Saturday, January 5, 2013

Portraits from Cihapit 2012

Lucita the shop owner

March 15, 1944: “.... the administration of this camp has passed ... to the Japanese Army. We were told that we would receive much better care, but that must have been Japanese politeness.  Since that moment we have not received any bread anymore and also from the Toko [shop] we could get very little........ Once in a while we get from the kitchen ... some raw vegetables.... but there’s neither chicken soup nor fish soup anymore.  Luckily there’s still milk.  Tomorrow it’s our turn again.  Many people in the camp go hungry because the camp kitchen rice is not enough for them.” 

1st june 1944:  “Where once the bread for Ellenbroek was baked, a bakery for this camp has been set up.”

Source:  Anneke Bosman’s Diary.   


2012:   “Mr Li, my Chinese neighbour, has a small factory making children’s clothes in the old Ellenbroek bakery building just down the road.”  Lucita, the owner of Toko Cairo, a small shop on Jl Mangga, tells me.  “It must be the same bakery as the one on your map, just down from the mosque”.

Now, children’s clothes are cut and sewn in the old Ellenbroek Bakery Building

The oven used to be located along the wall on the right
In 1946, one year after the Japanese surrender, a Dutch shop owner walked into a Dago wholesaler to purchase her usual supplies.  She approached the same young Chinese couple who had served her during better times before the war and told them that she would be emigrating back to Holland.  She offered them the opportunity to purchase her Toko (shop) for just 68 guilders!   The couple, who had immigrated to the Dutch East Indies in 1935, jumped at the chance to own their own business.
Their daughter, Lucita, was one year old. 
Lucita tells me her story in Chinese, a language that she was lucky to have had the opportunity to learn – a language that her children were not allowed to study in school.   She is standing in front of the shop’s original wooden shelves, busying herself behind a counter on which stands a large, European-style weighing machine dating back to the 1940s.  Kids come and go, helping themselves to drinks from the fridge beside the entrance and sitting themselves at the wooden table in the centre of the shop to feast on the sweets that they have picked out from the selection of large jars on the counter.  Crossing the threshold of Toko Cairo, at the intersection of Jl Belimbing and Jl Mangga, is like stepping right into the past.  

Toko Cairo 1951, Lucita, on the right, at 6 years of age.

Lucita:  “My family hasn’t made any significant changes to the building since my parents bought it.  Except for the bars on the windows.  We installed those in 1963 because of the PAI HUA movement”
PAI HUA in Mandarin means “Get rid of the Chinese”.
On 10th may 1963 a racially-fuelled fight broke out following a minor incident between two motorcycles on the campus of Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) – the former Technische Hoog School where all of the product testing was carried out for the Cosmetics Company that Hedy and Tikus worked for.  One of the motorcyclists was an ethnic Chinese and the other an Indonesian.  Some politically-motivated groups took advantage of this event to incite demonstrations which led to anti-Chinese riots in Bandung which subsequently spread to other cities on Java.

Indonesian history is riddled with examples of discrimination against the Chinese, not least during the Dutch administration:
“Their population grew rapidly during the colonial period when workers were contracted from their home provinces in southern China.....Under the Dutch ethnic classification policy, Chinese Indonesians were considered "foreign orientals";   As such, they struggled to enter the colonial and national sociopolitical scene, despite successes in their economic endeavors”  Source:  Wikipedia.
With the passing of the Citizenship act in 1946, which automatically granted citizenship to those Chinese born in Indonesia and continuously residing there, unless they chose actively to reject Indonesian citizenship in favour of Chinese citizenship, the Chinese were forced to choose between the two.  This, in a way, mirrors what happened during the war when Belanda Indos (Indonesians with Dutch ancestry) were discriminated against and targeted to the point where they scrambled to prove and exaggerate the extent of their Indonesian ancestry.  Despite the option for the Chinese to confirm their Indonesian Citizenship, in practice the process was not binding at worst and confusing at best:  
“In some parts of Java for instance, local authorities thought that a Peranakan [person of Chinese descent] was not to be considered  a citizen unless he could produce a certificate of citizenship.  In the Bandung area, Chinese born in Indonesia of parents who had never obtained certificates of permanent residence during Dutch times were officially (but mistakenly) considered as Chinese subjects, along with their parents.”   Source:  The National Status of the Chinese in Indonesia 1900-1958 By Donald E. Willmott
The 1950s and 1960s saw anti-Chinese sentiment intensify as the indigenous population reacted against the economic aptitude and successes of the Chinese.
In the mid 1960s, an abortive coup d’Etat by an organization called the Indonesian National Armed Forces was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) ,  sparking a period during 1965 and 1966 of mass killings and large-scale destruction of property – a purge of suspected communists  and, by association, the ethnic Chinese.    It is said that around a half a million people died during this period.
Many young students at that time looked towards a potentially brighter future in Mainland China, only to find themselves thrust into the chaotic senselessness of China’s Cultural Revolution.  As “foreigners”, they were accused of being imperialists and capitalists.  They had thought they were unwanted in Southeast Asia because they were Chinese; then they were rejected in China because they were Indonesian”,  Charles Coppel, political scientist, comments.  Many were sent to the countryside for re-education.   Siana, my colleague at the factory, told me of her Uncle’s experience of the brutality of that time in China.  A brick was thrown at his head, causing him lasting damage.  He, along with many others, eventually became a refugee in HK before returning to Indonesia.  Broken and desperate, he eventually committed suicide.
Under President  Suharto’s New Order Government (1966-1998)  an attempt was made to address the “Chinese problem”.   But rather than promoting assimilation via policies geared towards acceptance of diversity,  “assimilation” policies were introduced that forced the Chinese to abandon their own traditions, even banning the teaching of the Chinese language in schools.
Suharto alienated this group further by inviting Chinese businesses to take part in economic development programmes, inciting jealousy and mistrust amongst the indigenous population, whilst at the same time continuing to limit the political freedoms of the Chinese.
A new wave of anti Chinese sentiment hit a crescendo in the 1990s.  In May 1998, during a demonstration at a university, four students were shot dead by security forces.   Riots and Mob violence was directed at Chinese businesses and homes.  Women were raped, properties were looted and burned, and at least 1200 Chinese Indonesians were killed. 
After 1998, many of these discriminative policies and laws were overturned.  Today, Chinese holidays are observed, Mandarin is taught in schools and the situation for ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is much improved.  However, as Mr Li, the factory owner at the old Ellenbroek Bakery building observes, “Things are still difficult”.

