Opening Up the Suitcase of Indies Culture
“FROM ANYER TO PANARUKAN TO SABANG TO MERAUKE”
Seeing Ourselves through Cultural Products:
Visual Art, Short Story and Film
Visual Art Exhibition: “Apa Kabar Meneer?” (How Are You Sir?)
23 September 2004 – 18 October 2004
Film Show: De Stille Kracht
6 – 9 October 2004
Short Story Performance: Chalie Anak Betawi (Chalie Batavian Boy)
27 September 2004
Seminar “Opening up the Indis Culture Suitcase: From Anyer to Panarukan to Sabang to Merauke”
10 October 2004
Are we Indis?
Indis is a mixed culture. An illegitimate child from the meeting of two big cultures, from outside and inside. This mix will inevitably produce consequences in various things, of which the first is the floating identity. This meeting of the two cultures, one of which is superior towards the other because of its modern administration facilities, advance technology but at the same time inferior because they are “no-one” within the European circle. The other culture is inferior, due to its non-existence of modern technology, its out-of date administration system but at the same time superior because of its amazing historical and civilization background, this is what it takes to develop the Indis culture. It is, non other, “a new culture” which is not Dutch and not Javanese, not Dutch nor is it Padangnese. A creol community.
And when the old style colonialism bond broke, the “sinyo” (Dutch) returned to their country and bringing along culture in their little suitcases. And once a year they return to their memories of which gave them a feeling of resentment—the fact of beautiful country they love but were forced to leave—through the Tong –Tong Fair.
Through their daily life and greetings, it was inevitable that the Indis created their rainbow. A rainbow that cannot be taken apart into authentic, whole, parts in their separate colors. The Indis became a way of life through the material products of its life, through the life concepts that often are abstract. Because of this, apart from the style of housing, the way we dress, types of food, concepts of justice in the form of the law system, the Indis also left behind a concept of learning or education called the school and corruption, which till this day, is being implemented in Indonesia.
The mixed culture mentioned did not happen easily but happened as a mixture filled with tension. The indigenous with the inlanders, Islam and secularism. But this tension still produced the “sinyo” culture, the first people with split identity. And again as mentioned above, they represent one piece of the mosaic which form the Indonesian contemporary culture along with other foreign elements: descendents of Chinese, Indian, and Arabic people. Nevertheless, for some political reason, it is denied.
For this reason of mix acculturation, it is almost impossible to find a genuine, original Indonesian culture. Whether we like it or not, when Indonesia is mentioned, we refer to memories of the Dutch and Indo. Is it not true that when Soekarno sparked up the name Indonesia and its territory, it served as a reference of having Dutch influences? Does it not show a name which was a metamorphosis product of its reference of Indische and of which its territory referring to the territory of the former Dutch invasion? Did it not occur that Tjoet Nya Din, who emerged amazingly as a female hero had her story written by Szekely Lulofs as a work of fine literature? And in May 1998, crowds of Indonesians asked the Collusion, Corruption and Nepotism be eradicated, of which its very discussion appeared more than a century before on the 119th edition of Soerabaia Courant, written by the Dutch reporter dated 23rd May 1868 reporting practice of Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism by the governor of Blitar, Raden Adipati Ario Adi Negoro, who was protected by the Dutch troops.
Digging up the Memory
This project is most of all aimed at regaining our awareness through cultural products, especially visual art, short story and film, that Indonesia is a mosaic made up of innumerable differing pieces. Owing to these dissimilarities, an entity was once constructed and called pompously as Indonesia. Hence, we need to every time look again at these differences wisely and critically, in order to signify our simple attempts to “resist the forgetting”.
If we read books on Indonesian history written during the New Order era (that we still use until presently), we may observe that the historical traces of the Indos have vanished. We often feel that our history is only crammed with the “natives” who by a mere chance are Javanese or Padangnese and a crowd of soldiers like supermen, while the Indonesian-Chinese people, the Indos, are absent.
While we forget the role of the Indos, we are unaware that we live in a world they have “constructed”.
The attempt to read again these facts is made to remind ourselves that we tend to forget important things almost instantly. We often be impressed by “new” things without critically questioning: What are those “new” things? Are those really new? Based on this premise, we may ask further: Are we the “native” Indonesians? And consequently: Is our Indonesian culture also “original”? Where is the concept of “the peaks of national culture” from?
Therefore, this project tries to look at the past and at the same time gives attention to the present. This may justify a postulate that time does not always move forwards but circularly on an axis that makes the same things may occur again at particular time.
