Monday, April 14, 2014

An important piece of women's writing in Indonesia

The book first revealed itself to me in the midst of a conversation at ISAI (Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of Information). It was lying on the table, in the midst of all the other books in a room full of books--shelves after shelves of them behind us as we talked--and so, I took shots of it, just as a matter of course. The conversation was hard and heavy, Yan Naing's questions about radio broadcasting in Jakarta were heavy ones, I had a hard time grappling with radio frequency terminology; and so were Ryan's questions, freight with the weight of the Bangsamoro identity, but I found myself scribbling on my notes, "Who was Sudjojono dan Aku?" The answer suddenly came three days later, when Indonesian political activist Pak Tedjabayu Sudjojono suddenly showed us another version of the same book, telling us the writer was his mother; and Sudjojono was his father, the renowned Indonesian artist who was not content with painting beautiful scenes in Indonesia, he painted scenes depicting the Indonesian people's struggle. The book's title actually meant, Sudjojono and me, referring to Sudjojono, the artist, who left her. But the son, it seemed, had forgiven him. "Despite the fact that he left my mother, he was still a good artist for his people," Pak Tedja said. His mother, I perceived from our conversation, was also an equally, perhaps, even more than an extraordinary woman. I sense that what she had written here, and in that other book, "From camp to camp," depicting her life as a political detainee in Soeharto's Indonesia, should be an important piece of women's writing in Indonesia. I would like to read it one day and right now, it is still available in Bahasa. [I was also surprised to know that this very extraordinary woman, whom Pak Tedja said oftentimes think in Dutch, actually translated Dr. Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in Bahasa when he was still a 12-year-old child.] Pak Tedja read its English version at 15.

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