Sunday, December 21, 2014

Beyond Sudimara

Shortly after Indonesia's national elections in April, and the day before our trip back to our home country, Indonesian political activist Tedjabayu Sudjojono treated us for lunch in his home at the outlying district of Jakarta. We--included Tatikarn Dechapong, our journalist fellow from Thailand we called by her nickname, "Boom," and Ryan, another journalist fellow from the Philippines, who is also my fellow corres at the Inquirer. It was one of the rare moments I treasured most, because we did not only spend the hours partaking of the delicious Javanese food that the family prepared, but we also spent the rest of the afternoon talking about books and art in Indonesia.

Pak Tedja, as Boom insisted in calling him out of respect, is the son of the great Indonesian painter Sudjojono, whose works are on display at the Indonesian museum that she saw the previous day. Pak Tedja described his late father as the painter who refused to paint the beautiful scenes of Indonesia but insisted on painting the real condition of his people under the Dutch's colonial rule.
But there was something else that surprised me more about Pak Tedja.

Unlike most people I’ve encountered in neighboring Southeast Asia, he was not a stranger to Philippine history and culture. He learned about Jose Rizal at a very early age. His mother, a political activist fluent in Dutch and many languages, translated it into Bahasa and introduced it to him. Was it at 15, when Pak Tedja said he was already reading the Noli Me Tangere in English?   “She used to speak Dutch like a native,” Tedjabayu recalls his mother, who wrote the book, “From Camp to Camp,” about her experiences as a political detainee in a series of detention cells under Soeharto's Indonesia.

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