While bringing our memories to light, this project also tries to portray our own face that, perhaps, looks arrogant and speckled, and questioning: What possibilities may be resulted from such blended identities when they exist in the realms of art? Is it possible that certain aesthetic ideas embodied in the hierarchical order of low art and high art, in fact, originated from the area of colonialist ideas? How can contemporary art, in turn, release itself from colonialist propensities – if necessary? And, how could democratisation of aesthetic not nullify the aesthetic itself?
1. Visual Art Exhibition: How Are You, Meneer?
Participants of this exhibition are artists that may be grouped into three generations. The oldest generation comprises artists who have gone through a number of phases, namely the Indonesian revolution era, the Old Order, the New Order, and the present era. The second group consists of artists who have been educated during the beginning to the end of the New Order period. The last group are young artists who have just been graduated from or still studying at art academies.
The main question that will be brought forward through this art exhibition which underlines the problem of time is: Can we find interaction and reception of experiences in artworks and how Indonesian people represent their experiences through artworks? Each period surely has its own history, and in this exhibition the artworks will be read as cultural products integral to the personal history of the artists. Materials chosen by the artists to express their ideas are decisions that are not unexplainable. This consideration is also relevant to the ornaments, dimensions of visualisation, and modes of expression.
This exhibition does not highlight the quality of art creation but tries to present the “samples” of cultural products. The principal question is: How the ideas of cultural relations are unconsciously revealed in the form of cultural objects consumed by people in their daily lives?
This exhibition entitled “How are You, Meneer?” is the same as other art exhibitions, including the providing of thematic idea to the invited artists. The difference is only in the matter of displaying the date of birth of each artist in addition to other usual information such as title, materials, and the size of each artwork. The mentioning of the dates of birth means to underline the time of cultural interactions and the reception of experiences in order to show the signs referring to relations among cultural producers. When did they “meet”? What like are the forms of such meeting? As cultural products in material forms, they will be read or observed using their physical signs, including the materials that compose the artworks, texts, and pictures. The most senior artist is Maryono, a glass painter who was born on 8 July 1938 and lives in Muntilan, 30 kilometres to the north of Yogyakarta.
Like any other old Javanese, Maryono is a fan of wayang or Javanese shadow puppet performance. Most of characters in his paintings are Punakawans, a group of comedian in wayang stories. In his paintings, the Punakawans are not always represented like their usual appearance in wayang show but may resemble anyone, such as soldier, policeman, village head, thief, drunkard, playboy, ordinary person, or government official. The characters are not always put in a setting that resembles a Javanese palace but may resemble ordinary house, or placed in front of a mosque, in a village administrative office, in a courtroom, in a battlefield, etc.
When we visited his simple house, he told that in the time of Clash II Maryono had been 13 years old. He told us about the armed conflict in Muntilan, the “read beaks” (mustang aircrafts) were roaring in the sky, and besides the violent combat, there were rapes. The consequence of the rapes, among others, was that he subsequently had a neighbour who was often called as “sinyo” (the nickname given by Javanese to the Dutchmen or half-breed people). “A Dutchman who likes tiwul,” said Maryono. (Tiwul is Javanese food made of cassava that looks like rice and consumed as a cheaper substitute for rice). Now “ndoro sinyo” (master sinyo) works as a labourer at a cigarette manufacture.
For this exhibition, Maryono refused to make new paintings as he was busy preparing the wedding of his daughter. Hence, we took three paintings as the samples of his works. Maryono is a renowned glass painter. He often runs exhibitions in some cities like Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Denpasar. He already lives as long as 66 years in Indonesia, in Java, in Central Java Province, Magelang Regional District, Muntilan town.
Hence, the questions are: Can we trace back Maryono’s original identity through his products? Maryono was indeed born in Muntilan, and if he believes in wayang stories and represents them in his works, does he paint his own culture? Does he paint other’s culture? Where are the wayang stories from? Are they from Java? Which part of Java? Do the stories originally come from Muntilan? If he paints a Punakawan in military uniform crawling and firing a gun at the “red beaks”, can we say that Maryono has spoiled the Javanese culture?
