Meet the artists | Angelina & Robin

During the project My story, shared history six Indonesian and six Dutch artists with an Indo-Dutch background create work together on their shared history. The Indonesian writer and actor Angelina Enny and Indo-Dutch musician, writer, theatre performer Robin Block decided to work on a poetry book In between, Di Antara and to also turn it into a live performance Sebuah Antara with music and movement. What do they think about the theme personal stories versus national histories? At the Indisch Herinneringscentrum in The Hague last august, they ask each other this question.   

Robin starts: "I really like the theme, because it invites us to look at our history as a shared history. I think it is easier to share your history through personal stories, because it speaks more to feelings and emotions. When you connect on an emotional level, you are more open to other perspectives on the larger level. For example: when I read Dutch or Indonesian school books, these two histories seem two separate histories, but when you look closer at the personal stories, like the ones of Enny’s nanny Marnie or my grandmother, they have very similar stories. When the stories connect on a personal level, you can also connect on a larger or political level." 

Angelina agrees and adds: "For me, historic events consist of personal stories. Stories of people who have a lot to tell, but whose tales have been forgotten. This is why we should tell these chronicles." 

Robin asks: "Do you think poetry is a good way to tell them? When you compare it to theatre, photography…?" 

"Yes," Angelina responds, "Words can give many meanings to stories, but we can also say that words can be ‘everlasting’ because our next generation can read them."

While Angelina was still in Indonesia and Robin in the Netherlands, the two decided to start sharing their most personal stories through poems - poems about their memories, family histories and dreams. From there on, they tried to reconnect them to the larger history shared by Indonesia and the Netherlands. 

Robin and Angelina met in August in Amsterdam to learn more about each other’s work and to work together on their performance. Angelina: "Robin's work is really good. I like how he turns his poems into songs and adds music to it. It gives a poem more perspective." 

As a writer, Angelina is inspired by authors like award-winning Ayu Utami. Bilangan Fu is one of her favorite books and inspired her to start writing literature. "I hope to learn from Robin how to become a better poet. Is this a wise answer?" Angelina asks with a wink. They start laughing. "Lebay!" they say out loud, meaning over-exaggerating. "This is one of the most important things I have learned from Enny," Robin explains.

Robin is inspired by the Indo-Dutch writer Tjalie Robinson. For him Robinson's work is a way to learn about history on a personal level. Robin's own Piekerans is a tribute to his Piekerans van een straatslijper, about Robinson's observations and reflections on daily life in Jakarta in the 1950s. Robin: "I like Angelina's poems. They are personal on the one hand, but they speak to many people at the same time. She mixes different worlds: ghosts, the past, ancestors, specific places, nature. But these worlds always speak of a larger story. And you don’t use many words," he says.

Angelina: "Yes, minimize!"

Robin: "I always need a lot of words."


Angelina & Robin

Robin Block and Angelina Enny at Sofiahof, The Hague, August 2019. Photo: Armando Ello

Working together left a footprint in many ways. Miscommunications due to different working methods, time zones and language were sometimes part of the working process. Robin explains: "Since Angelina would write in Indonesian, and I mostly in English, some words and meanings were literally lost in translation." 

Their connections were found in their stories about belonging, violence, love, loss, ancestors and food, and resulted in the poetry book In Between, Di Antara and performance Sebuah Antara, a mix of poems, songs, movement and images, in which two worlds will meet. They will perform together for the first time during LIFEs in October.