The Suitcase. A memorial sculpture.


In 2023, the Hilversum funeral foundation will create a worthy memorial on the Zuiderhof where the deceased from the Moluccan community will have their final resting place. This is a memorial place for the Moluccan marines, a number of whom are buried in the Zuiderhof and also a number in the Noorderbegraafplaats. Out of respect for the relatives and next of kin of these Moluccan navy men, the Hilversum Funeral Foundation has chosen to create a memorial for life, with a beautiful monument and a space to gather. Artist Barbara Houwers was asked to make a design for this memorial. The design “The Suitcase” was chosen.

Barbara Houwers:
“Flanked by austere architecture by Dudok, my design would be placed in a midfield so that the memorial could be created there. An empty space for a large and impressive/heavy story. During the design phase I collected key words and concepts. The “straight back” of the Marines and their relatives. The “Look Ahead”. Bravery, dignity, pride but also desperation. How do you translate this as an artist? How do you depict a complicated and very sad history?

Architect Dudok watched with me….I depicted “The Suitcase” as an almost abstract form. At first sight a simple and almost modest object. At second glance, I wanted to show the struggle in the artistic process of molding and modelling:
The complexity and the silent suffering of all who have experienced this history. Who experienced the journey by sea and the arrival in the Netherlands. After modeling countless human figures (in a stylized representation of the generations), we opted for the execution of the sculpture in the most beautiful material an artist can work with: Bronze.
With a number of very special stones we also created this memorial place where you can actually stand, experience, remember and sit in the middle. The stones also come from afar! Another fossil can be seen from the sea. The largest stone has been cut into 3 pieces: a silent metaphor for the 3 generations that come together here in this cemetery”.
The history of the post-war soldiers/migrants from Indonesia is a complex story. With “a suitcase” in it as a symbol for the desire that did not come true…….
The suitcase that was silently ready for years to return to the Fatherland. “The Suitcase That Wasn’t Unpacked”. A metaphor for the injustice done to this group by the state of the Netherlands.
Design and execution: Barbara Houwers 2023.