MADIJKERS PHOTO STUDIO
Harahap reworks archival photographs to present fictive portraits of the Mardijkers, a community of descendants of freed slaves found in major cities in the East Indies (present-day Indonesia). Comprising indigenous people from conquered Portuguese territories, as well as people of Portuguese ancestry, the Mardijkers occupied an in-between status: despite adopting European religion and culture, they were classed with the ‘natives’ by the colonial government. The superimposition of European faces on ‘native’ bodies, and vice versa, captures the fluidity and instability of identities within this community, a situation which the artist views as analogous to contemporary Indonesia’s negotiation with ‘global’ culture. In this series of arresting and enigmatic portraits, some subjects appear to adopt foreign dress and ways of life confidently, while others reveal their uncertainty or hesitation. These images also comment on colonial photography, which often exoticised its subjects, as well as our expectations of the photographic image as ‘truth’ and ‘document’.