Projects/ Oost-Indisch Kookboek

Oost-Indisch Kookboek

Indonesian recipes in Dutch families. Connections and differences.

Having conducted a short research about the living Dutch-Indies culinary heritage in the Netherlands, Prilla Tania came up with the idea of using food as a doorway to talk about the positioning of individuals in a cultural exchange. Dutch-Indies food is indeed an outcome of an exchange of both material and immaterial cultures. But can a cultural exchange be always seen as a mutual and equal process? Tania’s video-works Oost-Indische Kookboek #1 and #2 were developed from the artist’s made-up story about an Indie-Dutch lady and her maid.

The title and the stories were made-up after an illustration of a cookbook published in 1913, which depicts a white (most possibly Dutch) lady wearing a typical Javanese white kebaya (Indonesian tunic) and a brown-skinned (most possibly Sundanese or Javanese) lady in red. As we can see in the image, the gesture of the Dutch lady reveals a dominant position, while the Sundanese/Javanese lady plays an apparent submissive role.

In Oost-Indisch-Kookboek #1, in which the artist performs as both ladies, Tania reenacts the scene and creates a conversation that attempts to subtly reveal the real position of the ‘teacher’ and the ‘pupil’. In Oost-Indisch-Kookboek #2 the story shifts to a setting in which the Dutch lady has to go back to her home country and the maid conceives her own interpretation about the Dutch word ‘boteram’ (bread), and finally turns its meaning arbitrarily into Sundanese language. These two videos deliberately take a simple, almost awkward approach in the artist’s performances, as well as in its editing style. As a whole they create even more uncanny impression with the dialogue done by the voice of Google Translate.