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Robin Block

Robin Block - Winternachten 2022 - fotograaf: Frederik Petzoldt
Robin Block - Winternachten 2022 - fotograaf: Frederik Petzoldt

(1980) is a poet and musician from Amsterdam. Much of his work is related to the history of the Netherlands and Indonesia. Currently, Robin Block is working on Manual for the Displaced, a new book of poetry which will be published in the spring of 2023. Some of the poems in this book have been screened in the video project Manual for the Displaced, a co-creation with cinematographer Jeremy Flohr. Their film Jangan Lupa (Do Not Forget) won the Dutch Poetry Film Festival and the Weimar Poetry Film Festival. As a musician Robin has released several albums of dreamy Indiefolk and has toured many venues and festivals. This Summer his new album will be released followed by a tour in the Netherlands and Indonesia.

(WN 2022)

Archive available for: Robin Block

  • Winternachten 2022

    ISS Storytelling afternoon

    With: Iman Mersal, Kees Biekart, Lamin Kuyateh, Robin Block

    On 16 June 2022, the International Institute of Social Studies was once again host the International Storytelling Afternoon. During what has become a much-loved classic at Winternachten Festival, visitors, writers, students and teachers told each other stories.

    For this edition, the stories focused around the theme Whose House Is This? Feel free to take "the house" as a metaphor and to explore it from different angles: the house of the family, the house of society, of democracy, of literature... The theme question Whose House is This? called for stories about feeling at home (or not), leaving your home, or finally finding it in an unexpected place.

    Come and listen to stories from all over the world and, if you like, share your own story!
    Maximum 5 minutes and in English only - no other rules.
    On behalf of Winternachten Festival, authors Robin Block and Iman Mersal were present and share their stories too. Kees Biekart was the moderator of the afternoon. Lamin Kuyateh provided musical interludes.

  • Winternachten 2022 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Masculinity in Crisis

    Are there still angry men at this festival!?! - with Jens van Tricht, Raoul de Jong, Linda Duits and Robin Block

    While all kinds of emancipation are taking place at great speed, one group seems to be missing the boat: the white, heterosexual, cisgender man. Until recently, this group was in charge and able to say anything, but now more and more often feels silenced and unheard. And naturally, that leads to anger and sadness. In this panel discussion we addressed the question of why young men more and more frequently find connection in (online) subcultures such as inceldom (involuntary celibacy). In many cases, loneliness and an inflated idea of masculinity play a role.

    Has the emancipation of all non-men (and others) led to a crisis of masculinity? How can we better understand angry men - via empathy? And why, actually, are there so few men on stage at Winternachten? Autor and researcher Linda Duits discussesed this matter with as many as three men at once. While they are not representatives of the angry white hetero male, they are experts in all aspects of masculinity. First of all, there was poet and musician Robin Block, who heads a men's group in his free time and knows all too well how important a "community" of their own is for men. He was joined by Jens van Tricht, author and founder of the men's emancipation platform Emancipator, who can explain in great detail why men need feminism. Author and dancer Raoul de Jong was already the subject of documentary about masculinity in 2005 and brings another perspective: do we even still need to talk about masculinity and femininity as if they were mutually exclusive?

    Together, in this event they opened the discussion on a phenomenon that, as we all know, can elicit a great deal of resistance. But this was an important topic under the banner of the Whose House is This? theme. We need everyone - men, women, and those who don't feel at home in these categories, angry or not - to make up an equitable society. Therefore, it was time to understand and get to know angry men better.

    Dutch spoken.

  • Winternachten 2022 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Whose House is This?

    A literary relay with Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Neske Beks, Aafke Romeijn, Rebecca Solnit (online), Robin Block, Pola Oloixarac et al.

    Whose House is This? is Winternachten 2022's festival theme. In this event, we presented an exciting relay of readings and music, in which our festival authors put their own spin on the theme. Together they breathed new life into the house of family, society and literature.

    All angles of the four-day Winternachten Festival were covered in Whose House is This? during a colourful parade of authors and performers. Various voices gave completely different answers to the great question underlying the festival. We listened to stories about being at home, to critical stories about the institutions to which we are subject, to cozy stories built on a solid foundation, and much more.