Lucita raises her right hand and points beyond those bars, far beyond her own memories, towards a group of houses on the other side of the small street. 

“You know, in front here, in those buildings there was a prison.  Inside many Dutch people died.  The people who live there now say that there are ghosts.  In the shower they hear things;  doors open when no one is there.“   

“After the Dutch left this area, people settled here from outside.  During the 1990s, some very smart people saw an opportunity.  They knew that after the war the majority of people living in the Tjihapit area had merely been assigned a place to live – they didn’t have any deeds for their homes.  Those smart people went to the Government Land Bureau and bought certificates – land titles - for next to nothing.   Many people were then forced out – some of them after fifty years!  Many still don’t have certificates [deeds]  - for them everything is still uncertain so many years later”.   

“People come into the shop - they talk to me and tell me their stories.  We all have stories to tell......”

Patrick,  King of Cihapit
1946:   A young man, a freedom fighter in the war of Indonesian Independence, arrived in Bandung.    He settled, married and started a family at the time of a new beginning for his homeland. In recognition for his service to the Independence cause, it was promised that he and his family would always be taken care of.  They were to be given a home in the vacated area of Tjihapit, on Jalan Taman Cibeunying Selatan, the street that runs parallel to the narrow Cibeunying Park through the centre of which the selokan makes its way south towards Jalan Bengawan.     It is thought that the house had previously functioned as a kind of clinic, perhaps for the mentally ill.  Others have suggested that the small cells at the back of the house, the ones with the bars at the windows, had been prison cells.   Whatever its past function, this structure, with its high ceilings and institutional outlook, became a private home where a daughter was born and a daughter’s son also.      

The Grandfather tree opposite, just beside the park, had watched a small boy, on tip toes, grab the old, ornate, bronze-coloured lever on the window frame of the sitting room, yank it downwards, wrestle the tall, stubborn window frame inwards and stretch his head out to look at the trees and hear the birds.  It watched silently whilst a young teenager snuck out of the side door and disappear into the dead of night to explore his youth.   The same tree is now listening to a young man defiantly declaring “One day I will get my house back.”


2012:    “Hey man!” “How’s it going?”  One by one, stall owners greet Patrick with a wave or a handshake as we walk along Jl Cihapit  and turn onto Jl Taman Cibeunying Selatan, crossing over to stand in front of a large building, separated from the road by a barren garden and a locked fence. 

“We have to jump the fence” Patrick informs me with a cheeky grin as if to say “ok with you?”, as he clears the obstacle with ease, confident in the knowledge that any onlookers would have “seen nothing”.   He disappears towards the side of the building and when we reach him, he is standing in the open doorway that leads to the main room of the house.  “I still have a key”  he laughs.

Standing in the centre of a large, empty room, Patrick asks me “You don’t find it creepy in here, Le?” 

“Not at all, why?”

“Many Indonesian people do”  he replies.

Cell-like rooms at the back of Patrick’s old house. The bars from the large window on the right Patrick had removed and kept as a keepsake!

Later that day, I visit No.7 Jalan Saninten alone.  A lively tune playing on a classical piano emanates from the open door of this newly renovated home.  

A small selokan (now filled in) previously ran along the front of the building and between the side of this and the next house
I am invited in by Mr Hally Sudarsono and offered a cup of tea by his wife, Yanti.  “Risky”, his son, joins us and I show them the document my mother found on which is written their address, indicating that my family had at one point been assigned a room at No. 7 Jl Saninten. 

I learn that Hally’s Grandfather was, just like my own Grandfather, a Captain in the KNIL but was demoted to Sergeant once he was assimilated into the Indonesian army after the war.   At the rear of the house are two cell-like rooms, exactly like the ones at Patrick’s old home.  I show Mr Sudarsono and his family the photos I had taken of Patrick’s house.  Immediately, they recognise it:  “Everybody knows that house.  It is haunted.  People say that every Thursday evening a young girl in a red dress walks out of that house.”  I email Patrick later about this.  His reply cuts cleanly through his usual swaggering mischievousness to reveal a wounded heart as vulnerable as it is determined:
“About ghost in my old house, there's more than you can imagine. Peoples said my house is haunted but to be honest, Le, those ghosts never haunt us. Somehow they protect my family from peoples who trying do bad things to us .......There's many ghost living around us.  Ghost in my old house they never haunt my family. For me, my old house is the warmest place in this universe, Le.”

1 comment:

  1. Hallo There. I am the owner of this house, Saninten No. 7. And i really remembered when you suddenly came and visited politley to my house. A quite long time ago it was 2012. I hope you still remember me and I hope we can meet you soon.

    Rizky. Bandung