The media museum Lyd og Syn Haag can be recognized from a distance on the waving yellow-blue flags because it is located right next to the Ukrainian embassy. There is something symbolic about it. The exhibition runs in the museum Indonesia signed, with more than fifty cartoons from the period 1945-1949 about the fierce struggle in the former colony. A war of independence took place, but it was not called that. Just as the Russians are now talking about a ‘special military operation’, the Dutch at the time were talking about ‘police actions’, euphemistic expressions that obscure the truth.
The nearsightedness of the Dutch was beautifully portrayed by the political cartoonist LJ Jordaan, who made a cartoon for The green Amsterdammer under the title ‘I actually think I need another pair of glasses’. We see a kind of Zeeland girl with thick glasses staring at a reading card. From largest to smallest words Colonies, Dutch: India, Indonesia, Legality, Democratic Governance and finally, almost unreadable: independence. So progressive insight.
The artists collected by curator Jop Euwijk represent different points of view, which are often diametrically opposed. The Indo-Dutch Eppo Doeve worked for Elseviers Ugeblad and was of the opinion that independence would only lead to chaos and violence: in his drawings one often sees fires raging in the background. But the characters of the Communist Party body Forward and that of Flammen, socialist weekly for freedom and culture, regarded colonialism as a plague to be fought. Illustrator Wim van Wieringen went into a comic book published in 1949 The flames was printed, even to the point that he let the then Prime Minister Beel and General Spoor, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Indonesia, march alongside the Nazi leaders Himmler and Göring.
The exhibition includes well-known artists such as Fritz Behrendt and Opland (Robert Wout), but also artists one would not expect in such a political context, as Marten Toonder and Max Velthuijs, known for Tom Poes and Kikker respectively. The Indonesian question was apparently something that many people had strong opinions about. It is significant, however, that there are also works on display where the caption inevitably reads: ‘Maker unknown’. These are posters and pamphlets signed by anonymous independence fighters from Indonesia and from Leiden University. These special pieces have been selected by researchers from Gadjah Mada University and State University of Yogyakarta. For example, there is a colorful print with ‘Berontak !!!’ on it, what ‘Rebellion!’ means where a freedom fighter beheads two white colonials with his sword in one sweeping motion. Maker unknown.
Let’s go back to the advanced insights. Work of Albert Hahn, who in 1905 for it The people’s Sunday newspaper made an extremely critical series of drawings about the violent domination of the Dutch East Indies. That is to say: people already knew what was going on, but it was not until 1949 that the so-called transfer of sovereignty could take place.
Indonesia Drawn – The War of Independence in Cartoons (1945-1949). Picture and sound The Hague, until 3/7. The exhibition still runs until 5/6 in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Revolution! Indonesia independent to see.