Norman Erikson Pasaribu – On literature and diversity – “Talking Indonesia” podcast on SoundCloud

New from the Talking Indonesia podcast

This year Indonesia was a featured country at the London Book Fair, which followed a similar showcasing of its literature at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015. Is this a reflection of an expanding and globalising literary scene in Indonesia? Are more diverse voices being heard inside and outside the country, and what are the challenges for making sure that the stories are not lost in translation? Listen at the Talking Indonesia podcast from the University of Melbourne.

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Ain’t No Night Fair #7

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 4

We relaxed in the front guestroom. My younger siblings who weren’t grown up yet, who still appeared so wild, now began to draw near and we talked a great deal, about Djakarta, about Semarang, and about cars. The conversation wasn’t boring, it made me happy and it usually carried on for a long time.

And at one point I asked, “How’s father’s health?”

Suddenly everyone went quiet; not one person was looking directly at me. Suddenly the animated joyful conversation was gone, replaced by an air of seriousness.

And I asked again, “How is father’s health?”

Carefully and slowly my sister answered, “We received the pills and the blanket you sent for father. I also received the money order and we used it to buy milk and eggs, just as you instructed.”

My wife and I listened silently. She continued, “I also collected the shirt for father from the post office. And I took the blanket, the shirt, and the pills to the hospital. But father said, ‘Just take them all back to the house.’ So I brought them home again.”

I was surprised and asked, “And the pills?”

“He has finished one container.”

I was pleased a little.

“And the milk and eggs?” I asked again.

“Father didn’t like them. ‘I’m bored with eggs and milk,’ he said.”

I was lost for words. I looked at my wife, but in her face, I did not find an answer. I glanced outside the house. I noticed the orange tree which father had long ago planted. It was dry now and almost dead.

“And father’s health?” I repeated my question.

My younger sister didn’t reply. Her eyes reddened with tears.

“Why don’t you answer me?” I asked fearfully.

“Yesterday and up to yesterday father just smiled, smiled a lot. But then, then…”

She was silent. I did not force her to continue what she was saying. I didn’t say anything either. Both of us sat for a time with our heads bowed. My youngest sister, who had just begun to speak to me, now wouldn’t say a word. The time was only just half-past twelve in the afternoon and the sound of frying could be heard clearly coming from the kitchen.

My younger sister continued, her voice still slow, foreboding and careful. “…and then this morning father wasn’t smiling anymore. His voice was weak and almost inaudible.” Her voice trailed away.

“And what did the doctor say?” I asked.

“The doctor has never said anything to us. There is just one doctor here. And there aren’t enough medicines.”

Then my younger brother, who by chance was home on leave with permission from his commander said, “I’ve discussed father’s illness with the doctor too. He said, ‘I already know about your father’s illness.’”

“Is that all he said?” I asked.

“Yes. That’s all. Then they told me to go home.”

The atmosphere turned serious once more. Everyone sat silently with their own feelings and their own thoughts. Then without realizing it, my younger sister changed the subject of the conversation to a new topic. She mentioned that my third younger sister, the one who was married, was currently in Blora too. Straight away I asked her where she was.

Her hand pointed to the door of one of the bedrooms. All eyes followed the direction she indicated. In my mind, I could see my sister’s face and I imagined she was thin. I knew it; she had to be sick. But I opened my mouth and said, “Tell her to come out.”

My younger sister went over to the door and opened it carefully. Every eye was on her. She disappeared into the room, then she emerged red-eyed and said, half crying, “She’s still asleep.”

We talked about other things. But the image of my sick younger sister filled my mind. It was because of her I wrote the letter to my father, the unpleasant letter, for allowing her to become sick. But at the time I was still in jail. My father had replied:

Yes, my child, throughout my life of fifty-six years I have realized that people’s efforts and means are very limited. For my part, I wouldn’t have allowed your sister to become ill if only I had some power over people’s fates. She became sick when she was detained by the red militia in an area that was swampy, an area rife with malaria. And maybe you can understand yourself the situation with medicines in a war zone, and especially if you yourself are not a soldier.

