As one navigates through museums in Indonesia or the Netherlands today, gifts or booty from legacies of the Dutch empire could be seen on display, including pusaka, sacred heirlooms. These objects may have different meanings and cultural significance, holding multiple narratives, as they symbolise power hierarchies present in the relationship between the colonised and the colonisers. In the age of decolonising our history and the museum collections, her talk highlights how we can do so by addressing the cultural significance of gifts and booty as pusaka, and not mere museum artefacts.
Ain Taha (b.1990) is a freelance researcher based in the Netherlands and Singapore. With a background in Asian studies and the arts, she researches material culture with a focus in diplomatic gifts exchanged during colonial times, and its unmistakable role in reiterating multinarrative global history. Having worked for years making programmes for the Malay Heritage Centre of Singapore, Taha dedicates her time to generate programmes with a strong basis in community-curated materials.