For the past century, studies of the languages, literatures, history, culture and writing traditions of the Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia – comprising present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the southern parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines – have been fundamentally shaped by the collections of manuscripts held in European institutions, primarily those in the UK and the Netherlands, and those formed under colonial auspices, such as the National Library of Indonesia. These collections themselves reflect the interests of their collectors, who were mainly European scholars and government officials from the early 19th century onwards, whose interests were focused on literary, historical and legal compositions in vernacular languages such as Malay and Javanese. Relatively little attention was paid to works on Islam written in Arabic, or in Malay and Arabic, and hence such manuscripts are very poorly represented in institutions such as the British Library.
By W.S. Rendra
The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Saw the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.
And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides as witness that we are gathered here
To investigate conditions.
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”
Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”
Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.
Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”
Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?
Soon the sun will go down.
Night will arrive.
The geckos chatter on the wall.
And the moon sails out.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams.
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.
And on the morrow
The sun shall rise once again.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate.
Our questions shall become a forest,
transform into rivers,
And become the waves of the ocean.
Under this hot sun we ask:
There are those who cry, and those who flog,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions
Stand on the side of who?
1 December 1977
This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.
Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.
For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey Manizer, Kisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan, Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus Sebagai Lambang PKI and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .
Decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950 is a large-scale, joint inquiry carried out by KITLV, the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The project has been made financially possible by the Dutch government, due to its decision on 2 December 2016 to lend its support to a broad inquiry into the events of this period.
The programme comprises nine subprojects and aims to answer questions regarding the nature, extent and causes of structural transborder violence in Indonesia, considered in a broader political, social and international context. In this context, detailed attention will be paid to the chaotic period spanning from August 1945 to early 1945 – often referred to as the Bersiap – and the political and social aftermath in the Netherlands, Indonesia and elsewhere.
It is expected that KITLV will be responsible for the synthesis and will carry out the subprojects Regional Studies and Bersiap. For these projects the group, together with Indonesian colleagues, will carry out research in several Indonesian regions. These subprojects will be the continuation of the KITLV-project Dutch military operations in Indonesia 1945-1950 that has run since 2012.
The programme has a strong international character. There will be cooperation with researchers from Indonesia and other countries involved and sources originating from Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States (United Nations) will be used more than previously was the case. Furthermore, the programme explicitly includes the opportunity for witness accounts from the Netherlands and Indonesia to be presented. Witnesses can come forward themselves or will be traced by researchers, in order to allow them to document their personal accounts for future generations.
The three institutes stress the importance of broad national and international support for the programme. In order to achieve this, the institutes have appointed an international scientific advisory board and a Netherlands societal focus group (Maatschappelijk Klankbordgroep Nederland).
For more information see: http://www.ind45-50.org/en/home
For the purpose of this inquiry, it is important that those involved are seen and heard. If you have material or more information about Indonesia in the 1945-1950 time period and are willing to contribute to our research, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Muhammad Yamin, 1921
Listening to the waves close to me
Pounding to the left and to the right
Chanting a song full of compassion
Awakened is a longing for the place of my birth.
In the East on my side
Shrouded in cloud-billowed skies
Appears the island full of marvels
That assuredly is the country of my birth.
Wherever the sea may pound and crash
And run seething up the sand
That is where my soul is, was first cast forth.
Wherever the waves may spraying writhe
Watering the isle of the Barisan Range along its coast
That is the place please, lay me to rest.
On the Indian Ocean, June 1921
Request (Permintaan) 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.
By Muhammad Yamin, 1920
On the border, the Barisan Range,
I gaze out, look down and behold;
A vista of dense jungles and valleys;
And charming rice fields, winding rivers;
And then more, I see also,
The green canopy changes color
With forest crown, palm fronds;
That is the country, my homeland
Sumatra is its name, my beloved birth country.
