Every year the Expatriate Archive Centre participates in the Piece of the Year, a national event that showcases the beautiful, the interesting, and the moving among the diverse collections held by archives in the Netherlands. This year the theme of “Borders” is particularly well-suited to our archive, since being an expat is all about crossing borders, both national borders and more intangible cultural, linguistic, or personal borders.
Although there are many pieces in our collection that would have fit into the theme, we decided to do something different, and chose a beautiful black and white drawing donated as part of one of our personal and family collections.
The subject is a dramatic dragon-headed cannon from Brunei, traditionally cast in bronze and used to defend the small country’s borders in wars, including against Spanish invaders in the 16th century and British in the 19th. It comes to us in the form of an intricate pen and ink drawing done by an expat in Panaga Camp, Brunei to illustrate a Dutch thesis on the cannons. The thesis was translated into English by a British-Dutch couple who were experts on History of Art translations from Dutch to English, and happened to be visiting their expat daughter in the camp.
The drawing is framed and hangs on the wall at the Expatriate Archive Centre as part of a set of six similar drawings to remind us of how fruitful collaboration across borders can be. The archivist who acquired the drawing noted, “This coincidental combination of the meeting of minds and skills is a wonderful example of how expatriate life can offer opportunities that might otherwise never have appeared in life.”
The contest closes in September, so be sure to look out in October for instructions on how to vote for our piece and help the Expatriate Archive Centre win Stuk van het Jaar in 2016!