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Pasar Malam fair strengthens family ties Indies community

This year’s the 45th edition

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - The recent 10-day long Pasar Malam Besar held at a central open-air location in The Hague, had as its motto ‘Indies Family Life.’ The annual fair caters towards anyone with a connection to the former Dutch East Indies.

Officially opened by Queen Beatrix, the fair again offered a large variety of exhibits, food stalls, bookseller booths, music, dance, film and other public events. One of the main exhibits on the eclectic assembly of tents, stalls and displays on the Malieveld was one in which photos of common people in the Indies were the main subject. The exhibit also drew from family photo albums.

In one of the theatres in the Pasar (market), a number of well-known people told of their own family life in the Indies. At another location, visitors could have their art and curio appraised by experts. Choreographers and playwrights brought programs of dance and theatre in which they tried to bridge the East Indies culture with that of the Dutch.

Repatriation and new emigration

The Pasar has become into the 4th largest fair in the Netherlands and is being billed as the ‘largest Eurasian festival in the world.’ The 2002 edition drew about 126,000 visitors. The first Pasar was organized as a fund-raiser for the newly-formed Indies Cultural Circle. This initiative was promoted by writer and journalist Tjalie Robinson (Vincent Mahieu) and his magazine Tong-Tong (now Moesson). Between 1945 and 1965, an estimated 300,000 people from the (former) Dutch East Indies resettled to the Netherlands in a huge socalled ‘repatriation’ undertaking (many who were expelled from Indonesia never had been to the Netherlands before). The Hague long was a destination for vacationing residents from the East Indies, a place to retire to and now is a cultural centre for the former Dutch East Indies community.

A segment of the Dutch East Indies community left the Netherlands again, particularly for the U.S., where in California every May an annual Holland Festival is organised. This event attracted over 3,000 visitors this year, primarily from the local Dutch East Indies community and therefor in effect could be called a ‘Pasar’ also.