Finding Indonesia
    Category: Forbes Life By : Renjani Puspo Sari Read : 1100 Date : Friday, November 14, 2014 - 10:38:26

    Courtesy of Tong Tong Fair / Arenda Oomen

    Spring has always been the busiest time for the Boons, the third generation of a Dutch-Indonesian family, known informally as Indo in the Netherlands. With other Eurasians, sisters Siem and Leslie Boon annually organize the biggest celebration of Indonesian culture in Europe, known as the Tong Tong Fair. Its tagline is “a visit to the Asia and the Pacific, but without the jet lag.”

    It is one of Holland’s largest events. The immensity of the event is in the numbers: 100,000 attendees, two miles of eateries and shops, with over 200 shows and exhibitions. The event lasts for 12 days and is housed under a series of enormous interconnected white tents, surrounded by multiple white-topped smaller buildings, covering roughly two hectares. Originally aimed to showcase Indonesian food and culture, the event has expanded to include exhibitors from Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. The event this year includes musical performances, a film festival, photography shows, fashion shows, puppet shows, dances, kite making for children and pencak silat demonstrations—in other words, a smorgasbord of activities, food and exhibitions.

    The fair has also become a nice moneyspinner for the Boon family, with revenues from the event easily topping €1 million, including sales of entrance tickets (€13.5 weekdays and €16.5 on weekends) and booth space (starting at  €160). Vendors at the event also do well, selling an estimated €10 million worth of food and goods during the fair. “Not only those from the Indies, many Eurasians take part. Also Dutch who are born in Indonesia or having a connection to this country,” says Siem Boon, director of the Tong Tong Foundation, the official event organizer. This year, the Boons invited dancers from Yogyakarta, Maluku and Bali, also Khatak dancers from India and Filipino musicians. Many famous entertainers have toned up the stages, like Indo singers the Tielman brothers, Anneke Grönloh and Daniel Sahuleka; or Indonesian artists Anggun, legendary dangdut dancer Inul Daratista, and cross-dressing dancer and comedian Didik Nini Thowok.

    Started in 1959, the event was originally more modest and called simply the Pasar Malam Besar (the grand night market). It was, however, almost an instant success. The first one lasted for three days and attracted 3,000 visitors. Ironically, the festival has its roots not in fun but in political protest. Siem is the granddaughter of Jan Boon—known also as Tjalie Robinson—who was a popular writer, journalist and founder of the Tong Tong Fair.