Resequencing the Tillema Collection. Engaging Otherwise with the Colonial Archive
Critical Documentary and Performance Lecture
with Paoletta Holst
Hendrik Freerk Tillema (1870–1952) was a Dutch pharmacist, entrepreneur, self-taught ethnographer and photographer, lobbyist and advocate for hygienic standards in the colonies, who lived in the Dutch Indies for twenty years of his life up until WWI. The photographs and films that Tillema produced or collected during his time in colonial Indonesia are located in the archives of the Museum voor Volkenkunde, the Tropenmuseum and the Eye filmmuseum. Historians and anthropologists have often regarded Tillema’s work and legacy as unavoidable primary sources, often detached from the context of his life, his main business and ideology. With the six waves of cholera bacterium outbreaks in the background, in Semarang, he built the first purified and bottled water factory in the Dutch East Indies. This enterprise directly supported his expeditions, observations and publications. Tillema wrote numerous publications on hygiene and urbanism in the colony. His ideas fit the broader modern scientific and medical discourse on hygiene, which engendered spatial and racial segregation through fear for contamination, through environmental and bodily pollution.