Najwa Shihab of MetroTV's Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover "99 Most Powerful Women"

Ain’t No Night Fair #5

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

Suddenly those thoughts died as my eyes fell on one small hamlet in the middle of rice fields surrounded by bamboo thickets and trees. I knew the conditions in this hamlet all too well. At that time, the hamlet had been under the control of a gang of outlaws. Once with my platoon I had been on patrol there and made a detailed report. The report would now be lying buried in some cupboard. I had become acquainted with one very attractive woman in particular. As the hamlet was owned by a large landowner, the thought occurred to me that the woman would have to have been mixed race. But that didn’t matter and her father had made me an offer, “If you marry my daughter, I will no longer need to work. There’s a sizeable amount of land here and you can take half of my fields.” I was completely intoxicated by the offer as I listened. At the time, poverty always circled in the sky ready to swoop down on your head. Yes, the thought of the offer made me smile at the time. But the patrol was to last no more than a day and a night and before long our platoon made its return to base.

I did return to the place later though, but the beautiful woman had been kidnapped by the gang of bandits. I would return home again filled with regret, but happy also that I had not sold myself out. Nevertheless, the beauty of the woman and her fate would continue to haunt my thoughts.

Then in my heart I told myself a story which went like this.

“The woman was now living contentedly with the bandits who had kidnapped her. She would by now have given birth to two young children and her body was adorned with silk and gold and diamond-studded jewelry.”

The train thundered on at high speed. The hamlet too vanished, from my view, and from my memory.

I coughed.

“You are too close to the window,” said my wife.

Dutch war train

We changed places. I drew the collar of my coat up tightly around my neck then I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. I dropped off to sleep, but my sleep was not to be secure as the train was beginning to fill with new passengers. Then I drifted back to sleep once more. Arriving in the district that had only recently been cleared of the threat and terror presented by the Darul Islam movement, we could see damaged telegraph wires, tangled and twisted around their poles which were lying bent, strewn on the ground.

“Well, not a chance the telegram has arrived there,” I said.

“No, the telegram couldn’t possibly have arrived,” my wife echoed. The train roared on, and on. And on, all the way to Semarang.

We slept the night at a hotel and although the hotel was grubby, we were nevertheless able to sleep soundly.

Dutch patrol at Semarang, Java, 23 July 1947

(Continued)

 


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover Photo Credit

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Mata Najwa "Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK"

Ain’t No Night Fair #4

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

I could feel a shudder in my chest and I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.

“I might be coming down with a cold,” I answered.

“Put on your coat.”

I slipped on the coat I had taken off previously after putting up our suitcases at Gambir station. After that effort I had felt very hot and the feeling of having a temperature added to the pressure of the fear that we wouldn’t get a place to sit.

I fastened the buttons.

“You catch colds quite easily,” my wife added.

Coldly I didn’t respond to her reminder.

Now in my mind there appeared the sight of a grave, the final resting place of every person, despite certain people sometimes not finding a place in the womb of the earth. Yes, sometimes sailors, or soldiers in times of war, often they do not find a final resting place. And in my mind I imagined that it was my father who did not find a place.

I shuddered.

My eyes misted. But not enough for tears to fall.

“Ah, I do not want to listen to every thought in my head,” I screamed to myself.

And I thought. If only I could win the lottery. What a sweet dream that was. And that dream was ended by an old idea, the idea that at the end of the day every person passes away. Death. Sickness. And sickness brought my thoughts back to my father.

Once more I sighed.

“Hopefully your uncle should have waited before writing that letter,” my wife said. “Hopefully your father’s condition isn’t as bad as he described.”

Again I looked her straight in the eye. They were eyes that were now no longer of any interest to me. This time she lowered her head and rearranged her hair which was moved by the wind.

“Hopefully,” I said.

I turned yet again to stare out the train window. Rubber plantations chased each other. Small towns which I had often passed before I was once more going through again. And dozens of memories, some of which were bitter and some of which were happy, with a force I could not control assaulted my mind. And at that moment I became conscious. Sometimes people do not have the power to resist their own memories, and I smiled at this consciousness. Yes, people unknowingly are too strong and repress their awareness. I smiled again.

