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OUR COUNTRY – Decolonisation, generations, stories

Currently, about two million people live in the Netherlands with special ties to the former Dutch East Indies. They or their ancestors came to the Netherlands after the proclamation of the Republic Indonesia. It was the largest wave of migration ever. Some of them thought their stay here would be temporary.


The voices of eight families form the core of the  semi-permanent show Our Country. The interviews are incorporated into the exhibition. These personal and diverse but for many recognizable stories give a picture of the complex postcolonial history, and how differently it was and is experienced. The family stories in Ons Land start in the present. From there they lead us back into the colonial past. The exhibition ends again in the now.


Ons Land was created by the Moluccan Historical Museum and the Indisch Remembrance Center in collaboration with Kossmanndejong and TiMe Amsterdam.


Also see the upcoming expert meeting at the Sophiahof in The Hague

The history of us all


The history of slavery is a very painful, important and until recently underexposed part of our shared history. During the Slavery History Commemoration Year, which runs from July 1, 2023 to July 1, 2024, the entire kingdom will pay extra attention to this past and its repercussions in the present. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has a coordinating role in the organization of the Slavery History Memorial Year. With the goal of increasing knowledge and awareness of this theme in society. BKB, AMARU and Canvas Black together created the communication strategy and campaign for the Slavery History Memorial Year.


The Slavery Past Memorial Year marks the 150th anniversary of the actual abolition of slavery. By commemorating our slavery past, we ensure that we do not forget this history. Commemoration reminds us that it should never happen again. We pay attention to the pain, suffering and far-reaching consequences, as well as the resistance of enslaved people and the pride of their descendants and in the history before slavery. By sharing stories, and making the slavery past an equal part of our history, we keep this history alive.


The campaign “The history of us all’ consists of six conversations, focusing on the personal experiences of well-known storytellers. The campaign takes place entirely online. All six conversations can be found online.


The following conversations can be found online:

1. Shirma Rouse (singer) and Safi Graauw (director)
2. Lucelle Comvalius (teacher) and George Adegite (illustrator)
3. Hesdy Lonwijk (director) and Carmen Felix (writer)
4. Lukas Eleuwarin (creator of the fashion brand Knowledge by Roots) and Jill Mathon (writer)
5. Lex Bohlmeijer (presenter) and Prof. Soortkill (writer)

The last conversation can eventually be found on the site.


Some conversations received a sequel. This can be found at the bottom of linked pages.

Slavery and Overijssel

Overijssel en slavernij

Martin van der Linden, Esther van Velden, Marco Krijnsen

WBooks, 2023



Although little is known about the involvement of Overijssel and its people in colonialism and slavery, traces of the slavery past can be found in the province. We can think of Overijsselian plantation owners, administrators of the VOC and WIC, companies and industries with colonial ties, the presence of black people in the province, as well as Overijsselians who spoke out against the system of slavery.


Martin van der Linde, Esther van Velden and Marco Krijnsen researched this history and wrote a book about it. As part of their research, 5 interviews were held with descendants of enslaved people.


Bantoe vissers

Congo gained independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960. David van Reybrouck examined Congo’s tumultuous one-and-a-half century of history. A mixture of more than 100 oral history interviews and the usual historiography based on written sources.


Featured here are the people and events that influenced Congo’s development – from the slave trade to the ivory and rubber boom; from the arrival of Henry Morton Stanley to the tragic reign of King Leopold II; from global outrage to Belgian colonialism; from the independence struggle to Mobutu’s brutal rule; and from the world-famous Rumble in the Jungle to the civil war over natural resources that began in 1996 and is still raging today.


Van Reybrouck interweaves his own family’s history with the voices of a wide variety of individuals – charismatic dictators, warlords fighting, child soldiers, the elderly, female merchant smugglers and many in the African diaspora in Europe and China – to offer a very human approach to political history, focusing on the Congolese perspective and giving a country’s history back to its people.


Revolusi – Indonesië en het ontstaan van de moderne wereld
David Van Reybrouck

De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 2020

The independence process on the road to revolusi. That is the period Van Reybrouck is concerned with, and of which the very last eyewitnesses are still alive. Van Reybrouck interviews a whole army of over-90s.

They bring history to life. No detail is too small, no quotation superfluous: ‘Witnesses who think they have nothing to tell are often the most interesting’, writes Van Reybrouck.


Van Reybrouck finds the most remarkable witnesses in the unlikeliest places and succeeds in getting people to talk, even about the greatest filth they have committed or suffered. He speaks to conscientious objector Piet van Staveren, as well as volunteer Goderd van Heek, Indonesian veterans, forced laborers, comfort women, very elderly Gurkhas, Japanese veterans and even Sukarno’s Japanese widow Dewi. He performs Brits, French, Japanese, Germans and Americans, for the revolusi was not only man-made, but was emphatically embedded in a larger, international event: there are more than two sides to this story.


© Beeld Nationaal Archief/Collectie SPAA

Hidden stories of the Dutch Caribbean

Photo: Rose Mary Allen interviews woman on Curaçao in the 1980s.

Since the 1950s, visionary pioneers such as Paul Brenneker, Elis Juliana, Bòi Antoin and Rose Mary Allen have dedicated themselves to collecting oral history interviews in the Dutch Caribbean. These interviews contain personal stories, traditions, songs, proverbs and language of older generations in that area. Some of this material has been digitised and is accessible to a wide audience, but much of it is still on outdated cassette tapes and VHS Tapes. If this material is not digitised soon, important stories within history risk being lost.


