Use of ‘Racist’ Term in Rijksmuseum Indonesia Show Provokes Controversy
Artnews, January 14, 2022, By: Alex Greenberger
The Rijksmuseum’s forthcoming historical show “Revolusi! Indonesia Independent,” which opens in February, promises to be an eye-opening look at Indonesia’s fight to gain independence from the Dutch Colonial Empire. One seemingly small detail in the show has proved a sticking point: the eschewing of a term that one historian labeled “racist” in a recent article, provoking controversy over whether the Amsterdam museum was papering over history. “Revolusi!” is currently set to open on February 11.
That word, “bersiap,” is commonly appended to a short period lasting from 1945, when Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta—the first president and vice president of Indonesia, respectively—declared independence from Japanese rule, until 1946. Japanese forces had occupied Indonesia in 1942. The Dutch had been attempting to reconquer Indonesia at the time, and they continued to do so until 1949, when they recognized Indonesia’s independence.
During the so-called “bersiap” period, Indonesians committed violence against white Eurasians, Chinese people, and the Indigenous Moluccans. In an essay published with the Dutch-language outlet NRC, Bonnie Triyana, a Jakarta-based historian who is one of the curators for “Revolusi!,” said that continuing to use the term “bersiap” threatens to distort the narrative surrounding Indonesia’s revolution for independence.