan Legacies together with film director Uriël Matahelumual and historian Joaniek Vreeswijk. “I myself am a double-blood – half Moluccan, half Dutch,” Veerman says proudly. “At art academy I went looking for images of my people. Then I got revenue that it was reportage footage. history. Black and white images of the train hijacking, from the moment of arrival. Or Ed van der Elsken’s iconic photo of Moluccan youth in Tiel. Very beautiful images, historically valuable, but they are always images about the Moluccans. Never from the Moluccans.”
A version of this article also in NRC Handelsblad of 2 October 2021
A version of this article also in NRC in the morning of October 2, 2021