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A Cultural Awakening 

By Barbara (Babs) Coert

My sister and I are as different as two people can be. Not only do we live in different states, we are also very different in how we express and connect to our Indo culture. I’m more social in my connection. Maybe holding on to the ways of our parents by hanging out and getting together with other Indos, cooking, eating, laughing, and dancing, have a certain familiarity and warmth. That “gezelligheid” that I so dearly love.

My sister is an artist. She is working on her Masters of Fine Arts in SoCal. I admire that she has embraced furthering her education at this stage of her life. We are both in our 60’s. She has been putting her art up on Instagram. I’d say that I am impressed by her depiction of her cultural identity, but I don’t think impressed is a good enough word. I think a better word I can use is the Dutch word “indrukwekkend”

“Indruk” means to have an impression or rather in this case a better translation is influence. The influence her art has over the viewer. This brings me to the second part of the word, the true key to her art in my opinion, which is “wekkend”. It’s the feeling that is awakened in you when you view her art. That is the true beauty of her art. It’s not just a painting, it’s a feeling that is instilled in your soul. 

The following are Elizabeth’s words:

“I’m very interested in social issues surrounding immigration, racism, and colonialism. These are all things tied to my own cultural identity, it is less a depiction of my own identity and one of the identities of many people in the world. I just use the lens of my own background.

Even though my work is personal, sometimes you get to the universal through the personal. Experiences are very common to all people. I think that even though my viewpoint is that of my own diaspora, my experiences can be shared by others. The feelings of dislocation because of being an immigrant, a refugee, a person with no actual homeland are shared feelings. To me that is part of the value of the work, that is what I get out of it. I create a visual history and a lineage, that is part factual and personal and part fictional. Indies people are very good at assimilating into cultures and while this is a good survival technique it also leaves a part of us behind. Like those primordial mothers that married the Dutch colonials, part of what I’m doing is acknowledging them and their ethnic histories. Also, I believe that women are family history keepers. I know I am, I remember stories I’ve been told and I read a lot and archive a lot of information. That is also part of the reason I usually portray females, not through a male gaze but through a female gaze. I’m telling a story through the eyes of women.”

This winter there will be an exhibit of Indo artists at a gallery of the Indo artist, Carl Berg. It’s called Prjctla in Los Angeles. While the exhibition date has not been officially announced, more information can be found on the Prjctla website

Check out Elizabeth’s art and learn more about her painting process on her Instagram page.

Batavia Jakarta, 2021, ©Elizabeth Souza, Oil On Canvas, 48 Inches x 36 Inches

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