… In addition to two manuscripts in Malay, Sloane owned five items from Java, which though fragmentary in nature encompass a wide variety of languages and scripts (Javanese, Old Javanese, Lampung and Chinese) and writing materials (palm leaf, bamboo and paper), and range from commercial documents to a primer of religious law. Sloane’s Javanese manuscripts, which are of interest not only for their diversity but also for their relatively early date, have now all been digitised and can be read on the Digitised Manuscripts website…
(Read more here.)
By Seno Gumira Ajidarma
One ordinary sleepy day a sufi teacher landed in Jakarta on his magic carpet at the gates of the toll road leading from Jakarta to Cengkareng International Airport. He hopped down and strolled into Jakarta as his magic carpet flew off again back up into the heavens.
It happened to be a Friday and at midday the sufi teacher went looking for the nearest place to perform his Friday prayers. He walked into the office block he was passing and on the ground floor found a small prayer room. The usual plastic prayer mats were laid out ready for Friday prayers but the room was still empty. A man who seemed to be the prayer room attendant was getting ready to perform his prayers, so the sufi teacher asked, “Prayer room attendant, isn’t it Friday today and shouldn’t everyone be here performing their prayers?”
“True. Usually there are lots of people here on Fridays to pray. The office workers in this building prefer to pray here on the ground floor rather than go out and look for a mosque.”
“But prayer room attendant, why isn’t anyone at all here today even though it’s time for prayer?”
“Ah, they’re all praying on the ninth floor.”
“And why is that?”
“Because.., it’s air conditioned. They say the atmosphere there is more conducive to prayer, and it’s nice and cool on the ninth floor, while down here it’s hot and sticky.”
“Ah, I see,” replied the sufi teacher in English, nodding.
And so he and the attendant performed their prayers together by themselves with the attendant leading the devotions.
When they had finished, the sufi teacher continued on his way looking for Gus Dur, the director of the Islamic community organization called Nahdlatul Ulama. He wanted to ask whether Americans could use the English phrase ‘good morning’ instead of the Arabic greeting ‘Assalamu alaikum’.
A month later the sufi teacher was again going past the same building and as it happened to be right on time for midday prayer he once again entered the building.
It turned out that this time there were dozens of people preparing to pray in the small prayer room. There were so many in fact that they were spilling out of the prayer room into the lobby as the fiery sermon lambasted the spread of worldly greed.
The sufi teacher again asked the attendant, “Prayer room attendant, why are there now so many people praying here, so many that they are overflowing into the lobby? What has become of the air conditioned prayer room on the ninth floor?”
“Sojourner, the office workers have come back here to pray because the air conditioning is out of order, and the room which used to be so nice and cool is now unbearably hot. Because of the humidity on the ninth floor, they now want to pray here; if they are lucky they might catch a passing breeze.”
The sufi teacher again nodded, saying in English, “I see. I see.” Then he continued, “Well then, take note prayer room attendant. Reflect on this question: Is there any difference between those who pray in an air conditioned room and those who do not?”
The prayer room attendant was silent, and, after midday prayers were over, forever more followed the sufi teacher wherever he went.
One day on their travels they arrived at the edge of a river somewhere in Central Java where there was no bridge. To cross to the other side it was necessary to use a small bamboo raft. The raft landing on the other side was not directly opposite and had to be reached by using a punt some way along the bank before crossing over.
Punting along the edge of the river the sufi teacher noticed a man fishing at the edge of the river who didn’t seem to be using any bait. But even though the fisherman wasn’t using any bait, the fish were just jumping from the water by themselves and landing in the man’s basket, filling it to overflowing. As the basket filled, the local people emptied fish into their own baskets and carried them away to their homes. The villagers flocked to the fisherman’s basket.
Amazed at this sight, the sufi teacher asked the raft keeper, “Raft keeper, who is that man by the river fishing without any bait?”
“That’s Saint Jagakali.”
And so the raft keeper told the sufi teacher the story of the fisherman. It was said that long ago in that village there had lived a fisherman who lived solely from the fish he caught. Every day he would take his catch, return home and cook and eat it. One day one of the fish he caught was flapping gasping on the ground near him when it had begun speaking to him.
“Fisherman, please let me go. Grant me a great blessing and throw me back into the river. What good can I be to you? The small amount of flesh on my tiny bones will hardly fill you.”
The fisherman was astonished, but replied, “Talking fish, why do you speak to me this way? Does a fisherman not have the right to eat a fish he catches? This is the way it has always been, and the way it always shall be.”
“But life is like a wheel,” replied the fish. “What would happen if you should die and be reborn as a fish?”
The fisherman laughed aloud and threw the speaking fish into his basket.