“What time is it, brother?” my wife asked.

I swung my eyes in her direction and again my gaze landed on her eyes, those once wonderful eyes that now held no interest for me. Just for a moment. Then I dropped my eyes to my watch.

“It’s almost nine o’clock,” I answered.

“Maybe he’s already received the telegram.”

“Hopefully he has,” I said.

And I swung my gaze to stare out the window again. The telegram now appeared in my mind. Just maybe the telegram which had said “Tomorrow arriving with my wife” would be of some comfort to my father. In fact this hope had not even been my own.

The previous night a friend had said, “You’ve been in prison so long. Two and a half years! And all that time your father was definitely wanting you to come home. And not only that. He was definitely worrying about how you were too.” And that is what had made me send him, I mean, have somebody else send him, the telegram. That friend had also said, “You have to go. Maybe you visiting him will make him feel better, help him recover.”

(Continued)

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery Semarang

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery, Gang Pinggir, Semarang (Source: http://reklamejadoel.blogspot.com.au)


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK Photo Credit

Jihat Anti-korupsi Mata Najwa

Ain’t No Night Fair #3

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind. Before, four years ago. Completely out of the blue, the Dutch had rained shells on our defenses from three directions using between eight and ten Howitzers. The number could be worked out by the fighters who had previously been soldiers in the Netherlands East Indies artillery. The people had panicked and run out in the direction of the rice fields. I still remember the time. I cupped my two hands and shouted, “Don’t run! Get on the ground!” But there were too many of them, and they were too confused, too frightened, and they were incapable of hearing my voice. And when I fell to the ground behind a large tree I was able to see one, then two, three, four, five artillery shells explode among the mass of scattering people. Bodies. Corpses. And my mind ran through the blood, injuries, bodies, to the letter, my uncle, and finally, to my father.

I sighed. My heart ached. I was indeed sensitive. And my family was full of sensitive creatures.

I closed my eyes tightly so I couldn’t see the scene around Lemah Abang. But the remnants of those memories would not leave my mind. The extraordinary achievement of the Dutch shooting, four sheep killed in front of their pen. And this is what was so upsetting: one old sheep, pregnant, eyes gazing into the sky, head resting on the rail of a pen post, with its two hind legs kneeling and its forelegs standing up straight. And the sheep was dead. I rocked the body of the sheep slightly and it tottered to the ground. It didn’t move. Really, it was dead. A friend suggested, “Let’s just cut it up.” I stared at its eyes which were open and pallid. I could feel a shiver run down my spine, and I ran all the way home. It was three days before I could get the vision of the sheep gazing into the sky out of my head. The sheep! My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

(Continued)

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947. A convoy of the Dutch 7th December Division in the town Cikarang on route Karawang. http://www.gahetna.nl


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Anti-corruption Jihad photo credit

Burnt out car of a Brigadier A W S Mallaby

Ain’t No Night Fair #2

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2

Early that morning the first train sped along its tracks from Gambir Station. Now there were only a quarter of the number of the tall red earthen mounds remaining that had been visible everywhere before during the Japanese occupation each time I returned to Blora. Settled by the rain. Chipped away. Dragged off by the rain. Then suddenly a horrible feeling came over me as I noticed all the mounds of red earth at Jatinegara Station. Aren’t the lives of all of humanity chipped away every day, squeezed down, and dragged off like those mounds of red earth? And because I was married, and as my wife was sitting beside me, I turned crisply to look at her.

“We’re not going on a honeymoon. We’re going to visit someone in hospital this time,” I said.

Gambir Railway Station Jakarta

Gambir Railway Station, Jakarta 1945

The roar and hiss of the train that had started to move off once more prevented me from hearing her reply. Her mouth was all that I could see opening and closing.

“We get to Blora tomorrow at twelve midday,” I continued.

