A short history of Tong Tong Fair

The Tong Tong Festival is organised by the Tong Tong Foundation. The goal of the Tong Tong organisation is to foster Indies Eurasian culture and to broaden public understanding of its history.
Indies Eurasian culture is a centuries-old culture, which began when European traders sailed to the Indonesian archipelago and set up their trading posts.

Indies Eurasian culture, a fusion of East and West, is also related to other mixed Eurasian cultures which grew up along the route to the East, as in Malaysia (Cristang), Sri Lanka (Burghers) and Goa. Around the trading posts and European ‘strongholds’ in Africa too, mixed cultures grew up — in Cape Verde, for example. These links can still be heard, not least, in the musical genres of ‘krontjong’ from Java and ‘morna’ from Cape Verde, through the Portuguese influence. Similar links can also be found in the cuisine. Indies Eurasian cuisine, for example, is closely related to the Cristang cuisine of Malaysia.

Indonesia & The Hague

Three centuries of close association between the Netherlands and the Indonesian archipelago have left their mark on both present-day Indonesia and the Netherlands. This is particularly true of The Hague, popularly known as the ‘Indies Eurasian capital of the world’, not only for historic reasons but also because of the widespread familiarity among the people of The Hague with the Indies culture, the large number of Indies organisations, ‘tokos’ and restaurants in the city and, last but by no means least, the annual Tong Tong event.

From 1945 until the mid-sixties, roughly 300,000 people of all ranks and ages migrated from Indonesia to the Netherlands to start a new life there. Most of them were people of mixed descent (Eurasians, ‘Indos’), born and raised in the Dutch East Indies, repatriating to a country they had never seen before. Thousands continued their migration on to other countries such as Canada, Australia and the United States. The largest Indies Eurasian community outside the Netherlands is in California, where an estimated 35,000 people alone live in and around Los Angeles. Famous American Indos include Eddie and Alex Van Halen.

Largest annual Indies cultural expression

The integration of these migrants into Dutch society is often recounted as a success story in the ongoing history of world migration and decolonisation. Most Indos today are hardly considered an ethnic minority by the native Dutch, and nor are they classified as such by the government. The Tong Tong Festival is the largest annual Indies cultural expression: enthusiasts come specially from the surrounding countries, and more and more from further afield as well, such as the United States. In The Hague, the Netherlands’ seat of government, the Tong Tong Fair is the largest ticketed annual event.

Tong Tong Fair started out as Pasar Malam Tong Tong in 1959, was called Pasar Malam Besar since the nineteenseventies, and changed its name to the current Tong Tong Fair in 2009. The name Tong Tong Festival for the theatre programme was introduced in 2005.

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