As far as the eye can see, only forest,
Mountainous and hilly, nestling valleys;
Far in distance, way over there,
Bounded by mountains one by one
There is assuredly a heaven,
Without doubt a second paradise on earth
– A Malay Garden of Eden on top of the world!
That is the country I love,
Sumatra is its name, which I honor.
On the border, the Barisan Range,
Gazing down on beautiful beaches and bays;
A vista of water, endless water,
That is the sea, the Indian ocean.
Visible there are the waves, so many waves
Breaking onto the sand, then spreading out,
They thunder, as if to proclaim:
“Oh Andalas, island of Sumatra,
Make sweet the name, from north to south!”
Bogor, July 1920
Homeland (Tanah Air) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, 1920 No. 4. 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. 5.
By Kosim Pohan, December 1945
The sudden thought passes, the intangible transforms,
In the mind, and makes the faces take form,
Going deep into the feelings, to the gates of the soul,
The spirit of the heroes of ancient times.
In ages past, among the islands, in mother earth,
Spilling blood flowed flooding the earth,
Mighty warriors inflicted vengeance,
Tears of suffering the Motherland shed.
Remembering you, oh noble fighter,
Clearly visible is your service, sir,
Like a torch illuminating young hearts
Lighting the path of the great struggle.
Hero, You Poet and Creator,
True warrior, creator of signs,
Your spirit burns bearing destruction,
Shines flickering into the depths of the heart.
You mighty hero, handsome dashing,
Embodiment of the present struggle,
Your soul will live eternal throughout the ages,
Reigning forever in the throne of our hearts.
By Marlupi (Utari Kusno), January 1943
The soul is crying sliced by sadness,
Dejected downcast overwhelmed by sorrow
The soul is weeping sobbing in grief
The body is weak racked by suffering.
Like the sound of howling wind,
Thick clouds rolling churning,
Lightning rumbling canon roaring,
All of nature seems to be grieving.
There are no friends to relieve the pain,
There is no sound of guests dropping in,
Alone the soul feels like it is drowning in flood water,
Is there no sound of people approaching?
The only sound heard is howling wind,
In the heavens above cold stretching;
Is there no one to extend a hand?
Yes, God whispering be patient.
Your own soul your friend of one heart,
God alone your only shelter,
So you believe
That all your suffering
Is as nothing against the suffering of this world;
That all suffering slowly
Will vanish swept away by time.
Jassin, H. B. Gema tanah air, prosa dan puisi 1942-1948 / H.B. Yassin Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka Djakarta 1959, p. 20, attributing first publication to the revolution-era nationalist bimonthly journal Pantja Raja I:14, 1 June 1946.
By Muhammad Yamin, 1921
Fiery sunset still glows wondrously,
Saddening the majestic stars;
Becomes dim then the light is gone,
Rising and setting since time immemorial.
Dawn in the east arrives fiercely,
Spreading jewels all over the world;
Radiant bright as rare pearls,
Variety of colors, sparkling.
Slowly and gloriously,
Gradually rises the sun;
Illuminating the earth with beauty.
All the flowers spread their perfume,
The blooms are open, a splendorous array;
Covered in dew, beading the branches.
First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921 via Pujangga Baru II/9, March 1935. 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. 327.
By Muhammad Yamin, 1921
I often laze about, deep in thought,
Watching the sky aglow,
Vaguely visible, joyful,
Sweeping all away, my contemplative thoughts.
What is there to say, what does the future hold?
Weak is my heart, without any strength,
Watching the stars shining gloriously,
Far atop the mountains.
Oh God of all nature,
What is the point of being here,
Worrying about my lot, after night has fallen?
The stars are shining now and it is dark,
Leaving me sitting here like this
Longing for love . . . leave me here to drown in my thoughts.
Based on and adapted from the work of Keith Foulcher (“Perceptions of Modernity and the Sense of the Past: Indonesian Poetry in the 1920s.” Indonesia, no. 23, 1977, pp. 39–58. www.jstor.org/stable/3350884.) First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921.