I watched her nod, then turned back once more to gaze from the carriage window. The morning mist was beginning to thin and then Klender station appeared from the window. The carcasses of Dutch armored pantserwagen, British brengun carriers and old trucks still lay scattered across fields and along the sides of the main roads, English weapons which had been disabled by the groups of youth militia fighters, and disabled too by their own old age. Then suddenly I recalled: the youth militia fighters who had been under pressure from the wealth of firepower of the foreign forces had made it to the other side of the Cakung River.

The train then passed through Cakung station. I had so many recollections of this tiny hamlet. Cakung, among the rubber plantations, where the situation had changed so often, youth militia fighters pinned down one minute, then the foreign forces the next.

I drew on my cigarette. Now the morning cold and cool breeze weren’t as unpleasant as before. Barren empty rice fields and rice fields whose harvest time had all but arrived exchanged places chasing each other through the window. And before in those fields, there were occasions when single-prop Dutch warplanes had dropped hand grenades on farmers. There were times too when planes had landed in those empty fields and stolen goats from villagers. Yes, I recalled all of these things now. And in that grass too there had been friends then defending the line of the railway track who had fallen sprawling, their blood spraying over the ever green grass.

Dutch warplane

“What time will we arrive at Semarang?” my wife asked.

“Four.”

And I returned to my memories. Kranji station, Tambun. Cikarang. These were a series of defenses before the first military action. And the train continued roaring along. And suddenly I again remembered the letter from my uncle, “has already vomited blood four times!” And my recollections stopped and circled in on that word blood. Then I recalled as well how his letter had continued:

I feel that our father can’t be expected to recover. You can come home, can’t you? Surely, you can come home.

I shivered all over, like someone with malaria. And the military performance disappeared from my head. My father once more filled my thoughts.

“We can’t stay in Blora too long,” said my wife.

I looked at my wife. I could feel my forehead creasing deeply and I replied sharply, “We’ll see how things are first.”

For a moment the memory of my father vanished.

“If we’re there too long maybe I might have to go home ahead of you.”

I was annoyed.

I stared at her. Before. Before when we were still engaged, I had felt her eyes were so completely wonderful. But the wonder had gone now. Yes, her eyes were now just the same as the eyes of anyone else, without any affect on my heart. And I answered her gaze. Perhaps it was my eyes which were awful, as indeed I had known since I was a child, no longer having any affect on her heart either.

I answered, “That’s entirely up to you.”

I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind.

(Continued)

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri, 1 Augustus 1947 http://www.gahetna.nl


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

Image credits: National Archive Photo Collection

Ain't No Night Fair Cover Illustration By DA Peransi

Ain’t No Night Fair

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 1

The letter wouldn’t have upset me so badly, if only before it arrived I just hadn’t send my own letter. My letter contained what I can only describe as something that was going to be very unpleasant to read. The letter I received read like this:

Blora, 17 December 1949

My beloved child!

There is no more profound joy in this world than the rich happiness felt by a father who has his child returned to him, his first born child, the child who carries all of his swelling pride and honor, the child who for so long has been denied contact with normal society and been separated from the ordinary life of decent human beings.

My child!

I can imagine the suffering in your soul. I can picture how you suffered in that cramped space, because I experienced that myself during the rebellion of the Socialist Youth militia, when I was moved between three prisons in two weeks. From that time until now, every single night, I have begged the Lord Almighty for safety and happiness for our family and for our future generations. I pray He will forgive the sins of our family.

Yes, that was the start of the letter I received after I’d been out of gaol for two weeks. With me sending such an angry letter, and with me receiving this reply, well, tears just welled up in my eyes. And I promised myself, I wouldn’t be so disrespectful.

I never had any idea my father had been held prisoner by the communists too. Then six months later there arrived another letter from Blora. This time it wasn’t from my father, but from my uncle.

If you can, please come home to Blora for a couple of days. Your father isn’t well. At first it was malaria and a cough. Then he also developed hemorrhoids and finally they figured out, he’s got tuberculosis. Your father’s in the hospital now and he’s already vomited blood four times.

