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Book review: Stark images reevaluate colonial culture in Dutch East Indies

Sandeep Ray's 'Celluloid Colony' focuses on lost films of Indonesia under the Dutch

A still from "Mother Dao, the Turtlelike," a compilation of clips from documentaries and propaganda films shot by Dutch cameramen between 1912 and 1932, when Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands. (Courtesy of Eye Filmmuseum)

SINGAPORE -- In January 2019, the global surge in anti-racist sentiment sparked by the U.S. Black Lives Matter movement washed up on the shores of Britain's former colonies in Southeast Asia. There were no parades, but the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles -- founder of modern Singapore -- partially disappeared from its pedestal beside the Singapore River behind the acrylic wizardry of a local painter, Teng Kai Wei.

In July 2020, Malaysian vandals splashed blood-red paint over the 84-year-old statue of Francis Light in Fort Cornwallis, a former British military fortification in George Town, the capital of the Malaysian state of Penang. Light founded the city as part of the British colony of Penang in 1786, and like some other colonialists, he is said to have made a fortune through his involvement in the opium trade.

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