The Dutch cultural centre in Jakarta, Erasmus Huis recently welcomed its new director, Yolande Melsert. NOW! Jakarta had the opportunity to sit down and spoke about the institution’s mission that contributes to progressive and dynamic relations between both countries.
For almost 50 years, the Dutch cultural center Erasmus Huis has played a significant leading role that demonstrates not only the history but also a great example of cultural diplomacy between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Securing its position as a prominent Dutch-Indonesian cultural and architectural landmark in the heart of the capital, Erasmus Huis recently welcomed its new director Yolande Melsert who hails from the city of Amsterdam.
Having lived for nearly three months in Jakarta, Yolande expresses her exciting and rewarding experience as not only the director of the Erasmus Huis but also as the Head of Culture and Communication for the Netherlands Embassy for Indonesia. “Coming to Jakarta is an inspiring step for me! I like the people of Indonesia very much. Everybody is happy, enthusiastic and curious, and that’s something to embrace,’’ the new director shared.
Governments, institutions, policy makers and non-state actors have all, at some point, utilised culture as a tool for interconnecting and relating to foreign as well as domestic audiences, and so does Erasmus Huis in Jakarta as the official Dutch cultural institution in the country. While this is common practice, cultural diplomacy has its own objectives which ensure that it can facilitate arts and culture to become diplomatic tools.
“I am grateful for this opportunity, as I have never worked for an embassy. However, I’m always engaged to work professionally in the arts and cultural fields. I think arts and culture is very important for diplomacy. The best way to connect with each other is through the exchange of ideas, information, values, perspectives and other aspects of culture to foster mutual and thorough understanding,’’ she explained.
Arts and culture lends elegance and charm to diplomatic strategies, and the creation of a cultural institution like Erasmus Huis in Indonesia is thus important as a pillar of the international relations of the two countries; be it in promoting both culture beyond its borders and in using its cultural strengths to promote other international policy goals.
“Speaking of arts, I am really impressed with the Indonesian arts and culture. On a higher level, the Ducth and Indonesians can learn from each other through many kinds of artistic and cultural projects such as seminars, exhibitions, workshops, music concerts and other performing arts.”
It is clear that the existence of Erasmus Huis is to facilitate knowledge and process of learning between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Exchanges of ideas, values and other artistic and cultural events have been made for years. For the September programme they host two exciting events; Pasar Belanda, showing a taste of the Netherlands at the Dutch Market and the World Press Photo Exhibition. For the coming years Erasmus Huis will continue its successful programme, and together with Indonesian agencies they will also focus on two new groups namely the creative industry through fashion and textiles project. And secondly including more children through literature, painting, dancing and music activities.
Yolande shares her aspiration and ambition that Erasmus Huis will not only be the venue for creating and sharing of knowledge, but the cultural house will also be working on diplomacy and democracy for both countries. “I strongly believe in democracy. And, if you really want it, you have to engage people in the dialogue that the world is home to a myriad of people from different backgrounds who can actually coexist in cultural diversity.”