That reply melted my anger. The question had been clear in my heart, “Did I sin by writing that angry letter?” The answer had come back by itself, “Yes, you have sinned.” And it had been because of that answer I had felt up to this time that I had sinned. Before seeing father again. But that long wandering conversation had removed these terrible memories. I looked at my six younger siblings surrounding me, surrounding my wife and I, starting to be free of the atmosphere of seriousness, while I was still stuck with so many thoughts and memories pressing in.

I noticed my watch. We had been talking for an hour. Then looking at my smallest sister I said slowly, “Please look in on your big sister. Maybe she’s awake.”

She got up, went to the door and called out in her childish voice, “Sister, sister. Big brother’s here.”

She vanished into the bedroom.

No-one was paying much attention to her and the conversation broke out again. But when my smallest sister emerged, the conversation halted. She approached me and whispered, “Sister’s crying.”

I took a deep breath.

Slowly I stood up and went over to the bedroom. And there sprawled on the iron bed devoid of mosquito netting, half blanketed by a light cotton sheet, was my little sister, covering her eyes with her arm. I lifted her arm and I beheld two eyes looking up at me, red and moist. I hugged her. She started to cry and I too wept, and among the sobs, I could hear my own voice ask, “Why are you so thin?”

Her crying subsided and she composed herself, so she was calmer. And I did the same.

“I’ve been sick for a long time, brother,” I listened to her broken voice.

“Have you been to the doctor?” I asked, my voice cracking too.

“I’ve seen the doctor, but my condition just stays like this,” her voice still breaking.

“Maybe it would be better if you went to a large city. There are a lot of specialists there,” my voice still breaking.

There was just sobbing.

“Do you have any children, sister?”

“Yes, brother.”

“Where are they?”

Our crying had subsided, but my sister now broke out in tears again. She answered without emotion, “He passed away, brother. He’s not here anymore.”

She snatched back the arm I was holding and covered her eyes again. I took out my handkerchief and wiped the tears running down her face.

“What do you mean not here,” I asked.

“I gave birth at six months. He cried a lot. I could hear him crying. Then God took him back again.”

Once more I started to weep openly and she too sobbed uncontrollably. All I could hear now was the storm heaving in my chest. And all I could see was her thin body, the single cloth sheet, the small mattress covering only half the bed frame, and the iron and the bamboo slats protruding next to the mattress.

“You’re still young, little sister, you still have the chance to have another child,” I said to comfort her.

“Where’s your husband?”

“He’s doing training in Semarang, brother.”

Our crying, which had filled that room, now subsided and eventually died.

I straightened the blanket, kissed my younger sister on her cheek and I said, “Go to sleep.”

She took her arm away from her eyes. She was calm now. Slowly she closed her eyelids. Once more I kissed her on the cheeks, cheeks that had once been so full and which were now so drawn. Then I left the room.

(Continued)

Duduk Duduk


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

Featured image: After an interval of 11 years, rock band Efek Rumah Kaca play in Pare-Pare, South Sulawesi, December 2018

View of Lake Maninjau in Sumatra

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 joy and in sorrow too
Feelings of togetherness and unity flow
From her language with its sweet sound.

Whether with 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 Pertja is, there is our language.

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

February 1921


First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, February 1921 via Sandjak-sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin]  Firma Rada, Djakarta 1954, p. 9 and 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.

Cars at Tjililitan Airfield at Batavia (circa) 1930

Ambition

By Muhammad Yamin

Night has fallen, cool and still
The breeze is so gentle and soft;
The ocean heaves, murmuring quietly
The smooth surface glistening and glinting.

Outstretched hands reach into the night air
Unsteadily withdrawn, by a heart without joy
Because of the “wish”, remembered so often
So brilliantly, beyond words.

Every star shines brightly
Finally aware is this body of mine
The desired is reaching through nobility.

Who can doubt, cannot believe
That we are always guided
By God, the Lord so rich?

On the Indian Ocean, June 1921

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia  Deze foto is genomen vanaf het spoorwegstation van de Staatsspoorwegen (SS) in de haven Tandjong Priok bij Batavia (Jakarta). Rechts is de “Eerste Binnenhaven” te zien.

The Ambition (Tjita-Tjita) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 6.

‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film screening and discussion on Asia during the Leiden Asia Year.

“Framing Asia” – The next monthly film screening and discussion during the Leiden Asia Year – KITLV

‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film screening and discussion on Asia during the Leiden Asia Year. We are very pleased to invite you to the fifth edition of  ‘Framing Asia’. You are welcome to join us on Wednesday 7 June at 19.30 h at Lipsius 028. This edition will screen three films centered around the theme ‘Decolonization and Revolution: Veterans and Re-enactments’.

Libera Me (30 min)

Martin van den Oever & Jos Janssen

Libera Me is a transnational approach to the colonial war between Indonesia and the Netherlands. With personal reflections of some veterans of war from both sides a concentrated circular and shared history of 30 minutes is constructed, merging and reconciling both perspectives. We meander between past and present and between two nations that came to be further apart than they already were.

Looking Back Now (18 min)

Marjolein van Pagee

A sequence of videos made between 2013-2015 that show the people that Van Pagee interviewed, all related to memories of the Indonesian independence war in East-Java and Madura. In this 18 minute video-compilation, we will see the people behind the portraits of photo-project ‘Kembang Kuning – Yellow Flower’. Stories about war and destruction are usually sad, yet, the compilation ends with a video that will make you laugh for sure.

The Feel of History (29 min)

Lise Zurne

Each year, a historical society called the Komunitas Djokjakarta 1945 reenacts one of the last battles with the Dutch colonizers of 1949 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Following their preparations, this film seeks to portray this community and its main members. By focusing on the material culture of re-enactment, one learns how these re-enactors create a spectacular and romanticized re-presentation of the past that allows them to temporarily be the war heroes that they worship so much.

All filmmakers will be present to enter a discussion with Bart Luttikhuis. Bart Luttikhuis is a researcher at KITLV in late colonial history and the history of decolonization, with a particular empirical focus on early to mid-twentieth century Indonesia.

Date: Wednesday 7 June 2017

Time: 19.30 h

Location: Leiden University, Lipsius Building, room 028

More information: www.kitlv.nl/framing-asia

Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900

Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900 – Leiden Southeast Asia Seminar

Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900  By Sophie Junge

Leiden Asia Year

Leiden Asia Year

Images from the Dutch East Indies have been legitimizing Dutch colonial activity since the 17th century. Especially 19th century-photography was used to repress indigenous populations and to demonstrate Dutch authority on the archipelago. Nevertheless, it was not photography but the reproduction of photographic images that made the colony a place to be seen. Throughout the 19th century only few local studios took pictures of the Dutch East Indies and even fewer photo albums traveled back to the Netherlands in the luggage of retired colonial staff to stay in the private space of the family. It was not until the introduction of mass-reproduced images around 1900 that the visibility of the colony drastically increased.

The seminar examines the medial and trans-colonial circulation of printed photographic images on picture postcards, in illustrated magazines and travel guidebooks that reached broad audiences within the colony and beyond its borders. These images, often produced by a transnational network of photo studios, printers and publishers, give insight in the meaning of colonial space and the meaning of the photographic image around 1900. In extending postcolonial research on representations of indigenous “Others”, the paper argues that photographs of colonial space could only be understood in specific visual or textual framings, which combined existing photographic imagery with European postcard designs, Art Nouveau decorations and/or textual information. The paper analyses representations of colonial space to find out more about the creation of a specific canon of images, the reception of colonialism in the beginning of the 20th century and its meaning in terms of Dutch national identity.

Dr. Sophie Junge works at the Centre for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography at the Institute of Art History of the University of Zürich. Currently, she is also affiliated at Leiden University as a research fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation to prepare a Postdoc project on photographic images from the Dutch East Indies after 1900. Her book Art Against AIDS. Nan Goldin’s Exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing has been published in 2016.

Date: Thursday 11 May 2017

Time: 15.30 h – 17.00 h

Venue: KITLV, room 138, Reuvensplaats 2, Leiden

Please register if you wish to attend: kitlv@kitlv.nl

Source: Traveling Images: Photographs from colonial Indonesia and the Meaning of Colonial Space around 1900