To start with I was in shock reading the letter. My chest felt tight. Then I couldn’t say anything. In my mind I could see, first, my father, and then, the money. Where would I find the money to go home? And this is what sent me wandering the streets of Jakarta, hunting for my friends, and for debt.

It was hot, and the tens of thousands of cars sprayed dust all over your perspiring body. And it was dust that contained a mixture of all sorts of things – dried snot, horse shit, bits of car tire, pieces of bike and pedicab tire, and probably also some of my own bike tires which the day before had sped along the same streets I was riding along now. And the dust mixture stuck with your own perspiration like glue to your body. I couldn’t help swearing just a little, to myself.

Yes, if only I owned a car. If only, I said, then none of this would have happened. At that moment I also thought, people who do own cars certainly cause a lot of trouble for those who don’t. And they don’t even know it.

Approximately half an hour after the sunset prayer time I had succeeded in acquiring the debt. If that decent friend hadn’t been able to hold out the money while saying “You can use this money for the time being.” I have no doubt I would have become a bigger wreck than before. The angry letter I had sent first made me rigid with the feeling that I had done something terribly wrong. And to make that go away, I had a duty to visit my sick father. That’s what my heart told me.

In the violet darkness and the sun setting in the reddening west, my bike sped along the small streets close to the president’s palace. The palace. It was bathed in the rays of electric lights. Who would have known how many hundreds of watts it used. I didn’t know. In my estimation I just guessed the palace’s electricity couldn’t be anything below five kilowatts. And if anyone had believed that it didn’t have enough electricity, someone only needed to pick up the phone and the palace would receive more.

After all the President was a practical person, not like those people struggling to eke out a living every day along the side of the road. If you weren’t the president, and nor a minister, and you wanted to get forty or fifty more watts of electricity, you had to have the courage to pay off someone with two- or three-hundred rupiah. This was really very impractical. And if those in the palace wanted to go out and visit A, or B, everything was ready – airplane, car, cigarettes, and the dough. And to get to Blora I had to first rush all over Jakarta, and acquire some debt. Living like that was really very impractical.

And if you became president and your mother became sick, or, take your father, or take, any other member of your close family, then tomorrow, or the day after that, you would already be able to visit them. Then suppose you were a low-level civil servant on a wage only just sufficient to breathe on, even asking for leave to visit someone sick would be difficult. After all, it makes those two-bit office bosses feel big if they can hand down some dictate that stops their officials from doing something.

All of this was just getting me worked up. Democracy is one truly beautiful system. You’re allowed to become president. You’re allowed to choose whatever job you like. You have the same rights as anyone else. And democracy means you don’t have to bow or scrape to the president or a minister or any other lord or noble. Truly. This is one of democracy’s victories. And you’re allowed to do whatever else takes your fancy, just as long as it stays within the limits of the law. But if you ain’t got no money, you’re screwed. You can’t move an inch. In a democratic country you are allowed to buy whatever goods you like. But if you haven’t got any money you’re only allowed to look at the things you want. This is also a sort of win for democracy.

All of this filled my heaving chest as I pedaled along with the borrowed money in my pocket. And, yes, debt too was a good thing, a kind deed even, when a person was caught in a difficult place.

Debt! President! Minister! Lords! And sickness! Cars! Sweat and horse-shit dust! My heart cried out.

(Continued)

Ain't No Night Fair Cover Illustration By DA Peransi

Ain’t No Night Fair Cover Illustration By D.A. Peransi


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

For more background on DA Peransi see Indonesian Visual Art Archive.

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World Exhibition 1987

The Art of Liberation & The Liberation of Art

Manifesto of the New Art Movement 1987

1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement

THE ART OF LIBERATION
THE LIBERATION OF ART

The art of liberation is expression based on an awareness of the need for the liberation of the definition of art. The forms taken by this expression prioritizes declaration and the spirit of exploration based on an aesthetic of liberation.

