Een Staat In Wording (A State in the Making)

So different interests converged, and I found an interesting new book of photographs.

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My interest in photobooks led me to the recent Aperture publication, The Dutch Photobook:  A Thematc Selection from 1945 Onwards (Aperture; New York, 2012).  And because of the Dutch relationship (i.e. colonial occupation) with Indonesia, a number of books were documented in this text exploring the relationship between the two cultures.  Thus, I was able to feed my interest in Indonesian photography.

Indonesia as we know it today, like much of Asia Minor, came into being after World War II.  Before that, modern Indonesia wrestled with occupying powers – the Dutch, Japanese, and Portuguese.  And of these, the Dutch had the largest impact, both in the length of the governing influence, as well as economically, controlling the most affluent parts of the archipelago – chiefly Java, Bali, and Sumatra.

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In 1947, Dutch photographer Cas Oorthuys was commissioned to photography Indonesia and its march towards independence.

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The result was Een Staat in Wording (A State in the Making).  The Japanese took over the archipelago from the Dutch during WWII, and then after Nagasaki 1945, the Dutch reclaimed dominion of the colonial territories.  Sukarno and the people of Indonesia, however, felt differently.  In 1945, Indonesia declared its independence, though it would be another 4 years before the Dutch accepted defeat and acknowledged the sovereignty of the nation.

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Oorthuys photographed the islands in 1947, and was caught in the fever of the nations move towards independence.

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Photographed in what I would call a Life magazine style, the reportage is simple, but clearly Oorthuys found an affection for the spirit of mederka (freedom), and attempted to show Indonesia and its people as strong and vital.

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Oorthuys photographed many facets of the culture at the time – members of the resistance, people on the streets, rice farmers, volcanic landscapes, and even members of the Dutch military – however the real strength of the book, in my mind, lies in the empathy offered my a member of the Dutch intelligentsia.

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In researching photos to post here, too, I found a nice little blog to share, Nobodycorpfound, a look photographs documenting the early history of Indonesia.

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