Student creates archival exhibit on Dutch colonialism and family tribute

Leah poses with her exhibit on Dutch colonialism.
Posted by Sara Volmering on
"My cultural heritage and cultural background have inspired me to create an exhibit on Dutch colonialism in the East Indies (present-day Indonesia) as I am of both Moluccan and Dutch descent," said Leah Latumaerissa, library student employee and Anthropology major at WMU.
Leah works at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center as a student assistant and created an exhibit in Waldo Library on Dutch colonialism and a tribute to her great-grandfather, Ekliopas Latumaerissa. The topic is also a research interest for her honors thesis on post-colonialism in Moluccan and Dutch society in the Netherlands.
Leah used many items from her private collection, including antique books and family photos, to create the exhibit. It focuses on "the exploitative era of the Dutch spices monopoly also known as the VOC around the 17th century, the creation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (also known as KNIL) that mobilized Dutch and ingenious soldiers to maintain order within the Dutch East Indies, and the demobilization of the indigenous Moluccan KNIL soldiers in the Netherlands due to political exile," Leah said.
"The ‘dark side’ of Dutch colonialism, along with the narrative of the colonized and oppressed indigenous peoples, are hard to find within the Dutch curriculum as it only seems to glorify the prosperity, wealth, and status gained from colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies," Leah said.
"Creating this exhibit allowed me the opportunity to share the narrative of the indigenous peoples and Moluccan KNIL soldiers as their story should be given voice and proper acknowledgment," Leah said. "What might be interesting to note is that my Dutch ancestor was thought to be a former VOC captain (colonizer), which is interesting due to the fact that my great-grandfather was a colonized Moluccan KNIL soldier."
"The exhibit includes a tribute to my great-grandfather Ekliopas Latumaerissa as he was one of the indigenous Moluccan KNIL soldiers that unrightfully demobilized during his arrival in the Netherlands," Leah said. "To this day, 70 years after his arrival and 13 years after his death, his services to the Dutch Kingdom have still not been recognized nor acknowledged. Unfortunately, this is the case for most of the former Moluccan KNIL soldiers who have long passed since their arrival in the Netherlands."
"My favorite piece in the exhibit is the photo of my great-grandfather as he deserves to be recognized, " Leah says. "Moluccan KNIL soldiers were oppressed and treated horribly by the Dutch government. It is important to remember that indigenous peoples are humans and should be treated as such. Acknowledgment of the past builds bridges for the future."
Leah's familiarity and interest in the topic helped her rapidly assemble and share the exhibit with others. Working with historical materials is one of Leah's favorite things about working for the Libraries.
"Besides the amazing opportunity to create a mini-exhibit, my job as a conservation student is unique as I get to see books that are very rare and full of rich histories."
View Leah's exhibit on the second floor in Waldo Library's rotunda.