Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download


34 D+C  e-Paper  December 2015 Novels Confronting a trauma Indonesian literature has an increasingly wide readership in Europe. This is especially so in Germany because of Indonesia’s status as guest of honour at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair this year. For many contemporary Indonesian fiction writers, the great trauma that needs to be addressed is still the Suharto era. By Katharina Borchardt It was a tumultuous time for Indone- sia. In 1998, when General Suharto was overthrown and his dictatorial “New Order” collapsed, many issues that had been suppressed started to come to light. This is evident in Ayu Utami’s two novels Saman and Larung, both of which were published during the political transition. They cast a spotlight on many controversial topics: the terrorising of small Indonesian farmers by international companies, the underground agitation against it by Catho- lic priests, the sexual freedom embraced by a new generation of young women and the persecution and liquidation of political activists by the Suharto regime. The books convey a critical, detailed, warts-and-all portrait of the late 1990s. Utami also addresses the issue of “1965”, which continues to occupy many writers even today. The father of her cen- tral character Larung is killed in the mas- sacres that marked the beginning of the Suharto dictatorship: “They hauled up everyone they considered enemies – dead or alive, male and female, some with heads, others decapitated, sometimes just the heads – and threw them all into a hole in the ground.” Saman has been available in German for a couple of years; the translation of “I’m seeing more and more passengers from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and of course Nigeria on the planes to China, Thailand and Singapore.” Vietnam, Myan- mar and Bangladesh have become rel- evant destinations too, she adds. “These countries are interesting for us because of the low prices and the variety of products. You can find cheap mobile phones, TVs, laptops, tablets and cloths of a remarkable quality.” Udechukwu says the African mid- dle classes who can afford these things are growing, and cheap travel makes her business viable. She came to Germany as a migrant and, thanks to the country’s strong economy, was able to earn the money she needed to start her business. Some entrepreneurs of African descent import goods from their home continent to Germany. There is a growing market for fair-trade and organic products in Europe. African beverages like ginger lemonade, African beer brands, African teas, honey and natural cosmetic products attract ever more buyers. Indeed, an increasing number of Ger- mans is interested in Africa and appreci- ate African restaurants, art and fashion galleries. The demand for African music, films and artists in general is growing. At the same time, Germans’ interest in social entrepreneurship has grown. It has become easier to raise funds for renew- able-energy infrastructure or business incubators in sub-Saharan rural areas. Moreover, German society is increasingly aware of the need to integrate refugees and migrants in main-stream society, and members of the diaspora find jobs in this field. The most recent and perhaps most promising trend is to start technol- ogy businesses (see box, p. 33). Some of them generate jobs in Europe, some in Africa, and some on both continents. For example, Ethiopian ex-pat Ayana Alemu founded Meelogic ins 2001. The company develops IT solutions and employs more than 100 persons in Germany and Poland. Meelogic serves a number of industries, including telecommunication, automotive and medical technology, energy, transport, logistics and e-commerce. Government action matters Governments can help diaspora entrepre- neurs by cutting red tape and facilitating international exchange. Indeed, many governments are keenly aware of the dias- pora’s economic relevance. Tunisia is an example. It has a population of about 11 million people, and another one million Tunisians live abroad. Some of them are leading scientists, experts and profession- als. Moez Ali, a Tunisian consultant, says: “It is fundamental for Tunisia to attract the diaspora to transfer knowledge and funds to their country of origin.” Tunisia offers members of the diaspora incentives to acquire real estate or to accept a posi- tion of leadership at home. In the course of the Arab spring revolution and the ensu- ing problems, diaspora investments went down, but it has started to increase again now that the country looks more stable with a democratic government and con- stitution. Across Africa, about a dozen national diaspora ministries have been established in the past ten years. The EU is aware of the potential too. In 2013, it launched the ACP Observatory on Migration. The idea is to cooperate with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) which have special ties to the EU and its members and to make all partners involved benefit from migration as much as possible. The need to do so was emphasised once again at the recent EU-AU summit in Malta. Abdou Rahime Diallo is an international policy consultant who specialises in migration and development and lives in Berlin. [email protected]