The Art of Liberation The Liberation of Art

The Art of Liberation, The Liberation of Art

The liberation of art is the initiative to change the definition of art. The principle idea of this awareness is that art is an expression of plurality which is based on a variety of frames of references. The definition of art currently recognized and acknowledged is shackled to the definition of art as only painting, sculpture or graphic design is art as bound to the frame of reference of “High Art”.

(I) Observing:

The definition of art as encompassing expression in only three fields, namely painting, sculpture and graphic design, is devoid of a conceptual framework.

(II) Considering:

The definition of the Indonesian term seni rupa is based on a direct translation of the term “fine arts,” descending from a Latin definition from the Renaissance of la belle arti del disegno.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Sticker Car

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Sticker Car (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(III) Concluding:

It is not fully understood that this definition of art is rooted in the principles of artes liberales (Liberal Arts) from the frame of reference of “High Art” elaborated during the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, an outlook that believes in the existence of only one (high) culture and the one type of art which it has produced.

(IV) Declaring:

That art is an expression of plurality. That culture has a variety of frames of reference.

(V) Declaring:

The current definition of art is the result of adaptation devoid of conceptual thinking, lacking consideration of the acculturation of aesthetics.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Documentation

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Documentation (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

This formulation of the definition of art is trapped. The definition of art with a “High Art” frame of reference has become completely impoverished and specific. This formulation does not see the surrounding reality where a variety of expressions of art based on other frames of reference are found.

Throughout the history of Indonesian art, this groundless and contorted definition has held sway. On the other hand, art grounded in ethnic cultures, popular art from everyday life, crafts and design (art with other frames of reference outside the old definition) stand as phenomena which never gets any attention.

This is an ironic curiosity.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Supermarket

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Supermarket (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(VI) Paying Attention To:

The only expression of art which is in accord with that definition of art is the only one used by Indonesian Modern Art, part of World Modern Art (derived from artes liberales) in its connection to the principle that “art is universal”.

Due to the inaccurate formulation of its definition, Indonesian Modern Art is also trapped in a narrow circle. Once again there has been adaptation without conceptual thought or aesthetic consideration. Artists and critics of Indonesian Modern Art have in truth become blind and regard modern art – painting, sculpture and graphic design – as the one and only expression of art. Outside this, art does not exist. This attitude has become popular and is seen in the expression: “… is not painting”.

This is not fanaticism for a particular idea, rather a strongly held attitude which is baseless. The reality is truly: confusion. The absence of critical attention to this contorted definition is a sign of this confusion. In fact, there is no awareness of any definition at all. The activities of modern art itself proceed in a fragmented way with painting as the most popular of these.

(VII) Declaring:

Modern Indonesian Artists have made an idiomatic error, using the language of Modern Art but without an aesthetic understanding. They base their artistic activity entirely on incomplete fragments of the history of Modern Art, a belief in the history of art and only one understanding of aesthetics.

Modern Indonesian artists have become consumerist. They regard a variety of concepts of style within these fragments of the History of Modern Art as a source which has to be made sacred and embraced unconditionally. A contorted imitation of lifestyle also happens. A romantic lifestyle has turned into epigonic eccentricity. Internally exploratory individualism has been replaced by megalomaniac egotism.

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World Exhibition 1987

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World, 1987 Exhibition

This advanced erroneous adaptation has led critics and modern artists into a preoccupation with matching expressions of modern art with a “dictionary” of art history. Modern artists truly do not practice a tradition of exploration.

(VIII) Declaring:

Thinking about art in Indonesia is headed for bankruptcy.

Indonesian Modern Art, the only art consistent with the definition, is experiencing a deep stagnation. It is fixed on the early styles of Modern Art. It has stopped exploring, is incapable of reflecting inwardly in search of the basis for other developments.

