The Netherlands had colonised Indonesia for around 100 years when the Japanese invaded, but celebrations quickly turned to horror
Translated by Thomas Ansell
The Museum Heerenveen’s new exhibition will show paintings inspired by Netty Bottinga, who spent time in a Japanese Internment camp in Indonesia (at the time, called the “Dutch East Indies”). Fifteen paintings will be exhibited- though regularly beaten, Bottinga survived her internment, and died in 1991 in Heerenveen, reports the Omrop Fryslân.
Often forgotten as part of the Second World War, Imperial Japan invaded the Dutch “possession” of Indonesia in 1940. The Japanese were initially welcomed as liberators from the brutalities of Dutch colonialism, however it quickly became apparent that one form of imperial rule was being exchanged for another, with hundreds of thousands of Indonesian people put into a forced labour regime. Four million people died as a result of famine and forced labour, with about 30,000 European detainees also dying. After the Second World War ended, the Netherlands again attempted to re-colonise Indonesia, waging a bloody armed conflict until finally agreeing to Indonesian self-rule in 1949.
However, during the War, Dutch citizens were routinely rounded up by Imperial Japanese forces and held in internment camps. Bottinga was one, and told her son often about her time in the women’s prison of Boeloe in Semarang. The son, Cor Rumandor, then turned this oral history into paintings. The treatment of these ‘prisoners of war’ was often brutal and completely inhumane- and was repeated across the other areas of South-East Asia that were invaded by Imperial Japan between 1940 and 1945.
A friend of the artist, Bert Kuiper, describes how Bottinga’s experiences in the War are too emotional for her family to re-tell now: “she was, on some days, raped multiple times by Japanese soldiers. Cigarettes were put out on her body, and she carried the scars with her throughout her life.” Unfortunately, the artist himself was not able to join the opening of the exhibition, as he is in poor health.
The exhibition is part of a series of events marking 75 years since the liberation of Heerenveen, and will be available to see until September 27, 2020. More information is available on the Museum Heerenveen’s website.