    Author and artist Neske Beks got her teeth into our theme (and the question is what was left over); author Pola Oloixarac let us in on the fun of Mona, a parody of the literary world; multitalent Aafke Romeijn treated us to music; and writer and activist Rebecca Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me) came home to us on the podium all the way from the United States.

    English spoken.

  • Winternachten 2022 – Thursday Night Unlimited

    Moving into Space

    Despite their popularity with readers, fantasy and science fiction remain on the margins, even though these imaginative and expressive genres enrich and elevate literature. Usually, little attention is paid to speculative fiction at literary festivals. Time for change! During this Winternachten Festival (theme: Whose House is This?) we not only approached the idea of "house" in a traditional sense, but also made room for stories in which Earth no longer suffices as house or home.

    In today's world, we could easily picture a house, or an inhabitant. We recognized our forms of cohabitation and communication. But how will we live together in 2060? What does a house look like in another dimension, and how would people speak to each other there? And what if Earth no longer provides a "home" - where will we find a new one? And what if someone else is already living there? For Moving into Space, we talked to authors who think outside the borders of our current ideas of what constitutes a house. We celebrated the diversity and creativity of speculative fiction. And in the process we encountered a new world where we can feel at home.

    "Anthropologist of the future" Roanne van Vorst took on the house of the future, while poet and performer Robin Block, a great science-fiction fan, offered an ode to the genre. In his beautiful and poignant work, American author Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah reminds us that the future can be a whimsical place. Moving into Space showed why speculative fiction is also eminently political, and why precisely this genre is so important for the future of literature. We explored the present and the past but especially the future - we followed dimensional paths and interplanetary avenues...

    The evening was concluded by the great band N3RDISTAN, known for their mythical electronic tunes, N3rdistan created a compelling poetic fusion that was serene and unsual. We danced into the future!

    English spoken.

    Reading tips to get in the mood (by event authors):

    • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
    • In Between, Di Antara by Robin Block
    • Met zijn zessen in bed by Roanne van Voorst

    Want to read more? These speculative works inspired our event programmers Fleur Jeras and Nisrine Mbarki:

    • The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories by Amal El-Mothar et al.
    • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
    • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
    • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
    • Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler
    • Popisho by Leone Ross
  • Winternachten 2020

    VPRO OVT Live

    With: Anneloes Timmerije, Clarice Gargard, Dido Michielsen, Ellen Deckwitz, Jos Palm, Liesbeth Zegveld, Nelleke Noordervliet, Paul van der Gaag, Reggie Baay, Robin Block, Stefan Hertmans

    Every Sunday morning, the topicality of history is the focus of one of the most popular radio programs in the Netherlands. On Sunday morning, 19 January 2020, OVT will be broadcast live from Writers Unlimited festival in Theater aan het Spui. You can listen to and watch discussions, interviews and stories by festival authors and others. Hosts: Paul van der Gaag and Jos Palm. Program in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2020

    Indonesian Roots in Poetry and Music: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block

    With: Ellen Deckwitz, Robin Block

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz also appears with Robin Block and Adriaan van Dis at Saturday Night Unlimited in Theater aan het Spui. She will perform at the festive Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January and at the NRC Live Reading Club, when she will discuss Hella Haasse's novel Oeroeg with Clarice Gargard and the public (Saterday afternoon, 18 January at Theater aan het Spui).

    Winternachten festival once again welcomes you to the Nieuw Waldeck Library for a wonderful literary-musical evening featuring a young generation of writers and poets with Indonesian roots. Come to watch and listen to the stories, poetry and music of Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block.

    This generation with a family background in the Dutch East Indies sometimes learned the stories of yore from their grandparents. Poet, thespian and performance poet Ellen Deckwitz (37) processed these in her new volume of poetry, Hogere Natuurkunde (Higher Physics). When she was a child, her "grandmother of steel", Grandma Koos, lived next door and told her about her experiences in the Japanese internment camps from 1942 to 1945.

    Deckwitz appears alongside a generational contemporary: poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block (38). His grandparents fled the Dutch East Indies in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new life in the Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens, but where they had never set foot and which did not provide a warm welcome. Block tells their stories via text and music.

