Tag Archives: Student Demonstrations

Poem on Hands

Poem on Hands

By W.S. Rendra

These are the hands of a student,
Undergraduate level.
My hands. Oh my God.

My hand reaches out,
And what I grab is a beautiful hostess’s petticoat.
What an idiot. My hand goes limp.

My hand knocks on the door,
But no one answers.
I kick the door,
And the door swings open.
Behind the door there’s another door.
And always:
There’s a sign with the opening hours,
Which are short.

I shove my hands in my trouser pockets,
And I go out and sojourn.
I’m swallowed by Great Indonesia.

Dozens of hands used in life
Suddenly appear in front of me.
I hold out my hands too.
But they look out of place among the thousands of hands.
I’m worried about my future.

Farmers’ hands are covered in mud,
Fishermen’s hands are covered in salt,
I pull back my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle.
Hands that are productive.
My hands are anxious,
They don’t solve any problems.

But the hands of businessmen,
The hands of bureaucrats,
Are calculating, nibble, and very strong.
My anxious hands are suspected,
Brushed aside.

My hands close into a fist.
And when they open again are transformed into claws.
I reach out in all directions.
At every desk in every office
Sits a soldier or an old person.
In the villages
Farmers are just laborers for landowners.
On the beaches
Fishermen do not own any of the boats.
Trade goes on without supermarkets.
Politics only serves the weather…
My hands close into a fist.
But there’s a brick wall in front of me.
My life has no future.

For now I have my hands in my pockets.
I journey from place to place.
I scrawl obscenities
On the chancellor’s desk.

Jakarta Arts Center
23 June 1977


Poem on Hands (Sajak Tangan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 34.

Featured image credit https://www.instagram.com/p/BZYRUiSBrrtd13aM9EKfg8l9E5nrXfm3pJFNys0

Seminar Kesusastraan Tutup Pekan DIKSATRASIA

Poem for a Student Meeting

Poem for a Student Meeting

By WS Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Looked at 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 to bear witness, that we are gathered here
To investigate the current situation.

We ask:
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.
Huge plantations
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?

The sun shall soon go down.
Night will arrive,
The geckos chatter on the wall
And the moon sails forth.
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 more.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate,
Our questions shall become a forest,
Transform into rivers,
And become the waves of an ocean.

Under this hot sun, we ask:
There are those who scream and those who beat,
There are some with nothing and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions,
Stand on the side of who?

Jakarta
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.

The featured image is from Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan.

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXhI9dYAb9J)

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 and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZarEQAnIRt)
Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

Book Review: Black December 1974

One Hundred Thousand for Rubbish Art

By Wahyudin

A Review of Menanam Padi di Langit (Planting Rice in the Sky) by Puthut E.A., Blog post by Wahyudin, January 2017

9. [..] Consider the description of Bambang Bujono (Tempo, 11 January 1975). “In neither the invitation to painters to participate in the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition nor the guidelines for the exhibition panel of judges can you find the section normally contained in art exhibition judging guidelines which states that the judges’ decision is final.

Maybe this was why there was a dispute that took the form of the “1974 Black December Declaration” and a condolence funeral wreath that was delivered on behalf of the community to the Jakarta Arts Council for the “Death of Indonesian Painting”. This happened on the last night of 1974, the closing night of the 1974 Art Festival at the Jakarta Arts Center (Taman Ismail Marzuki or TIM). The condolence wreath wasn’t effective anyway, because the security guards at TIM were the ones who “accepted” the wreath, and they then stored it away and locked it 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 held biennially at TIM, an incident occurred that marks the start of the New Art Movement. There was a protest against the judges who awarded prizes to a number of paintings which took the form of a funeral condolence 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 awarded to the winners of the competition that traditionally accompanied the Biennial. This was intended to publicize the students’ anger at the judges who in their view valued only what they described as “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 states, “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 not able 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 who isn’t mentioned? Because the answer is not provided by 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 that formed in Yogyakarta in 1973 under the “guidance” of Fadjar Sidik (painter, STSRI “ASRI” lecturer and member of the panel of judges 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.

NAATI Certified Indonesian Translators Exhibition Catalog

Given these historical facts, I hope no reader will be 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-“Red Coat” brigade.

How could it be otherwise, because you need to know that despite being 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

1974 Black December 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 a spiritual erosion has been destroying the development of art and culture.

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

1. That although the diversity of Indonesian painting constitutes an undeniable fact, nevertheless this diversity does not by itself indicate 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, oriented around the reality of social life, and 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 an appropriate time for us to award an honor to that establishment, the honor of being retired cultural veteran.

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


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 .

For some recent developments in contemporary practice visit another post “NGA: Contemporary Worlds Indonesia“.

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

https://www.puthutea.com/

Poem of a Cigar

Poem of a Cigar

By W.S. Rendra

Taking a drag on a fat cigar
Gaze out over Great Indonesia
Listen to 130 million people,
And in the sky –
Two or three businessmen squat down –
And shit on their heads.

The sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And all I can see are eight million children
Without education.

I question,
But my questions
Slam into the desks of bureaucrats like a traffic jam,
And the blackboards of educators
Cut off from life’s problems.

Eight million children
Cram along one long road,
With no options
With no trees
With no shady places to rest,
With no idea of where they’re going.

***

Suck in the air
Full of deodorant spray,
I see unemployed graduates
Covered in sweat along the highway;
I see pregnant women
Queuing for pension money.
And in the sky:
The technocrats sprout
That the country is lazy
That the country has to be developed,
Must be “upgraded”,
Made to fit technology that’s imported.

Mountains tower skyward.
The sky is a festival of colors at sunset.
And I see
Protests that are pent up
Squeezed under mattresses.

I question,
But my questions
Crash into the foreheads of salon poets,
Who write about grapes and the moon
While injustices take place all around them,
And eight million children with no education
Gape at the feet of the goddess of art.

The future hopes of the nation,
Stars swirling in front of their faces,
Below neon advertisements.
The hopes of millions of mothers and fathers
Meld into a gaggle of clamoring voices,
Become a reef under the surface of the ocean.

***

We have to stop buying foreign formulas.
Textbooks can only provide methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our condition.
We have to come out into the streets,
Go into the villages,
See for ourselves all the indicators
And experience the real problems.

This is my poem,
A pamphlet for a time of emergency.
What is the point of art,
If it’s cut off from the suffering around it
What is the point of thinking
If it’s cut off from the problems of life.

ITB Bandung
19 August 1977


This version of Poem of a Cigar (Sajak Sebatang Lisong) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978.

Three parties in the 1977 election - Poem for a Cigar
The three parties in Indonesia’s 1977 legislative election

Other work by WS Rendra