Pictures of a postcard (4)

‘The glory days of colonialism’

Greetings from Lawang on Java and spelled in a more aristocratic manner, a bit distinguished but perfectly servicing the situation. The Dutch Indies far before the World War II, a petty-bourgeois atmosphere, the cosiness exported from the lowlands by the sea. The colonial powers that build an extensive railway network and let the local’s handle it, making them familiar with western technology.
The switchman proudly shows his skills. A train was arriving or just a pose for the photographer capturing the scene in black and white. Later the picture was coloured by hand.
The hotel sign is attempting to check in and linger for a while, a reminiscent of a bygone era. The lifeline with the motherland was a sea journey of minimum six weeks and so did the mail. The settlers were far from home and had to manage themselves without any back-up others than patiently waiting till a ship would docks. They coped with it and how! Today the place is complete different with another atmosphere, the colonial influences are almost whipped out. It started with the Japanese occupation during the early forties seen by the Indonesians as their liberators. Dutch families were separated and put in camps. Later many of the men were shipped to Thailand to build the notorious Burma Railway.
After the war the call for independence became loud and louder and was achieved unfortunate not without any bloodshed. History in a nutshell. On the pictures everything still is peaceful, no signs of change only a lovely railway. Wouldn’t be nice if we could travel in time?      


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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