Category Archives: Decolonization

Language, Nation

By Muhammad Yamin, 1921

“What you have inherited from your fathers, earn over again for yourselves or it will not be yours.” Goethe

While still small and young in years
The little child nestles in her mother’s lap,
Singing soft songs and lullabies her mother
Beams over her child overflowing with joy;
She rocks lovingly night and day,
Cradle hanging in the land of her ancestors.

Born to a nation with its own language
Surrounded by family to the right and the left,
Raised in the customs of the land of the Malays
In grief and in joy and in sorrow too
A sense of togetherness and unity flow
From her language with its sweet sound.

Whether in wailing tears, or in rejoicing
Whether in times of joy or in adversity and danger;
We breathe to maintain our lives
In the language that embodies our soul,
Wherever Sumatra is, there is the nation,
Wherever the patchwork island is, there is our language.

My beloved Andalas, land of my birth,
From the time I was young,
Till the time that I die and am laid in the earth
I shall never forget our language,
Remember, young people, oh unhappy Sumatra,
Lose your language and your nation is lost too too.

February 1921


Bahasa Bangsa was irst published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, February 1921. Also in Sandjak-sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin]  Firma Rada, Djakarta 1954, p. 9. Republished in Jassin, H. B.  Pujangga baru : prosa dan puisi / dikumpulkan dengan disertai kata pengantar oleh H.B. Jassin  [Pujangga Baru : prose and poetry / collected and accompanied by an introduction by H.B. Jassin] Haji Masagung, Jakarta,  1987, p. 322.

Other background that may of interest includes: Abdullah, Taufik. and Cornell University. Modern Indonesia Project.  Schools and politics : the Kaum Muda movement in West Sumatra (1927-1933) / Taufik Abdullah  Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, Cornell University Ithaca, N.Y  1971  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7822864-schools-and-politics; Yamin, Muhammad. Tan Malacca, Bapak Republik Indonesia: Riwajat-politik Seorang Pengandjoer Revolusionér Jang Berfikir, Berdjoeang Dan Menderita Membentoek Negara Republik Indonesia. Djakarta: Berita Indonesia, 1946. Print.; Van Miert, Hans. “The ‘Land of the Future’: The Jong Sumatranen Bond (1917-1930) and Its Image of the Nation.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 1996, pp. 591–616. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/312984. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

Maria Ullfah, Mother of Indonesia’s National Women’s Day – @PotretLawas

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman bachelor of laws from the Dutch East Indies.
Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman Bachelor of Laws from the Dutch East Indies. (Source: @Potretlawas)

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.

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)
Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)

Source: Various tweets from @potretlawas.

Poem for Mother

By W.S. Rendra

To recall mother
Is to recall dessert,
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes,
And mother
The perfect final,
In the great communal feast of life.

Her countenance is the sky at sunset:
The grandeur of the day that has completed its work.
Her voice the echo
Of the whisper of my conscience.

Remembering mother
I look on the promise of the best in life.
Hearing her voice,
I believe in the good in the human heart.
Looking at mother’s photograph,
I inherit the essence of the creation of the world.

Talking with you, my brothers and sisters,
I remember that you too have mothers.
I shake your hands,
I embrace you in fraternity.
We don’t wish to offend each other,
So we do not insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

Thieves have mothers. Murderers have mothers.
Just as corruptors, tyrants, fascists, journalists on the take and members of parliament for sale,
They too also have mothers.

What sort of mothers are their mothers?
Aren’t their mothers the dove soaring in the sky of the soul?
Aren’t their mothers the gateway to the universe?

Would a child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the lap dog of foreign capital,
Who makes goods which don’t do anything to reduce the people’s poverty,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers goes through the roof.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain too,
To be your resting place one day.”

No. This is not something a child would say to his mother.
But how then will a child explain to his mother his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest scourge and mouse plague overrunning rice fields?
Will the tyrant declare himself leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and lap dog of foreign capital announce that he’s the hero of development?
And will the forest scourge and rice field mouse plague label himself the ideal farmer?

But, then, what of the beaming gaze of his mother?
Is it possible for a mother to say:
“Child, don’t forget to take your jacket.
Remember to wrap up against the night air.
A journalist needs to stay healthy.
Oh, yeah, and if any fat envelops come your way,
Just pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Not a fake statue or a white elephant like Monas and Mini Indonesia Park.
You are the anthem Great Indonesia.
You are the rain I watched in the village.
You are the forest encircling the lake.
You are the lotus flower of meditation’s peace.
You are the song of the simple people.
You are the arrow of my conscience in all I do.

Pejambon, Jakarta
23 October, 1977


Poem for Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.

WS Rendra
WS Rendra (Source: https://twitter.com/Odish2007/status/961824179128381440)

Event: Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950

Public Seminar Invitation

Research in progress: Behind the scenes of the research programme Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950

On Saturday November 2, 2019, a public seminar will take place in cooperation with the National Archives. During this seminar we will focus on (archival) research: what does research look like in practice? Which sources are used for the research programme and what do they tell us? How do the researchers deal with one-sidedness and inconsistencies in the sources? And how do they ensure multi-perspectivity?
The programme researchers and some external experts share experiences from their research practice in workshops and presentations. In addition, the National Archives gives workshops on archival research, as well as tours through the depot and the exhibition Highlights in perspective.

The seminar comprises of a morning and an afternoon session, with an almost identical program. Conference registration for one of the half-day sessions is possible via Eventbrite. Both parts of the day contain Dutch and English sessions. The main language of the plenary session is Dutch, with English surtitles. The full program is available on our website.

You can register for the morning or afternoon session at Eventbrite. Conference registration is possible until Sunday October 27, 11.30 p.m.

For moe information visit https://www.ind45-50.org/en

A joint research programme of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Read more here.

‘Adat law 100 years on: Towards a new interpretation?’ – KITLV

‘Adat law 100 years on: Towards a new interpretation?’ – KITLV

REMINDER: The Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI), in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), organize an international conference on the continued importance of adat law in present day Indonesia on 22 May 2017.

Leiden Asia Year
Leiden Asia Year

22 May 2017

National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

This international conference focuses on adat law in Indonesia a century after the Adat Law Foundation (adatrechtstichting) was set up in Leiden in 1917 by Cornelius van Vollenhoven and Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. In present-day Indonesia adat law continues to be of great importance.

The international conference aims to provide an update and to look at the current legal, social and political meaning of adat law, the way it is being invoked and how it is deployed for a variety of purposes. The key question is what the relevance of adat law is in present-day Indonesia.

Read more about the progam

Date: 22 May 2017

Time: 13.30 – 18.00

Venue: National Museum of Ethnology, Steenstraat 1, Leiden

Registration required: adat.law.conference2017@gmail.com

Founded by KITLV/Adatrechtfonds, Leiden University (AMT, VVI) & LUF.

For more information visit http://www.kitlv.nl/conference-adat-law-100-year/