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A WOR(L) AND THE THING(S) IT DESCRIBES . . . 

Dutch-born artist Aafke De Jong (Delft, 1971) implements in an associative way a wide range of themes in her work, that usually forms a fluid blend between dance, performance and other kinds of (visual) arts. Sometimes her works are site specific (e.g. Eitulovni and In The Beginning There Was) 

 

Also she makes drawings, often with pen and ink. Some of them

are shown here on this website.

De Jong spent five years of her life in Indonesia (mostly on Bali) to study and work. This influence is often, but not always in a direct way, visible in her work, which shows her vision on various aspects of life.

Under the headline 'In(do)spiration' beneath the picture on the right part of this page you can learn more about the way in which De Jong uses inspiration from Indonesian art forms and cultures in her work.

EXCHANGE OF THOUGHTS

By trying to ask herself socially, culturally, politically or historically relevant questions about themes like multiculturalism, discrimina-tion, environmental issues etc. she looks for ways to lead the focus

of the audience and allows it (the audience) to think, wonder, worry

or smile with her. She finds it important, though, to leave enough 

space for her audience to make up it's own answers and associations or perhaps even raise more questions.

She hopes that her work can be looked upon as a 'conversation' between people - an exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas.

THE ULTIMATE SENSE  OF FREEDOM: AN EMPY SPACE OR A BLANK

SHEET OF PAPER

On another level processes and patterns that can be found in nature and science are encouraging for De Jong to create artwork (see e.g. her solo What Thoughts Are Made Of). Since childhood she has a fascination for the repetitive patterns found in the graphic work of M.C. Escher, who combined art, nature and science. She also enjoys visiting museums, architectural interesting sites or landscapes in her spare time finding inspiration in simply 'being' in an interesting surrounding, allowing her thoughts to come to the surface. 

To De Jong the ultimate sense of freedom is an empty space or a blank piece of paper.

The ambiguity of 'belonging' to this place we call earth on the one hand and on the other sometimes feeling 'detached' from her 

surroundings is also characteristic to De Jong's life and work. 

The discrepancy between the two worlds - what we choose to show

to the outside world and what we prefer to keep to ourselves - never stops intriguing De Jong. In her work she shows a desire to always equally "give the floor" to the two sides of the coin (see e.g. ITCH I and ITCH II). In short, the 'simple' fact of being alive is enough reason for De Jong to produce new work.

CHOCOLATE COOKIES AND FAMILY MATTERS

Already during her childhood De Jong preferably spent her days drawing, making sculptures and writing short poems. About every month she would change the complete look of her room by arranging things found on her parents attic. During her high school years she started making theatre and painting exhibitions and in the summer holidays she wrote scripts, created dance and costumes and made stage settings for her family members (not everyone of them joining 

'voluntarily'). Her sister, singer songwriter and theatre maker 

Hanneke de Jong (see also De Jong De Witte) by that early age started writing the music and songs for these small events.

These 'happenings' often ended up involving the inhabitants of the little villages in France, Italy or Spain, where the family went for the holidays. The villagers could get a ticket in exchange for a chocolate cookie or another local delicacy.

Also nowadays the two sisters sometimes create performances (e.g. Eitulovni) and give workshops together.

MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES STRENGTHENING EACH OTHER

De Jong finds most joy in making or designing all needs for a performance herself, including costumes and stage setting. 

Upon recommendation of her high school teachers at first she

would attend art school to become an illustrator or painter. 

Instead De Jong choose a professional education in dance, but never gave up drawing and painting. The idea of theatre functioning as a vessel for interdisciplinary art forms was simply more appealing to De Jong. Her preference for visual art often makes her approaching dance like a sculptor in space.

 

During times of hypnotic stillness in her performances she hopes to create a situation where performer(s) and audience feel united, be it for just a few seconds. These moments of tranquility will be disrupted from time to time by short and sudden outbursts. This is also a given found in the theatre and dance of Bali (Indonesia), where De Jong lived and worked for a long time and are a sign of the 'two worlds' usually hidden in De Jong's work. 

To De Jong all art disciplines in fact sprout from a similar necessity and communicate in a similar way, only using different media. Perhaps therefor it is not a coincidence that De Jong feels so attracted to the culture of Bali, where many artists are often also dancers, musicians, singers, painters and sculptors at the same time.

Education and work

 

1993

graduated from Rotterdam Dance Academy (now Codarts)

1993-1994

first year of studying Balinese dance on Bali, Indonesia at Denpasar

Conservatory STSI (now ISI) (*) and

with several renowned private 

teachers, like Jero Made Puspawati, 

Ni Ketut Arini Alit, A. A. Ayu 

Sukmawati and Gusti Ayu Raka 

Rasmi.

