Dutch Wife

In this sculptural installation, I explored the multi-layered stories and histories surrounding the guiling, a long, tube-shaped human-sized cushion. In bed, people wrap their arms and legs around the cushion to stay in a relaxed sleeping position. Originally made from rattan or braided bamboo, their open structure also allows for ventilation in warm and humid climates. During the Dutch colonial occupation of Indonesia, British traders used the mocking term “Dutch Wife” for the guiling—raising the problematic subject of colonists seeking female companionship. The guiling merges everyday habits with traditional and contemporary crafts and colonial references, and i am interested in the guiling’s potential when placed in the environment of a contemporary art space.

I made this installation using a series of elongated knitted tubes that ‘embraces’ an original guiling. It is a gesture of softness and warmth, evoking the feeling of a caring embrace. The re-appropriation of the guiling is my attempt to reclaim a dispossessed and displaced object with the aim of healing colonial trauma. The cartography map woven into the body of the object represents a landscape of hidden narratives.

Excerpt, The Journey of the Dutch wife, Kabupaten Sumedang, West Java Province, Indonesia, Film, B/W, sound, 8 min.

Dutch Wife has been nominated for the Gijs Bakker Prijs. The project was supported by Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Mondriaan Fonds, 2022, in collaboration with Textilelab, Textile Museum’s professional workshop. Along with installation, Video Screening of The Journey of Dutch Wife was at Meet the Masters, When Things are Beings, StedelijkMuseum Amsterdam.