In a painting entitled “Mumpung” (Opportunity) he depicts a room with a round table surrounded by some people wearing coat and tie. Among them is Petruk (a Punakawan member) quarrelling with a figure that looks like Pinocchio. The question is: If glass painting is already accepted as the product of local culture, but it displays Pinocchio, can we still categorize it as local cultural product? Regarding Maryono’s personal history and his reception of his life’s experiences, where did he know Pinocchio? Was it from television or other media? In this painting, Maryono’s original identity as a “pure” and “original” Javanese becomes blurred. And, also in this painting, we can see the relation between Maryono’s products and other products in this exhibition.
Wimo Ambala Bayang was born in Magelang on 14 October 1976. His mother is from Magelang and his father is from Sangir Talaud, North Sulawesi. Wimo was born and brought up in Magelang until completing his Senior High School study, and then he continued his study at the Indonesian Institute of Art, majoring in Recording Media. In his work now exhibited, Wimo makes a video record in VCD format. This is a collage displaying his friends’ behaviour when trying to talk in Indonesian mixed with English, Japanese, Korean, slandering in English, saying love in English, interview in English, etc. As an artwork, Wimo’s work is relatively “simple” and small, formatted according to the usual size of contemporary art, portable, deliverable, and “accessible”. When we enter the exhibition room of Kedai Kebun Forum, Wimo’s video will usher us in. It produces sounds that reverberate around the room. Male and female, teenagers and adults, pronounce “foreign” words fluently. This is MTV generation who fluently says “fuck you” and “assalamu ‘alaikum” simultaneously. For them, there are two separated and unconnected worlds: the free world outside their homes (so that they can say “shit” and “fuck” freely) and the one inside their homes characterised by control and domination. Family is a microcosm of the controlling state, just as the same as when they enter classroom, mosque, church, mall, and other public places. These have become their daily habit. Their world is a multiple world, Creole, and Indies. These are their way to survive, and Wimo expresses them accurately, using their own way of speaking. If we observe Maryono’s painting entitled “Mumpung” (2004) displaying Pinocchio and Petruk, we can see that their positions are in opposition one another. The two representatives of different cultures meet and challenge one another. Such position is absent in Wimo’s work “Wasweswos” (video, 2004). All these hybrid people pronounce foreign words laughingly and comfortably.
We also involve RM Soni Irawan, who is the same age as Wimo, as an example of producers that represent 2000 generation. Soni Irawan was born on 15 January 1975. “RM” is an abbreviation that stands for “Raden Mas”, a title used by the descendants of Javanese aristocrats. Hence, Soni Irawan is an artist who comes from Javanese noble family. Sony is also known as a musician, a member of a band named Seek Six Sick which is popular in Yogyakarta and Project Babi No. 9. Seek Six Sick is a music group that mainly plays noise rock (they call their music Asianoiserock). Project Babi No. 9 is the same kind of music group. If we observe this, Soni’s identity is already paradoxical. The artworks he presented in “How Are You, Meneer?” are not too far from his daily life as musician. Soni makes two works. The first work, entitled “The Devil’s A Go Go” (Raw Power #2)”, is made of canvas, acrylic, garment accessories, fabric made of synthetic fur, a composition of tape recorder, cassettes, and other electronics implements.
This work is made in 2004. The second one is in the shape of a guitar, entitled “My Discomachinegun (Raw Power #1)”, and is made of a guitar neck, radio box, and electronic composition (sound effect fuzz, overdrive). This is also made in 2004. “The Devil’s A Go Go (Raw Power #2)” can produce the sound of hard rock music if we switch on the power button placed at the lower left side of this work, while “My Discomachinegun (Raw Power #1)” can be played just like other guitars we usually play. The addition of title “RM”, which is quite Javanese, before the name “Soni” does not disturb him in his attempts to acquire many more experiences in his daily life. Soni, as an individual, is an “independent” person who tries to define his own identity. The “RM” title is always with him wherever he goes, like Lucky Luke and his shadow. The relations between Soni’s Javanese identity and the identity of his products have brought about a tension which is not unrelated to the non-Javanese sounds generated by Soni’s artworks. This juxtaposition may seem too extreme. However, if we observe the formulations that give rise to the concept of “the peaks of national culture”, these are also generated by the attempts to seek out the pure identity by classifying and highlighting those regarded as aesthetic or great and the others regarded as unaesthetic or worthless, and also between those regarded as right and wrong. The New Order regime has once enforced policies concerning the “wrong identity” to Indonesian people so that the authorities may categorize the people into Indonesians and non-Indonesians. One of the policies was about the obligation to use Indonesian names for the Chinese-descent Indonesians, such as Indonesian name Soedono Salim as a substitute for Liem Soe Liong. Something strange enough, however, is why Lim Soe Liong should choose the name which, in fact, is Javanese and not, for example, Tagor, which is the usual name of Bataknese in the North Sumatra, or other names from other ethnic groups in Indonesia that are closer to the sounds /lim/ or /su/. The same goes for the names of companies and housing developments, such as Merapi View in Yogyakarta which had to change its name to be Pesona Merapi. But, when Soni’s parents decided the name “Soni” after the title “RM”, no one protested. Is the name “Soni” Jawa or not? This question can be more consequential when the purification is applied to the areas of religion and race. Now Indonesians would reap the crop produced by the seeds they have planted. The attempt of identifying the natives in the colonial era has been reproduced again on a wider scale.
