East Indies

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The poem 'Oostinje' is written by the Dutch cabaret artist Jacobus Speenhoff in which he pleas for a stronger Dutch allegiance to the Dutch East Indies in times of global war. To read the original poem in Dutch and the English translation, please click on the sources above.


Speenhoff's poem illustrates the multiple threats that endangered Dutch colonial rule during the war. The growing popularity of nationalist-Islamist movements like the Sarekat Islam and the revolt of Djambi in 1916, to which Speenhoff refers, increasingly undermined Dutch rule. These internal conflicts were closely interwoven with the changing geopolitical situation in South East Asia during the war. German-Ottoman pan-Islamic propaganda had a certain impact on the Muslim population in the Dutch East Indies and Japan showed more and more interest in the wealthy Dutch colony. As the Dutch military defence of the East Indies was negligible, diverse protest movements like 'Indië Weerbaar' ['Defensible Indies '] urged the Dutch government to drastically increase Dutch military power in the colony, raising a spectre of Japan taking over the Dutch 'gem'.

In this poem, Speenhoff refers to all these internal and foreign threats. He criticises the lack of Dutch interest in the East Indies, while recalling the vital importance of the colonies for Dutch prosperity. He encourages the Dutch to send weapons and soldiers to protect 'their Indies'.