Remembering the Spirit of the Bandung Conference

On April 18-24, 1955, delegates from 29 nations from Asia and Africa came together in Bandung, Indonesia for the Konferensi Asia-Afrika. This conference was a gathering of independent nations to discuss issues of sovereignty, racism and colonialism, and became known simply as “The Bandung Conference.”

Chronicling Resistance Fellows Katherine Antarikso, Brother Tommy Joshua Caison, Lan Dinh and muthi reed came together to talk about the Spirit of the Bandung Conference on April 24, 2021, on the same date as the final day of the Conference. Sixty-six years later, we talked about its significance; what we can learn about Afro-Asian solidarity; the current moment; and what our vision for Afro-Asian solidarity can look like in Philadelphia. Unedited audio of our conversation is below.

More about the Conference:

The five organizing countries were Indonesia, India, Burma, Ceylon and Pakistan; participating countries included Ethiopia, Lebanon, Libya, and Egypt among others.

President Sukarno of Indonesia, the host country, proclaimed it “the first international conference of colored peoples in the history of mankind.”

The African American writer  Richard Wright wrote an account of his time at the conference in The Color Curtain and why he was interested in the conference:

“A stream of realizations claimed my mind:  these people were ex-colonial subjects, people whom the white West called “colored” peoples….Almost all of the nations mentioned had been, in some form or other, under the domination of Western Europe; some had been subjected for a few decades and others had been rule for three hundred and fifty years…”

At the end of the conference, the delegates outlined their ten principles of co-operation also known as the Dasasila Bandung:

      1. Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
      2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
      3. Recognition of the equality of all races and nations large and small.
      4. Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
      5. Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
      6. Abstention from the use of arrangements of collective defense to serve the particular interests of any of the big powers, abstention by any country from exerting pressure on other countries.
      7. Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
      8. Settlement of all international disputes through peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of the parties’ own choice in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
      9. Promotion of mutual interests and cooperation.
      10. Respect for justice and international obligation.

The Bandung Conference was a pivotal moment, many of the nations that participated in the conference were newly independent, and sought to be free from the influence of the United States and the Soviet Union, and the term “Third World” started to grow in significance.  These independent nations met to forge new ways of cooperation with each other and eventually led the way to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Copyright 2021 by Katherine Antarikso, Brother Tommy Joshua Caison, Lan Dinh and muthi reed. All rights reserved.

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Katherine Sarwopeni Antarikso (she/her) is an architect, artist, and activist. She was born in Jakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia, and moved to the United States at the age of 10. As an architect, she is interested in issues of equity in the design of urban spaces. She performs traditional Indonesian dance and writes poetry and essays focusing on themes of home, migration, and displacement. She is an activist for immigrants’ rights and is a founding member of Pejuang: Indonesian Social Justice Coalition.

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Lan Dinh (she/her) comes from a family of Vietnamese refugees, farmers, and fisherfolk who resettled in West Philadelphia. She is the co-founder and Farm and Food Sovereignty Director at VietLead. She manages intergenerational farm and garden programs to reconnect diaspora high school youth to land, cultural resilience, and to reclaim their ancestral roots.

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muthi reed (they/them) is a poet and maker. They compose and animate light, space, and sound with personal and public archive material. They take Black aesthetics, embellish them with Black things, pull aesthetics apart, and reimagine Black citing the miraculous of the mundane. The composite icons are made and shared as sketches of sonic memory and vernacular acts of care. muthi lives bi-regionally in Philadelphia and the black belt region of the U.S. South, where their grandparents are from.

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Brother Tommy Joshua Caison (he/him) is a North Philadelphia-born, faith-based community organizer and entrepreneur with deep roots in the U.S. South. His work focuses on land reclamation, local democracy, and the building of new Black communities. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Philly Peace Park and CEO of Green Wall St. LLC, an innovation firm.