Art based on other frames of reference has been expunged from thinking about art. The contorted definition of art has relegated this to obscurity. Art with a background in ethnic cultures has without exception been framed as belonging to the past. Graphic design as the product of technological and industrial progress is thought of as crude art regarded only for its surface beauty. Popular art which deals with everyday life is regarded as the product of mass culture and as devoid of value.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World "No 1 in America"

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World “No 1 in America/Here” (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(IX) Proclaiming:

What is needed is the liberation of art. A framework of expression that prioritizes the dismantling of a misguided tradition of art. A framework of expression that is rational and which prioritizes expression based on an aesthetics of liberation.

(X) Proclaiming:

What is needed is a redefinition of art, the liberation of art from the confines of a definition rooted in artes liberales, to search for a new definition capable of embracing every expression of art.

(XI) Proclaiming:

What is needed is the liberation of our thought world from a completely single perspective believing in only one frame of reference which begets one art, only one global community in a cultural form that is complete and integrated.

Jakarta, May 2 1987


(*) 1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement, based in part on the work of the Digital Archive of Contemporary Indonesian Art and also available in the original at Manifesto Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru 1987. It represents the manifesto of the New Art Movement used for the Project 1: Fantasy World Supermarket (Pasaraya Dunia Fantasi: Proyek 1) exhibition in 1987.

Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art.

Garuda by Kanva Abas

“This Black December” 1974

One Hundred Thousand for Rubbish Art: A Review of Menanam Padi di Langit [Planting Rice in the Sky] by Puthut EA. Blog post by Wahyudin, January 2017

9

[…] consider the description of Bambang Bujono (Tempo, 11 January 1975): “Neither in the invitation to painters to participate in the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition nor in the guidelines for the judging panel of the exhibition can you find a section normally found in guidelines for judging art exhibitions stating that the decision of the judges can not be disputed.

For this reason maybe, a dispute arose that took the form of the “1974 Black December Declaration” and the delivery of a condolence funeral wreath on behalf of the community to the Jakarta Arts Council for the “Death of Indonesian Painting”. This happened on the last night of 1974 which was the closing night of the 1974 Art Festival at the Jakarta Arts Center (Taman Ismail Marzuki or TIM). About the condolence wreath, it wasn’t effective anyway because the security guards at TIM were the ones who “accepted” the wreath and they then stored it and locked it away in the TIM Dance Studio.”

 

Compare this to the description of Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 36-37). “On 31 December 1974 during the Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition which was held biennially at TIM an incident occurred which marked the start of the New Art Movement. There was a protest against the judges who had awarded prizes to a number of paintings in the form of a condolence funeral wreath emblazoned with the words, “With condolences for the death of our painting”.

The condolence wreath was delivered on the last day of the exhibition when the prizes were given to the winners of the competition that traditionally accompanied the Biennial. This was intended to publicize the anger of the students at the judges who in their view only valued what they called “decorative and consumerist” painting. The protesters called themselves the “Black December” movement and it was also supported by students from the Indonesian Academy of Visual Arts (ASRI).”

Look at this photograph:

Condolence Furneral Wreath

Condolence Funeral Wreath – “With Condolences for the Death of Our Painting” (Tempo, 11 January 1975)

[…] The first paragraph on page 69 says, “Apart from the wreath, the protesters also wrote a manifesto, many names signed it, especially from Bandung, Jakarta and of course the five people from Yogya.”

The question is, who were the “five people from Yogya”? It is very surprising that even with his overactive imagination, the writer of this book is unable to answer this question.

A short explanation on page 67 of the book makes it possible to speculate about the “five people from Yogya”. But the page only mentions four people, Bonyong, Harsono, Hardi and Nanik Mirna. So who is the person not mentioned? Because the answer is not provided in the book, we have to consider the historical facts about the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters.

