Diary note 45: Hybridity

27 VIII 2021

HAU Hebbel am Ufer: Postcolonial spirits.

The performance or play, half made in Berlin, half relayed from Indonesia, centered on the Dutch experience in Indonesia. It had been named postcolonial spirits and was curated by Choy Ka Fai from Singapore.

Its visual centre was the dancer Vincent Riebeek, seconded via tele-link from Java by Andi Kurniawan, also a dancer. Perhaps it would have been better not to make the family history of the Dutch dancer also a theme because the story was too haphazard to intrigue for long. It was moreover complicated by the broader but disconnected story of the KNIL, the military (and mainly Moluccan) arm of colonialism. The strongest elements of the show reproduced local folk music, while the dance culminated somehow in the experience of trance – so omnipresent in Indonesia.

This mixture lost me halfway and I waited impatiently for the end. The audience seemed to be satisfied though, finally having seen some live stagecraft in a period of epidemic lockdown. There were some good moments, like inspired singing , but the setting felt overambitious overall.

Yet a focus could have been found. If one had stripped away the theme of colonialism and concentrated on hybridity. The play shows the traces of the contact of (two or more) cultures that stay on after their historical moment has disappeared. People make children across racial boundaries. People learn languages from necessity, but afterwards remnants will remain and enrich. An army may hold parades in splendid uniforms and with foreign tunes, and the memory may enter into the local unconsciousness.

Many forgotten encounters lie hidden among the isles of Indonesia: Hindu, and Buddhist, and Chinese, and Muslim, and European. It would have been great to learn more of that hybridity.