 

(*) study made possible by

fundings of NUFFIC and Nederlands

Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten

(NFPK/Dutch Fund for Performing

Arts

1999

graduated from Leiden University - Languages and Cultures of South

East Asia and Oceania with a 

thesis on (political) developments

within the Balinese (court)dance

genre Legong Keraton.

1999 - 2003

continuation of studying in Bali, Indonesia De Jong founded

Centre for Balinese Art & Culture 

DwiBhumi (meaning 'two worlds')

in cooperation with Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali. Here many

Balinese artists worked together involving foreigners in their

life, art and culture.

2003 - 2019

De Jong moved back to The Netherlands and founded 

Balinese dance ensemble DwiBhumi *, with which she 

mainly toured Europe, giving

dance performances, workshops and lectures. At the same time

she started Aafke de Jong | Interdisciplinary Dance Projects

* Mid 2019 De Jong turned over her Balinese dance ensemble DwiBhumi to a senior dancer

of the group, in order to being able to focus more on 

choreography, drawing and

other art related projects.

2003 - now

Member of (now advisor to) 

Stichting Indisch Erfgoed (Foundation for Indo-European Heritage) in The Netherlands for which she helped to realize 

several exhibitions.

2005 - now

since many years De Jong is a regular guest dance teacher at 

Codarts Dance Academy in 

Rotterdam, where she also

received her formal dance 

education.​ 

picture by Jaap Berends

IN(DO)SPIRATION - THE RESULTS OF LIVING IN TWO WORLDS

De Jong creates multidisciplinary work, often - but not always - inspired by different aspects of various Indonesian cultures and 

art forms. Ways of movement found in specific Indonesian dance styles often find their way into her performances, be it in a changed, adapted, sometimes perhaps even distorted way.

Her curiosity towards Indonesia started at a very young age -

she was around 7 years old - when she began to wonder why

so many people with an Indo-European background are living in 

The Netherlands. She started asking questions and somewhat 

later began reading books about the subject and so learned more about colonial history, which - be it in a very dubious way - ties Indonesia and The Netherlands together. In The Netherlands even nowadays you almost can't find a person who has no connection

to the former Dutch Indies, in one way or another. This stirred up her interest in the very rich culture and art forms of especially

Bali and Java, where she lived, studied and worked for five years 

of her life. After finishing Rotterdam Dance Academy de Jong went to Bali to study the local dance forms and back in The Netherlands she took on a study Indonesian Languages and Cultures at Leiden University.

Since 2003 Aafke de Jong often works together with Indonesian artists, about which you can find some examples on this website, 

e.g. GONG, a co-creation with Indonesian composer Iwan Gunawan 

(Java, Bandung) or Jatuh Bisu/Falling in Silence, a cooperation

with Indonesian composer Sinta Wullur (Java) and writer Ketut Yuliarsa (Bali). She also regularly holds improvisation sessions

with musician/composer Krishna Sutedja (Bali).

SHARED MEMORIES - BRIDGING CULTURES

De Jong believes that the - often troubled - debate about colonial history, that today is again particularly topical, can benefit from

the cooperation and exchange between artists from Indonesian

and Dutch background. However, this is not the single reason for

De Jong to seek cooperation with other (for example Indonesian) 

artists. She is convinced that an open attitude towards 'the other' - be it another human being, another way of thinking or another culture  - is a necessity in order to being able to live together in

a peaceful way.

"When we (artists from Indonesian and Dutch backgrounds) work together it is not even necessary to talk directly about our shared history (when we want to we do so anyway), because we understand each other on a different level. It is through our art

that we can communicate and strive towards a more open and inclusive future in general."

- Aafke de Jong during a lecture at Iwanson School of Contemporary Dance in München, Germany 2017

A MORE PROMINENT ROLE FOR ART IN GENERAL

De Jong also often works together with artists from other art disciplines in general, like writers, composers, costume designers and video artists. De Jong especially appreciates working together with other artists, not only because she enjoys exchanging ideas on a similar level, but also because she likes the idea of being able to inspire each other and discover unbeaten paths together.

"Art in general ,- unlike the language we often hear in every day speech or media - because of it's capability to bring more sensitive, hidden subjects or even taboes to the surface in a less direct way, has the unique quality to open up people's minds and t

herefor deserves ... no ... nééds to play a more prominent role in

our (multicultural) society as we live in today. It is especially 

through music, dance, literature, poetry, visual arts etc. that we

can learn to listen to each other and that we can learn to have a more open and respectful attitude towards our fellow human beings, towards nature and towards our surroundings."

-Aafke de Jong during an interview at the Münchner Stadtmuseum in Germany in 2017

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