Still paying the piper after 66 years

Our author Marijcke Jongbloed is a special guest at the opening of an important exhibition in the Dutch town of Epe on 3 August.

The exhibition will highlight the treatment of the Dutch in Indonesia during and after the Second World War. It is a topic very close to Marijcke because she was there, albeit as an infant and toddler, and recorded the struggle of her parents to survive in her book, ‘Morning Comes and Also the Night’.

The Dutch East Indies, as Indonesia was then known, was overrun by the Japanese in 1942 and remained under their control until 1945. The Dutch captured in the Indies were held in detainment camps in steadily worsening conditions, as Marijcke describes in poignant detail in her memoir of survival.

The war ended 66 years ago but for many Dutch, the traumatic experience of the Japanese occupation is a lingering pain. Many are still waiting for recognition, compensation for war damages and back payment of salaries and pensions. They are still hoping for rehabilitation.

The exhibition in Epe is an initiative of the Foundation Japanese Debts of Honour and the ‘Indisch Platform’’. This exhibit is designed to show plainly why the Dutch from the erstwhile Dutch East Indies – the ‘Indisch’ – feel, after 66 years, that they are still paying the piper.

At the opening, Marijcke will present a copy of her book to the mayor of Epe, Ir. H v.d. Hoeve.

The exhibit runs from 3-19 August at the Culture House in Epe. It features many important historical and cultural artifacts made available by residents of the town.

Four becomes five in Ian’s surprise ending

Author Ian Mathie knows a thing or two about suspense — reviewers of his memoir Bride Price have praised its novel-like structure and pacing — but Ian outdid even himself last night.

Speaking at the launch of his new book Man in a Mud Hut at Warwick library, Ian casually mentioned that his four-part African Memoir series had just become five. “I’m 20,000 words into the Danakil,” he said, and judging by the murmurs and nods of approval from his audience, it was a popular announcement.

After a moment of slightly stunned surprise, his publisher concurred.

Ian’s memoirs, which include the forthcoming Supper with the President and The Man of Passage, cover a period in the 1970s when he worked in sub-Saharan Africa as a water resources engineer in the British government’s overseas aid programme. That work took him into Ethiopia and the Danakil region whose inhabitants were famously visited in the 1930s by Wilfred Thesiger.

Ian reviewed the notes of his own time in the region, prompted by recent news reports on the drought and impending famine in the Horn of Africa.

“As I sat watching the news, I remembered  all too clearly the drought in 1971/2 when I was first in Ethiopia,” he said. “The camp at Bati was described then as the biggest refugee camp in the world. Eleven years later, the same thing happened again and once more Ethiopia and Somalia were headlines for the same gruesome reasons.

“And now it’s happening all over again, just as it has for hundreds of years. The cycle has been shorter this time due to a shift in the world’s weather patterns, but it was entirely predictable.”

The working title for this new book is ‘Dust in the Danakil’. It promises to be full of Ian’s now-familiar blend of observation, explanation and narration with a strong hook to current affairs. Watch this space for publication details.