Finally after the fisherman had died he was indeed reborn as a fish. On the other hand, after passing away the talking fish was also reborn, but as a fisherman.
One day the fisherman who had once been a fish caught the fish who had at one time been a fisherman. The fish who had been a fisherman was also able to speak.
“Good fisherman, I beg you to let me go because I am just a small fish and life means so much to me. My small body will hardly provide you with enough. Please throw me back into the river and set me free.”
The fisherman who had once been a fish happened to recognize that the fish he had caught was the fisherman who had once caught him.
The fisherman said, “Talking fish, do you not remember that once you were a fisherman and that once you refused to grant the request of a small fish. I am that very fish, and now you must experience what I felt that day.”
“No! Please! Haven’t you thought that one day you might be reborn yet again as a fish and I as a fisherman who might catch you? Remember that life is like a wheel, spinning around and around and around.”
“I don’t care; I desire vengeance. Aha ha ha ha ha!” responded the fisherman as he threw the fish into his basket. The fish flip-flopped backwards and forwards with slowly weakening flicks until it was finished.
In its next life, the fish did return as a man and the fisherman too returned, this time as a fish. The man who had once been a fish who had once been a fisherman did indeed become a fisherman who loved fishing more than anything in the world. But he did not forget that once he had killed a fish and had finally as a fish himself been killed by a fisherman despite his pleas for mercy. Full of reverence, he resolved to return the fish he had caught to the river.
Hence forth the fisherman fished without using any bait. The strange thing was that ever since he had decided not to use bait the fish had just leaped from the water by themselves into his basket. Even then he couldn’t bring himself to eat the fish so he allowed the local villagers to take them. As there were more fish than a fish factory the local villagers took them gratefully.
The fisherman would sit by the river day and night fishing, refusing to use any bait. He did not want to eat any of the fish and he lived solely from the dew that formed on his lips in the morning, chanting the mantras of the poet Sutardji Calzoum Bachri:
How many centuries must pass,
How many watches must stop,
How many signs must appear,
How many steps must I take,
Before I am able to reach You?
Over time, the fisherman had been given the name Saint Jagakali after the great Muslim mystic of Central Java, even though the fisherman himself had acknowledged no creed.
When the sufi teacher and the prayer room attendant arrived at the other side of the river, the sufi teacher thanked the raft keeper and together he and the prayer room attendant continued on their journey to East Java.
The sufi teacher wanted to meet the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Kiai Ahmad Shiddiq, to ask the venerable teacher what he would think if Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Jarre were to record Arabic devotional songs.
After that, the sufi teacher wanted to summon his flying carpet and return to Isfahan. He was planning to drop into Qom and let Khomeini know that wisdom had spread to every corner of the earth. But then he remembered, the Great Teacher was already dead, so he changed his mind.
The sufi teacher next planned to fly from East Java to Japan, but first he wanted to take the prayer room attendant to the modern Islamic boarding school at Gontor in East Java so he could learn English. After all, a prayer room attendant in an office block in Jakarta’s ‘golden triangle’ central business district crowded with the offices of foreign investors needs to know English.
When he arrived in Japan the sufi teacher planned to go straight to Kyoto, find a Buddhist priest, and find out how he practiced Zen.
(Jakarta, February 1990)
The Sufi Teacher Passed By… (Guru Sufi Lewat…) was published in Kompas Daily in May 1990.
By W.S. Rendra
Downing a whole bottle of beer,
I stare at the world,
and what I see is people starving.
I light some incense,
breath in the earth,
and listen to the thunder of the rioters.
The cost of hitting the town for one night,
is equivalent to the cost of developing ten villages!
What the hell kind of civilization have we created?
Why do we build huge cities,
and ignore the culture of the villages?
Why does development lead to hoarding,
rather than distribution?
Huge cities here don’t grow from industry.
They grow from the needs of foreign industrial countries
for markets and their need to buy natural resources.
Large cities here
are a means for Europe, Japan, China, America,
Australia and other industrial countries to accumulate.
Where are the old back roads?
The ones which connected villages with other villages?
They’re now abandoned.
They’re now ditches or potholes.
The roads today
represent the colonizer’s planning of years ago.
They’re just a means of distributing foreign goods from
the ports to regional centers, and natural resources from regional centers to the ports. Roads are created specifically for,
not the farmers,
but the middlemen and the Chinese businessmen.
Now we’re swept away in a stream of civilization that we don’t control.
Where we can’t do anything except shit and eat,
without the power to create anything.
Are we going to just stop here like this?
Do all countries that want to advance have to become industrial countries?
Do we dream of having endless factories,
which ceaselessly produce –
have to forever just produce things –
and finally force other countries
to become markets for our products?