In close collaboration with Rose Mary Allen, Sound and Vision, DANS en het National Archive Curaçao, the Hub Sprekende Geschiedenis start digitising, making accessible and presenting the oral history interviews conducted by Rose Mary Allen. This valuable material, recorded between 1980 and 1995, includes interviews with people on the islands, migrant communities and (grand)children of enslaved people. It constitutes important source material for an in-depth and layered historiography of the Caribbean and contributes to the identity formation of current and future generations.


The project aims to:

  1. Digitisation and preservation: Digitising and permanently preserving oral history material, starting with the work of Rose Mary Allen.
  2. Searchability: Making the interview material searchable, including translating transcripts from Papiamentu to Dutch and English.
  3. Presentation to the public: Developing (digital) forms of presentation of the material for a wide audience in the Caribbean and the Netherlands, in cooperation with young people, artists and the Nationaal Archief Curaçao.

With the Storianan Skondi di Karibe project, we aim to preserve the stories of the past for the future. By working together, we hope to bridge generations, cultures and communities, bringing the rich heritage of the Caribbean to life for a new generation.


Keep following our website and social media channels for more information on the project, its progress and the partners involved.


This project is co-sponsored by the Stimuleringsfonds.







The interviews were conducted as part of several film projects. Roy Villevoye is a visual artist and filmmaker and has been visiting West Papua since the 1990s. His focus is on the Asmat in southwest Papua. He is interested in personal stories of, and the (historical) relationships between, different groups: Dutch, Indonesians and Papuans. The interviews have been used in several films (partly together with Jan Dietvorst) including Give me soap. Give me a towel and The new dress in which missionaries speak, the film Evidence, And the Trumpet Shall Sound, Owner of the voyage and Propeller.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the years 1945 – 2017.
They mainly discuss West Papua, Asmat, Merauke, the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include World War II, Indonesian occupation, colonial times, missionaries, plane crash.

The Indian Silence? Me Hula!

Riboet YouTube-channel:

YOUTUBE channel

Riboet storytelling is a collective founded in 2012 that uses personal stories to connect heritage institutions and the public. The collective collects stories in a variety of ways. For instance, Riboet collects and shares Oral History in a theatrical setting in front of a live audience in the stage programme Café Riboet, but stories are also recorded via the story swing, the Storymobile, the Storybetjak and the Story Cupboard.


Riboet collaborates in this with the Indisch Remembrance Centre, the Hague Historical Museum and the Tong Tong Fair, among others. Some videos are edited, others are not. The length of the interviews varies greatly, from short street interviews of a few minutes to interviews of half an hour. All interviews are recorded with a predetermined final product in mind. The aim of the interviews and productions is to discuss current and historical themes and contribute to the connection between people and society.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1930s – present.
Mainly Indonesia, the Netherlands and New Guinea are discussed. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, correspondence, migration, arrival in the Netherlands, ties with Indonesia and the former Dutch East Indies, memories, objects, culture.


Management: The collection is managed by Riboet Verhalenkunst. In the near future, the collection will be transferred to the Indisch Remembrance Centre (IHC).
Access: The collection is currently not accessible. After transfer to the Indian Remembrance Centre, the collection can be accessed and viewed.

Indonesian women

Portret van een onbekende Javaanse jonge vrouw, anonymous, 1870-1890

Pamela Pattynama, then a lecturer/researcher at the University of Amsterdam in the Department of Literature Studies specialising in Women’s Studies (later Gender Studies), wanted to speak to people who grew up in the colonial period. She was specifically interested in women’s experiences: they have often walked a very different life path than men, and men are more likely to speak. Participants were selected through family members and acquaintances, and snowballed through the interviewees. She deliberately kept the questions general because she did not want to exclude any themes and was curious to know what the women themselves wanted to talk about.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 1989.
They mainly discuss Indonesia, Java and Jakarta, but also other islands and places. Themes include daily life, schooling and exile related to RMS activities.


The collection is managed by Pamela Pattynama. She has a desire to transfer the interviews to an archive in the future.

Dutch East Indies veterans

Doede Bruinsma (1926) grew up in Harpel, Groningen. He had volunteered for the army in 1946 because he saw conscription coming. Bruinsma left for the East Indies in November 1947 on the troopship the Groote Beer. He served as a sergeant major administrator in Sanga-Sanga, the oil rig in Borneo, and later in Wanaredja in Central Java. Bruinsma returned to the Netherlands in January 1950.
After the debate on the conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia revived in 2012, OVCG created an Oral History project in cooperation with the Gronings AudioVisual Archive (GAVA). This project focuses on the experiences of three Groningen East Indies veterans. With this, OVCG tries to give people a better understanding of the conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia from the point of view of East Indies veterans. The film below was the result, in which three veterans, including Doede Bruinsma, tell the story of their time in the East Indies.


The interviews were conducted by War and Resistance Centre Groningen. The interviews deal with the Indonesian War of Independence and the role of the interviewees in it. The three interviews have been made into a 30-minute montage.
The interviews focus on events and experiences in the years 1946 – 1949.
They mainly discuss the Netherlands, Groningen and Indonesia. Themes include Second World War, Indonesian revolution, expectations, conscription, war volunteers, adjustment problems.


Jan Hummel, Doede Bruinsma and Anton Schurer talk about their time in the Dutch East Indies between 1946 and 1949 in this montage. The montage is an excerpt from three Oral History interviews conducted by OVCG.


Oral History Ned. Indië veteranen OVCG from Groninger Archieven on Vimeo.