Complexities and the attempt to visualise the image of identity are especially notable in the work of Galam Zulkifli, who was born on 14 January 1971, when he draws Kartini’s face on a canvas (200cm x 145cm) using acrylic and marker-pen. Clearly, he wants to see how Kartini, a “heroine”, to be placed in terms of ethical politics (old-style colonialism) and the New Order (new-style colonialism). When Kartini refused to accept the scholarship from the colonial Dutch and suggested that the scholarship should be given to Agus Salim, the Dutch were unwilling to accept the suggestion. Hence, by doing so, the Dutch with their ethical politics have consciously selected and created which one should be the “hero”, who actually are those subjugated people. Something more interesting is that the method was then duplicated by the New Order by giving “scholarship” to a group of technocrats and bureaucrats in order to make them docile and willingly justify the New Order’s dirty politics.
Tita Ruby, who was born on 15 December 1968 and the only female artist in this exhibition, arranges beads to be a dress that measures like the actual ones usually worn by people. Something interesting in Tita’s artwork is her sudden decision. When we thought that her work was too “empty”, Tita decided to set up her commercial products already packaged in plastic pockets marked with logo that reads “Carkultera Craft Syudio” (Cakultera is the name of her elder son) and stuck the products on the wall forming some letters that read “Tita”. By doing so, she has unconsciously accepted that the name is a means of signifying her identity. Tita’s identity becomes, more or less, a mother of a son named Carkultera – besides her profession as an artist – who runs a business of making necklaces out of beads.
All the works in this exhibition are for sale, including Tita’s works and her necklaces. During the first and second day of exhibition, Tita’s work, which was made of necklaces, can still be read, but toward the end of the exhibition this work was not readable anymore as the necklaces were already sold. Tita as the artist and we are the curators, consciously or not, have seen that the process of identity erosion is “relevant” to the title of her work “Sementara Imitasi” (Fake, So Far). In addition, as we can see, Tita defines herself as a hybrid figure, a mother and at the same time a worker and a business-woman. If previously the “tradition” said that women do not need going to school, the question is: When did this tradition scrape away? Was it since Kartini went to school? How about the contemporary tradition of Javanese women? How to identify the Javanese women, and which ones are the Indonesian women?
Jumaldi Alfi, who was born on 19 July 1973, is an artist from Padang. Since he studied in Java, he has become “Jadang” or Javanese-Padangnese. Alfi exhibited three works, one of which is a composition made of some little paintings. When he was firstly asked to participate in this project, he seemed reluctant. He felt himself is not an Indies. However, in our opinion, there are traces that link his works with this present exhibition.
His work entitled “Meditation” (2004) suggests this connection. Observing his paintings that always seem connotative, audience feel obliged to reveal the subtle metaphorical layers. As a producer, Alfi, who was born in the early of 1970’s, has not yet shown some ambivalent situations which, conversely, are clearly shown by younger artists. Alfi tries to be analytical or observes the phenomena from a certain distance. He seems to feel anxious or reluctant. Such feelings are not apparent in the works of Wimo or Soni, for example. Alfi tries to disclose the silent and deep areas. That is why the landscapes are always the important parts in his artworks, just like the surrealist artists who try to formulate their dream worlds as empty landscapes: the hills and mountains in the distance. Alfi and also Galam are proficient artistic producers in the matter of technique as well as contemplative discourse.
As a society who tends to be forgetful, this exhibition would likely to be significant as it touches the forbidden areas exist in the Indonesian (or Javanese) minds concerning the originality of their identities that are apparent from their own signification as the “natives”. How about the East Timorese when presently they already achieved their independence? Who are they? What categories appropriate to them? Where is our position, the Indonesians who see ourselves as modern and intelligent? Since the policy of regional autonomy was implemented, Indonesia consists of 32 provinces. Hence, are the “peaks of national culture” not only 27 anymore? Would be there any project that tries to redesign the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Park?