Is the only option apart from industry just tourism?
Does our economic thinking
suck only on the breast milk of communism and capitalism?
Why is our own environment not considered?
Will we just be swept away
in the power of accumulating things
which spread pollution and degradation
of nature both without and nature within people themselves?
We have been taken over by one dream
to become someone else.
We have become foreign
in the land of our own ancestors.
Villagers are skittish, chasing the dream,
and enslaving themselves to Jakarta.
The people of Jakarta are skittish, chasing the dream
and enslaving themselves to Japan, Europe or America.
Pejambon, June 23, 1977
A Poem for a Bottle of Beer (Sajak Sebotol Bir) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 62.
Featured image: ASIMETRIS (full movie)
By W.S. Rendra
A mountain breeze sweeps down, creeps through the forest,
then blows across the surface of a vast river,
coming to rest finally among the tobacco leaves.
Then its heart is filled with compassion
On seeing the sad fate of the peasant workers
Planted in soil that is so rich, so fertile,
But which provides no prosperity for its people.
The peasant workers,
Living in windowless shacks,
Plant seedlings in the fertile soil,
Reap abundant rich harvests
While their own lives are full of misery.
They harvest for rich landlords
Who own beautiful palaces.
Their sweat turns into gold
That is collected by the fat owners of cigar
factories in Europe.
And when they demand income equality,
The economists adjust their ties nervously,
and respond by dispatching condoms.
from the trenches lining the faces of my people.
From dawn till dusk,
the bedraggled people of my country trudge, striving,
turning to the left, turned to right,
in an effort that is uncertain.
At sundown they turn into a pile of garbage,
and at night they are sprawled across the floor,
and their souls are transformed into condors.
Thousands of condors,
millions of condors,
flocking toward the high mountains,
and there gain respite from the loneliness.
Because only the loneliness
Is able to suck out the revenge and the pain.
The condors screech.
In anger they scream out,
Sound out in places that are lonely.
The condors scream
On the mountain crags they call out
Sound out in places that are lonely
By the millions the condors scratch at the rocks,
Snap at the stones, peck at the air,
and in the cities there are those who prepare to
A Poem for the Condors (Sajak Burung-Burung Kondor) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 58.
Featured image: [De Rivier] Waterval met roofvogel
By Murya Artha
I’ve dished out enough gunpower and saltpeter
mortal combat, we’ve even been through that:
Only today we write a new page, a page of victory
the accounting of the cost to our country, as high as rising to the stars
and we have soared in the seventh heaven
one more layer and the unity of every national endeavor is a reality
one higher than the teaching of the goal of sovereignty
Source: Siasat magazine, Number 171 Year IV, 18 June 1950.
Murya Artha was born in Parincahan Village, Kandangan, Hulu Sungai Selatan District, South Kalimantan August 20, 1920 as M. Husrien. He used pseudonyms including Bujang Far, Emhart, HR Bandahara, M.Ch. Artum, M.Chayrin Artha, and Artha Artha. He passed away at Banjarmasin October 28, 2002.
Featured image: Dancers With Kris, J.F.E. (Johan Frederik Engelbert) ten Klooster (Vervaardiging) Inscripties : Serie Wajang Wong 3 / – / Ten Klooster Serie Wajang Wong 3 [Dansers met kris]
By Sukmawati Soekarno Putri
Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the chignon of mother Indonesia is most beautiful
More elegant than your chador
So perfectly folded is the hair
As perfect as the fabric that enfolds your form
Her endlessly diverse creative senses
Fuse with the essence of the world around
Fingers with the scent of forest resin
Perspiration touched by sea breezes
Look, mother Indonesia
As your appearance grows more alien
So you can remember
The natural beauty of your nation
If you wish to become beautiful, healthy, virtuous and creative
Welcome to my world, this earth of mother Indonesia
Although I am no expert in the law of Islam
What I do know is the sound of the lullaby of mother Indonesia is most beautiful
More melodious than your lilting call to prayer
The gracious movements of her dance is holy service
As pure as the rhythm of divine worship
The breath of her prayer combines with creation
Strand by strand the yarn is woven
Drip by drip the soft wax flows
The wax pen etching holy scripture of the heavenly world
Behold, mother Indonesia
As your sight grows dim,
So you can understand the true beauty of your nation
For ages past, the story of this civilized nation has been love and respect for mother Indonesia and her people.
Might be of interest: Islamic groups report Indonesian politician for reciting ‘blasphemous’ poem Former Indonesian president’s daughter sorry after blasphemy outrage over poem Sambil Menangis, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri Minta Maaf.