As I mentioned earlier, according to Harsono (2013), the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters which formed in Yogyakarta in 1973 under the “guidance” of Fadjar Sidik (painter, STSRI “ASRI” lecturer, and member of the judging panel for the “Good Paintings” exhibition) was composed of five students from STSRI “ASRI” Yogyakarta, namely, Bonyong Munni Ardhi, FX Harsono, Hardi, Nanik Mirna and Siti Adiyati. (Also see Hendro Wiyanto, “FX Harsono dan Perkembangan Karyanya (1972-2009) [FX Harson and the Development of His Work (1972-2009)]” in Re: Petesi/Posisi FX Harsono [Re: Petition/Position of FX Harsono], (2010: 41-187)*; Dermawan T (2013) and Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 33-34)).

At the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition or Jakarta Biennial I, they were invited to participate. Apart from them, five other STSRI “ASRI” students were listed in the catalog who were also invited, namely, Nyoman Gunarsa, Ris Purwana, Suatmaji, Sudarisman and Subroto SM.

Given these historical facts, I hope no reader is tempted to speculate and answer that what was meant by the writer of this book by the “five people from Yogya” is Bonyong, Harsono, Hardi, Nanik Mirna and Siti Adiyati, because such speculation would take one  down the road of historical liars and the anti-“Jas merah” brigade.

How could it be otherwise because you need to know that, although invited to participate in the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition, there were only four members of the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters who signed the “Black December” manifesto, namely, Bonyong, Hardi, Harsono, and Adiyati. (See Harsono (2013); Dermawan T. (2013); Wiyanto (2010: 70) and Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 36-38)). The one person who did not sign the Declaration, of course you can guess, was Nanik Mirna. This is why Nanik did not receive the academic sanction of being “suspended without time limit” from STSRI “ASRI” as was the case with Bonyong, Hardi, Harsono, Adiyati and Ris Purwana. (See “Skors di ASRI”, Tempo, 15 February 1975; Dermawan T. (tt.: 135); Dermawan T. (2013); Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 38) and Dermawan T. (1979: 2)).”

Black December Statement Signatories 31 December 1974

Black December Declaration Signatories 31 December 1974

Black December Declaration 1974

Black December Declaration 1974

Black December 1974 Declaration

Recalling that over the past few years artistic and cultural activities have been carried on without a clear cultural strategy, we have come to the conclusion that art and culture entrepreneurs do not display a shred of evidence of the slightest understanding of the most fundamental problems of our culture. This is an indication that for some time the development of art and culture has been destroyed by a spiritual erosion.

For this reason we feel the need in this black December of 1974 to declare our opinion regarding the symptoms obvious in the works of Indonesian painting today.

1. That although the diversity of Indonesian painting constitutes an undeniable fact, nevertheless this diversity does not in itself represent a positive development.

2. That for development that ensures the continuation of our culture, painters have a high calling to provide spiritual direction which is based on humanitarian values and which is oriented around the reality of social life and which is oriented towards the realities of social, cultural, political and economic life.

3. That creativity is the essential nature of painters who employ whatever means to achieve new perspectives for Indonesian painting.

4. That therefore the identity of Indonesian painting in itself has a clear position.

5. That what has hindered the development of Indonesian painting to date is worn out concepts that continue to be professed by the establishment, art and culture entrepreneurs and established artists.

In the interest of saving our painting, now is the right time for us to award an honor on that establishment, the honor of being a retired veteran of the culture.

Indonesia, 31 December 1974

Signed by:
Muryotohartoyo, Juzwar, Harsono, B. Munni Ardhi, M. Sulebar, Ris Purwana, Daryono, Adiyati, D. A. Peransi, Baharudin Marasutan, Ikranegara, Adri Darmadji, Hardi, Abdul Hadi W


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Source: Seratus Ribu untuk Sampah Seni Rupa.

Images of the Declaration come from Desember Hitam, GSRB Dan Kontemporer.

Image of Garuda by Kanva Abas from Fase Perkembangan Sejarah Senirupa Indonesia Bagian 2.

The Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition 1974 at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art.   The exhibition catalog.

Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Exhibition 1987 at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art .

* Rath, Amanda Katherine.  Re: petisi/posisi : F.X. Harsono / Amanda Katherine Rath … [et al.]  Langgeng Art Foundation Magelang  2010