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Robin Block

Robin Block -  foto Amke de Kiviet
Robin Block - foto Amke de Kiviet

(1980) is a poet, musician and theatre artist. His first poetry collection, Bestialen (Bestials), was published in 2005. As a singer/songwriter in the tradition of Jeff Buckley, Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver, Block won the 2008 jury prize for best musician in the Grote Prijs van Nederland. Jointly with Angelina Enny (Indonesia) he published the collection In Between, Di Antara (2019). Samudra is his debut as a storyteller. By means of personal stories he touches on the shared history of The Netherlands and Indonesia and strives to build a bridge between both cultures. In this solo performance he combines storytelling with music, spoken word and the Indonesian martial art pencak silat. Together with filmmaker Jeremy Flohr, Block won the Dutch Poetry Film Festival for Jangan Lupa in 2021. This short film is part of their Poetry Film Project Manual for the Displaced, which consists of five films. The project visualizes and gives a voice, sound and movement to the quest for a home, wherever one is or comes from.

(WN 2022)

Archive available for: Robin Block

  • Winternachten 2020

    VPRO OVT Live

    With: Clarice Gargard, Ellen Deckwitz, Jos Palm, Liesbeth Zegveld, Nelleke Noordervliet, Paul van der Gaag, Reggie Baay, Robin Block, Stefan Hertmans

    Every Sunday morning, the topicality of history is the focus of one of the most popular radio programs in the Netherlands. On Sunday morning, 19 January 2020, OVT will be broadcast live from Writers Unlimited festival in Theater aan het Spui. You can listen to and watch discussions, interviews and stories by festival authors and others. Hosts: Paul van der Gaag and Jos Palm. Program in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2020

    Indonesian Roots in Poetry and Music: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block

    With: Ellen Deckwitz, Robin Block

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz also appears with Robin Block and Adriaan van Dis at Saturday Night Unlimited in Theater aan het Spui. She will perform at the festive Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January and at the NRC Live Reading Club, when she will discuss Hella Haasse's novel Oeroeg with Clarice Gargard and the public (Saterday afternoon, 18 January at Theater aan het Spui).

    Winternachten festival once again welcomes you to the Nieuw Waldeck Library for a wonderful literary-musical evening featuring a young generation of writers and poets with Indonesian roots. Come to watch and listen to the stories, poetry and music of Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block.

    This generation with a family background in the Dutch East Indies sometimes learned the stories of yore from their grandparents. Poet, thespian and performance poet Ellen Deckwitz (37) processed these in her new volume of poetry, Hogere Natuurkunde (Higher Physics). When she was a child, her "grandmother of steel", Grandma Koos, lived next door and told her about her experiences in the Japanese internment camps from 1942 to 1945.

    Deckwitz appears alongside a generational contemporary: poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block (38). His grandparents fled the Dutch East Indies in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new life in the Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens, but where they had never set foot and which did not provide a warm welcome. Block tells their stories via text and music.

    The Winternachten International Literary Festival The Hague is celebrating its 25th anniversary! From 15 to 19 January 2020 it takes place in theatres, libraries and schools throughout The Hague: at Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, the Institute of Social Studies, the Zuiderstrand Theatre and Paard, as well as the Dakota Theatre and the Schilderswijk, Ypenburg and Nieuw Waldeck libraries. More than 100 local and international writers, poets and spoken-word artists will appear for recitations, prose, poetry, storytelling, spoken word, author interviews, topical discussions, films and music.

    The jubilee edition of the festival has a special focus on liberation and, more specifically, on the decolonization of Western thought. How free is our mind, what does freedom mean, and are we truly free or caught in the framework of our culture, society and history? This theme connects the festival with its beginnings, when it focused on the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles and South Africa.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Ellen Deckwitz and Adriaan van Dis: Inheritance

    A discussion about family, inheritance and whether or not it is possible to escape the transferral of history, and thereby your roots, and the good fortune or grief that goes along with them. Led by Fiep van Bodegom, with music and poetry by Robin Block.

    In her new collection Hogere natuurkunde (Advanced Physics), Ellen Deckwitz writes about the war, the Dutch Indies, and consequences thereof in today's Netherlands. The grandmother in the text is her Indonesian oma, who will only tell her story to her granddaughter.

    A major portion of Adrian van Dis' oeuvre addresses Indonesian influences on his family. His first novel, Nathan Sid (1983) and the novels Indische duinen (Indonesian Dunes, 1994), Familieziek (Family Illness, 2002) and Ik kom terug (I'm Coming Back, 2014) are about his mother and his family, and about how family history persists, generation after generation.

    Poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block follows the path of his grandparents, who had to flee Indonesia in 1949, in the other direction. This is the theme of his solo performance Samudra ("ocean") and the 2019 book he wrote together with Angelina Enny (from Indonesia) In Between, Di Antara.

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block also appear in the Winternachten program at the Nieuw Waldeck Library on 17 January 2020, as of 20:15h. On Saturday afternoon, 18 January, Deckwitz, together with fellow NRC columnist Clarice Gargard and the audience, discusses the novella Oeroeg (1948) by Hella Haasse. Both events are in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Letters from Overseas

    In 1795, the once-enslaved but later freed Wilhelmina Kelderman sent a heartbreaking letter from Paramaribo to her former master. The letter never arrived, as it was on a ship hijacked by the English, ended up in an archive, and was only opened two centuries later.

    Writers Unlimited festival asked nine authors to write a letter to someone in a (former) colony, inspired by Wilhelmina's entreaty, and to present it at this event. They will recite them in their mother tongue or preferred language of writing; English or Dutch translations will be simultaneously projected.

    Participants are Antjie Krog (South Africa), Alfred Birney, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz, Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa), Jasper Albinus, poet Angelina Enny (Indonesia) and poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block.

    Tip: Antjie Krog, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz and Jolyn Phillips will also read from their contributions to the 25th anniversary Winternachten festival anthology during the Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Indonesia: History is an Always-Broken Promise

    Writers from Indonesia and The Netherlands look at the history and the way former colonizers are viewed now. Chris Keulemans talks with them about how this influences their work and invites them to read from their work.

    Besides being a famous poet, Goenawan Mohamad is also a journalist, essayist, editor and columnist. He contributed to the formation of the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia. He participated in many ways in the struggle against Suharto's regime. In 1995, he was a guest writer at the inaugural Writers Unlimited festival and has returned several times since to The Hague to take part again.

    Angelina Enny is a writer, actor and theatre director. Her story debut, Nokturnal Melankolia, was adapted for the stage. In 2019 she collaborated with Dutch writer and musician Robin Block on a volume of poetry, In Between, Di Antara, in which they explore their personal stories, (family) memories and dreams, as well as their shared (Indonesian) history. Enny says: "For me, historical events consist of personal stories. Stories of people whose chronicles we have forgotten. That is specifically why we need to tell them."

    The grandparents of poet. musician and theatre maker Robin Block fled the Dutch East Indies in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new life in the Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens, but where they had never set foot and which did not provide a warm welcome.

    Tip: Angelina Enny and Goenawan Mohamad read from their own work at Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January. Robin Block performs together with poet Ellen Deckwitz in 'Indische roots in poëzie en muziek' in Biblotheek Nieuw Waldeck on Friday evening 17 January.