On 20 March 2018 Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, Governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, visited the British Library to launch the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project. Through the generous support of Mr S P Lohia, over the next twelve months 75 Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta now held in the British Library will be digitised, and will be made fully and freely accessible online through the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website. On completion of the project in March 2019, complete sets of the 30,000 digital images will be presented to the Libraries and Archives Board of Yogyakarta (Badan Perpustakaan dan Arsip Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta) and to the National Library (Perpustakaan Nasional) of Indonesia in Jakarta. The manuscripts will also be accessible through Mr Lohia’s website, SPLRareBooks.
(Read more here.)
By W.S. Rendra
Habit is not character
Character is not a fantasy
Character comes from emptiness.
we are agile and alert.
We can respond to anything,
According to the situation,
And not according to habit.
The full are rigid and slow –
Often even powerless.
To be empty is to be full of power.
WS Rendra, To Be Empty is To Be Full of Power (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya) Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Sourced from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog)
For background to Mr. Novel Baswedan see ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad’: Indonesia’s Top Graft Buster Talks to TIME From His Hospital Bed and Pak Jokowi, Bentuk Tim Independen untuk Ungkap Kasus Novel!
Maria Ullfah was the daughter of Kuningan regent R.A.A. Mohammad Achmad. Maria entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Leiden in 1929 and graduated in 1933.
A friend from the same faculty and boarding house, Siti Soendari (left), who was also the sister of Dr. Soetomo, followed by taking a Bachelor of Laws the following year. On her return to the Dutch East Indies, Maria Ullfah worked in the office of the Cirebon regency government, however, this was only to last several months because she chose to study German and government at the Muhammadiyah school in Batavia. It was probably here that Maria Ullfah’s involvement in the nationalist movement began.
The causes which Maria championed included a fair marriage law, which she proposed at the Third Women’s Congress. Maria then became the head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Women in Marriage. Her goal was a marriage law which was based on the principle of equity of rights and responsibilities between men and women.
22 December was declared Women’s Day at the Third Women’s Congress which was held in Bandung from 23 to 27 July 1938. Women’s Day in 1953 was a gala celebration as it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Women’s Congress. However, as a national day Women’s Day was not made a public holiday until 1959 with the release of Presidential Decree No. 316/1959.
Some of Maria Ullfah’s other important roles included the inclusion of human rights articles in the 1945 Constitution as it was being drafted by the Body Investigating Steps for Preparedness for Indonesian Independence (BPUPKI). Maria was one of its members. It was Maria who strongly protested when the early draft made no mention of human rights. Drs. Mohammad Hatta played the same role.
After independence, Maria Ullfah became Minister of Social Affairs in the Second Sjahrir Cabinet in 1946. It was under her stewardship that the Office of Workers’ Affairs was born which was the forerunner of today’s Ministry of Labor (@KemnakerRI). She was part of the fight for workers’ rights through her drafting of the social affairs law which aimed to improve the conditions of workers. This draft became law in 1948.
So it was that after this long record of nationalist struggle in 1959 Maria Ullfah proposed that Women’s Day on 22 December be made a national day. At the time Maria was Director of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet office during the administration of Prime Minister Juanda.
Her dream was simple, that women would always be aware of their responsibilities as mothers of the nation.
Source: Various tweets from @potretlawas.
Note: Hari Ibu is usually rendered “Mother’s Day”.
Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje
Deze islamoloog en arabist was een van de eerste westerlingen die doordrong in Mekka. Later streek hij voor onderzoek neer in Java en Atjeh. En steeds weer schreef hij voorbeeldige etnografieën.
Door Dirk Vlasblom
Philip Dröge heeft een scherp oog voor intrigerende, weinig bekende stukjes geschiedenis dicht bij huis. Dat bleek eerder uit zijn boeken Moresnet (2016), over dat vergeten buurlandje van Nederland, en De schaduw van Tambora (2015), een huiveringwekkend verhaal over de vulkaanuitbarsting van 1815 in Nederlands-Indië. Met Pelgrim, een biografie van de Leidse islamoloog en arabist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, heeft hij alweer een boeiend onderwerp te pakken dat niet is opgenomen in de vaderlandse geschiedeniscanon.
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This is the trailer for “Asymmetric” (Asimetris), the ninth documentary film in the ground-breaking Blue Indonesia Expedition series (Ekspedisi Indonesia Biru) on contemporary Indonesia following the acclaimed documentaries:
1. Samin vs Semen
2. Kala Benoa
3. The Mahuzes
5. Kasepuhan Ciptagelar
6. Lewa di Lembata
8. Gorontalo Baik
The whole film will be uploaded this coming March.
Source: WatchDoc Image Documentaries
The full movie is now available here.