2. Film Show: De Stille Kracht
Seeing, Recording and Framing the Indies
Six films presented during this event are one of the attempts to see, record, and frame the Indies. Indies, which initially deals with the problems of race, is eventually also seen as a life style as well as cultural amalgamation. If, in this context, Indies is considered as something exists in Indonesia, this is only based on our attention to our own case: we live and exist in Indonesia.
Then, who are Indies?
Thematically, we choose a film produced by Dutch cineaste that presents romantic attitude of the Dutch to Indonesia in the colonial era and after. Films by Indonesian cineastes are those made in the current era that we consider are the reflection of ideological views of Indonesian film directors (mostly are Javanese) toward the realities of life of other Indonesian people outside Java. Are there differences (or even similarities) of viewpoints between both sides towards the objects and (social) phenomena as recorded in these films?
De Stille Kracht
Director : Walter Van der Kamp
Writing credits : Louis Couperus
Producer : Hugo Heinen, Walter van der Kamp, René Solleveld
Production : AVRO Broadcasting Association Netherlands, 1974
Duration : 231 minutes (divided into 3 times of film show)
This romance takes as its setting the Indies era before the Revolution War between the Indonesians and the Dutch. The seductive attractiveness of the tropics as well as the colonial relations produce an appalling environment: black magic and hidden dangers. This story describes the thinking patterns of the Dutch and Indos, mixed with hatred toward, and familiarity with the natives, the Javanese middle class and the Indies (Chinese, Arab, cross-breed people, etc.).
Van Oudijck, a pure Dutch, was appointed as a Resident of Laboewangi, East Java. He worked hard for his wife by administering plantations – coffee plantations, sugar factories, and he also held responsibility for the irrigation of paddy fields. He lived in Laboewangi with his second wife, an Indo, and with his daughter and son born by his first wife, who was also an Indo.
That time, Mrs. Leonie Van Oudijck had just come from Batavia. Once a year she went to Batavia for two months to escape herself from the tedious environment in Laboewangi where she felt unfree. Secretly, Mrs. Van Oudijck had an affair with her stepson, Theo, and with Addy De Luce, the son of a rich owner of sugar factory. Mr. Van Dick did not know this secret and he did not believe in anonymous letters he often received.
The problem that concerned him was about Regent Ngajiwa, the younger brother of the Regent of Laboewangi named Raden Adipati Suryo Sunario. The father of both regents was Raden Adiningrat, a Javanese aristocrat, the descendant of the Sultan of Madura who received the title “pangeran” (prince) from the colonial government. Unlike their father, these native regents did not have capability to be government officials. The first regent, Adipati Sunario, the Regent of Laboewangi, seemed living in another world – the supernatural world – and allegedly possessed an extraordinary magical power. His younger brother, Regent Ngajiwa, had negative habit, namely drinking alcohol and gambling. Someday, Regent Ngajiwa was found out that he was drunk. Resident Van Oudijck eventually intervened, and with his manner that stuck to his Dutch principles and discipline, he suggested the government in Betawi to dismiss the regent.
The mother of both regents, Raden Ayu Pangeran, could not accept the scandal that gave them a bad name. Hence, the mother tried to meet the resident. This woman kneeled down in front of the resident and implored him not to dismiss her son. To support her request, Raden Ayu put Mr. Resident’s foot on her head. Van Oudijck was so touched. He was in doubt for a moment. But, it was only for a moment. His principles remained unshakeable. He had an unwavering belief in his already justified reasons. Respectfully, he let out his foot of her hands, gave his hands to the woman and asked her to get up. Seeing the resident’s treatment of her, the old woman thought she wins. But this was only for a while. Calmly but firmly, the Dutchman shook his head. Raden Ayu understood that she had failed.
Meanwhile, in order to help the victims of an earthquake in Ternate, the local government would organise a fancy fair for the Europeans of Laboewangi and another fair for the natives. People looked anxious since there was a rumour that people will rebel. Resident eventually managed to detect the mastermind, namely Raden Ayu Pangeran. Mr. Resident gave a visit to the regent’s house and with his gentle treatment he managed to persuade her.
