Borderlands: The lines that divide
FOR US, crossing the border is traveling into another country for work or a vacation. But in some places in the world, crossing the border means going to the kitchen to grab a drink.
Baarle-Nassau and Baarle Hertog are two municipalities which divide the town of Baarle. Baarle is located on the border between the Netherlands and Belgium.
The odd part about the borders in Baarle is that little pieces of Belgium and the Netherlands are scattered around Baarle.
How do they mark the borders in town? By white crosses on the pavement and metal studs on the road.
I did not bother about borders until I attended a workshop by Professor Holger Briel from Xi’an Jiaoting-Liverpool University. The workshop was jointly organised by Faculty of Language and Communication and Research and Consultancy Office, Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus.
Originally from Germany, Briel’s interest in borderlands stemmed from his childhood: he grew up on the border between East and West Germany.
The aim of the workshop was to approach the border issue, how to make it fruitful and decrease the difficulties it creates for individuals living within its shadows.
Briel shared that borders are not only geographical, but also inside people’s heads.
In his study on Cyprus called Project LIME- Living Memory, by interviewing the older citizens of Cyprus, and collecting their oral histories, Project LIME managed in bringing two sides of the Cyprus community together.
Cyprus is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1974, the island became divided between into a Turkish Cypriot-administered area in the north and a Greece-controlled Cyprus Government in the south.
What does oral history have to do with borderlands, you might ask.
By taking down the oral history of the people who live on the border, not from the politicians or policy makers, you can get a more complete picture of the consequences of the border for the citizens who actually live there.
Project LIME was participated by both Turkish and Greeks inhabitants of Cyprus. The younger generation signed up to interview their older relatives and the older generation finally opened up to talk about the division.
The hardest part was to talk about the the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus which led to 150,000 Greek Cypriots leaving their homes in the north and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved to Turkish-controlled areas.
The end result of Project Lime was that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots came together to watch the final video of the interviews in a community hall.
Briel now is on a mission to bring Sarawakians and our Indonesian friends to open up on the border dividing Borneo.
Before landing in Kuching, Briel was in Pontianak giving the same workshop on borderlands to people there.
“People who created the borders are no longer here, yet people now have to live with it,” Briel stated.
A project similar to Project LIME on the Malaysia-Indonesia border is expected to be held this July.
And if you are wondering which nationality residents belong to if their houses are divided by a border? It is determined by which side of the border the front door is facing.