The Widows

CompanySuzanne Liem Photography
PhotographerSuzanne Liem
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

These portraits are related to two operations during the Dutch decolonisation-war in Indonesia: From December 1946 to February 1947, Dutch special forces, conducted ‚cleansing operations‘ in South Sulawesi. Approximately 1500 Indonesians were killed by summary execution. In the morning of 9 December 1947, Dutch soldiers, searching for an Indonesian guerrilla leader, surrounded the village of Rawagede. In the course of this operation, hundreds of male villagers were shot without trial. The young widows of the executed men were left in desperation. Many of them were forced to move back in with their parents. They were marked for life.


Almost 70 years after their husbands were killed by Dutch soldiers ‘The Widows’ tell us their stories: Ibu (Mrs.) Taswi,17 years old on December 9th, 1947: ‘He was shot through the head, blood running from his ear. My mother in law buried him in our backyard. Because I had a baby to care for and nowhere else to go I returned to live with my parents again.` Ibu Lasmi binti Kasilan, 26 years old on December 9th, 1947:‘Around sunrise Sukri was shot in the neck by the Dutch. I was seven months pregnant. After moving the bodies I had a miscarriage. There was no medical aid.` Ibu Manna, 22 years old in 1947: ‘I was at home when Lauseng was arrested and brought him to the prison in Rappang. After a while they told me he was shot by the Dutch together with many others, including my brother.’ Ibu Wanti binti Dodo,28 years old on December 9th, 1947: `I found the body of my husband Enap near the river. He was shot from behind. We carried his body home on a bamboo bench. I washed him, wrapped his body in cloth and buried him myself.’ Ibu Wanti binti Sariman, 22 years old on December 9th, 1947 :‘My husband was shot in the head and the back. I can not forget him. He used to work his own rice field. After he was killed it was inherited by his parents. I got nothing. I went to live with my parents again.

About Photographer

Suzanne Liem was born in Delft (1965). Her first camera was given to her by her father when she was 8 years old. From then on she photographed the people around her for fun untill - in 2002 - she decided to attend the Academy of Photography in Amsterdam. Suzanne graduated in 2006. Her specialties are 'documentary portraits'. Her photographs show people as she sees them in their own environment. Double portraits often show the interaction between people or the lack thereof. 2006 - Academy of Photography, Amsterdam; portrait, documentary, journalism. 1989 - Master of Law, 'University of Leiden'.