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Indonesian roots in poetry and music: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block

Literary and musical evening in Bibliotheek Ypenburg - Dutch spoken.

Bibliotheek Ypenburg
Gratis toegang - reserveren aanbevolen
Indische roots in poëzie en muziek: Ellen Deckwitz en Robin Block in Bibliotheek Ypenburg.
Indische roots in poëzie en muziek: Ellen Deckwitz en Robin Block in Bibliotheek Ypenburg.

Writers Unlimited International Literature Festival The Hague welcomed you to the Ypenburg Library for a wonderful literary-musical evening focused on a young generation of writers and poets with Indonesian roots. Watch and listen to the stories, poetry and music of Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block.

This generation of people with familial roots in the former Dutch East Indies learned the stories of the past from their grandparents and others. Ellen's "steel grandma" -- Grandma Koos -- lived next to the family and told her what she had experienced in the Japanese internment camps from 1942 to 1945. Her book Hogere natuurkunde (Higher Physics) - part story, part poem - is the result of numerous conversations Ellen Deckwitz had in the following years with people whose roots also lie in Indonesia.

Ellen was joined by her contemporary, the poet, musician and theatre artist Robin Block. His grandparents left Indonesia in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new live in The Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens but where they had never been and which did not receive them with open arms. Block tells their stories in poetry and music. In his recent poetry collection Handleiding voor ontheemden (2023, Manual for the Displaced) Block reflects, while balancing between various cultures and nationalities, his own quest for identity to that of his grandparents. Two worlds come together: stories about the old colony and the discovery of modern-day Indonesia.

Ellen Deckwitz (1982) has been unstoppable since she made her entrance into the literary world: the past few years have seen the publication of award-winning collections, books on writing (the acclaimed Zo word je een geweldige dichter) and the bestseller Olijven moet je leren lezen. She also presents poetry slams, won countless herself and writes columns in Dutch national newspaper NRC. The poetry collection Hogere natuurkunde is published in 2019 and the omnibus Eerste hulp bij poëzie in 2022. Ellen is a regular guest on radio programmes and reads a Dutch or translated poem in her NPO Luister podcast Poëzie vandaag every working day morning.

Robin Block (1980) is a poet, musician and performer. Block often writes about the shared history of the Netherlands and Indonesia, about displacement, migration background or an upbringing between different families and cultures. Block has released several albums of dreamy indie folk; the past year he did a musical tour on the Indonesian isle of Java. After Bestialen (2005) and the bilingual In Between, Di Antara, in his collection Handleiding voor ontheemden (2023) he is looking for a new balance between The Netherlands and Indonesia. The translated version of this collection will be published in Indonesia by February 2024. Robin is also a columnist for Dutch magazine Moesson.

Festival tip: we had two further events with Indonesian roots in store: on Saturday afternoon, 20 January, at Theater aan het Spui: Je bent wat je eet (You Are What You Eat). Together with well-known cookbook authors, indluding Vanja van der Leeden (Indorock and Indostok), we dived into the tasty world of culinary tales. Later that day in the same theatre, during the great festival evening Saturday Night Unlimited: Oude banden, nieuwe verbindingen: Indonesië en Nederland (Old Bonds, New Ties: Indonesia and The Netherlands) with writers Adriaan van Dis, Maddy Stolk, Ellen Deckwitz, Robin Block and Lara Nuberg. How do they see Indonesia, the country of lore with which they've started a new relationship through their books and stories?

From 18 to 21 January 2024, the festival could be found in theatres, libraries and schools throughout The Hague: from Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, Koninklijke Schouwburg and Paard to Theater Dakota, the Nieuw Waldeck, Schilderswijk and Ypenburg libraries and Haagse Hogeschool. With over ninety writers, poets and spoken-word artists and musicians from the Netherlands and abroad. With readings, prose, poetry, storytelling, spoken word, author interviews, topical talks, films and music.