    The Winternachten International Literary Festival The Hague is celebrating its 25th anniversary! From 15 to 19 January 2020 it takes place in theatres, libraries and schools throughout The Hague: at Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, the Institute of Social Studies, the Zuiderstrand Theatre and Paard, as well as the Dakota Theatre and the Schilderswijk, Ypenburg and Nieuw Waldeck libraries. More than 100 local and international writers, poets and spoken-word artists will appear for recitations, prose, poetry, storytelling, spoken word, author interviews, topical discussions, films and music.

    The jubilee edition of the festival has a special focus on liberation and, more specifically, on the decolonization of Western thought. How free is our mind, what does freedom mean, and are we truly free or caught in the framework of our culture, society and history? This theme connects the festival with its beginnings, when it focused on the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles and South Africa.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Ellen Deckwitz and Adriaan van Dis: Inheritance

    A discussion about family, inheritance and whether or not it is possible to escape the transferral of history, and thereby your roots, and the good fortune or grief that goes along with them. Led by Fiep van Bodegom, with music and poetry by Robin Block.

    In her new collection Hogere natuurkunde (Advanced Physics), Ellen Deckwitz writes about the war, the Dutch Indies, and consequences thereof in today's Netherlands. The grandmother in the text is her Indonesian oma, who will only tell her story to her granddaughter.

    A major portion of Adrian van Dis' oeuvre addresses Indonesian influences on his family. His first novel, Nathan Sid (1983) and the novels Indische duinen (Indonesian Dunes, 1994), Familieziek (Family Illness, 2002) and Ik kom terug (I'm Coming Back, 2014) are about his mother and his family, and about how family history persists, generation after generation.

    Poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block follows the path of his grandparents, who had to flee Indonesia in 1949, in the other direction. This is the theme of his solo performance Samudra ("ocean") and the 2019 book he wrote together with Angelina Enny (from Indonesia) In Between, Di Antara.

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block also appear in the Winternachten program at the Nieuw Waldeck Library on 17 January 2020, as of 20:15h. On Saturday afternoon, 18 January, Deckwitz, together with fellow NRC columnist Clarice Gargard and the audience, discusses the novella Oeroeg (1948) by Hella Haasse. Both events are in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Letters from Overseas

    In 1795, the once-enslaved but later freed Wilhelmina Kelderman sent a heartbreaking letter from Paramaribo to her former master. The letter never arrived, as it was on a ship hijacked by the English, ended up in an archive, and was only opened two centuries later.

    Writers Unlimited festival asked nine authors to write a letter to someone in a (former) colony, inspired by Wilhelmina's entreaty, and to present it at this event. They will recite them in their mother tongue or preferred language of writing; English or Dutch translations will be simultaneously projected.

    Participants are Antjie Krog (South Africa), Alfred Birney, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz, Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa), Jasper Albinus, poet Angelina Enny (Indonesia) and poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block.

    Tip: Antjie Krog, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz and Jolyn Phillips will also read from their contributions to the 25th anniversary Winternachten festival anthology during the Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Indonesia: History is an Always-Broken Promise

    Writers from Indonesia and The Netherlands look at the history and the way former colonizers are viewed now. Chris Keulemans talks with them about how this influences their work and invites them to read from their work.

    Besides being a famous poet, Goenawan Mohamad is also a journalist, essayist, editor and columnist. He contributed to the formation of the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia. He participated in many ways in the struggle against Suharto's regime. In 1995, he was a guest writer at the inaugural Writers Unlimited festival and has returned several times since to The Hague to take part again.

    Angelina Enny is a writer, actor and theatre director. Her story debut, Nokturnal Melankolia, was adapted for the stage. In 2019 she collaborated with Dutch writer and musician Robin Block on a volume of poetry, In Between, Di Antara, in which they explore their personal stories, (family) memories and dreams, as well as their shared (Indonesian) history. Enny says: "For me, historical events consist of personal stories. Stories of people whose chronicles we have forgotten. That is specifically why we need to tell them."

    The grandparents of poet. musician and theatre maker Robin Block fled the Dutch East Indies in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new life in the Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens, but where they had never set foot and which did not provide a warm welcome.

    Tip: Angelina Enny and Goenawan Mohamad read from their own work at Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January. Robin Block performs together with poet Ellen Deckwitz in 'Indische roots in poëzie en muziek' in Biblotheek Nieuw Waldeck on Friday evening 17 January.