Some time before the fancy fair run, there were strange incidents around the house of the resident. A figure wearing white clothes occasionally appeared at the yard, curious sounds were heard from among the trees, or stones rolled down strangely on the floor. At the house of Onno Eldersma, a clerk, there was a spectre talking from the foot of a table and the ghost gave a signal about what would happen. Until some day, when Mrs. Leoni Van Oudijck took a bath, a spectre spat at her body with red saliva. In a blind panic, Mrs. Van Oudijck ran out of the bathroom nakedly.
Since that time, misfortunes relentlessly came, and gradually the resident’s house became empty. One by one, the servants working at the house went out because they felt terrified, and so did Van Oudijck’s family. However, Resident Van Oudijck did not believe in all that happened. He invited a Dutch military officer and some soldiers to his house. Van Oudijck and these soldiers locked themselves in the bathroom all night long. They went out of the bathroom in the next morning and became very weak, pale, and speechless. The water in the bath tank became red while the reflections in the mirror rippled. Mr. Resident then tried to meet Raden Ayu Pangeran, and after that, the disturbance ended. The house was cleared up. The bathroom was demolished and the incidents disappeared. But, then, there was another incident that frustrated the resident. He found out his wife having some fun with Addy de Luce. They subsequently divorced. Mr. Van Oudijck decided to go away from Laboewangi. He said he do not understand all those magic practised by the Javanese.
Louis Couperus’ romance “De Stille Kracht” was criticised for describing eroticism and love affair too openly for his time.
Trilogi Keindonesiaan (Trilogy of Indonesia-ness)
Director : Garin Nugroho
Producer : Anastasia Rina
Production : SET Film Workshop, 2004
Duration : 33 minutes
Harbour: (11 minutes)
A harbour, the verge of the sea and the island, is the gate where people start to leave and arrive. That being so, a harbour seems like a metaphor for encounters that could mean a dialectics, the border that divides oneself and the others.
Icon: (11 minutes)
The signifiers are the celebration of identity. Taking the political upheaval of 2001 in Papua as the background, these signifiers move back and forth. The multiplicity of such signifiers: Are they a statement of identity or a market’s celebration of the signs of consumerism?
Screen: (11 minutes)
The screen, on which the pictures and sounds are mixed up together in arrays, is a window through which one may catch a glimpse of reality or another life. Such screen may bring a bomb that explodes in a capital town hundreds of miles away into a house, a corner of a room, through a medium that we call television.
Bedjo Van Derlaak
Director : Eddie Cahyono
Producer : Ifa Isfansyah, Eddie Cahyono, Narina Saraswati, Rah Aji Surya
Production : Fourcolours Films, 2001
Duration : 30 minutes
The Dutch launched their second aggression. A platoon of Indonesian soldiers conducted guerrilla warfare for certain mission. The Dutch troops attacked them on their way. The battle raged.
Bedjo, one of Indonesian troops, was separated from his group and found a house in the wilds. He met with Maryam who lived in the house, a woman who would bear her child. He also met with Hendrik Vand Derlaak, a Dutch soldier who would help Maryam. Both soldiers were entrapped in a difficult situation. In a quarrel between them, Hendrik freely snapped at Bedjo and said him stupid, empty-headed, idiot, and harshly ordered what Bedjo should do.
Ayis [About Me, About You]
Director : Wimo Ambala Bayang
Producer : Wimo AB & Zulhan Sasmita
Production : […] Film, 2003
Duration : 12 minutes
Ayis, 13 years old, was brought up in Beringharjo Market, Yogyakarta. Using video camera, digital photo camera, and CCTV camera put up on his head, Ayis walked around the market, talked with his friends, brother and sister and other relatives, and made their pictures.
This film is a form of personal history, a personal documentation project that records someone’s life, association, and emotional relations between Ayis and the people in the market, and vice versa.
Berlari Untuk Entah (Running after Something, or Nothing)
Director : Wimo Ambala Bayang
Producer : Zulhan Sasmita
Production : […] Films, 2002
Duration : 36 minutes
This is a “real fiction”. Really played by Punk boys and girls, dangdut singer, and Eros “on 7”, this film takes its setting and characters from the real lives of its actors and actresses. (Eros is a member of a Yogyakarta renowned band “Sheila on 7”).
Gepeng has dropped out of his school. He is a fan of Agnes Mohican (supposedly an affectionate name of Agnes Monica, an Indonesian young celebrity) and wants to go back to school. Some day he found a cellular phone, and the owner of the phone is a dangdut singer of Purawisata, Yogyakarta. This incident may change his life, or may not.
Aku Ingin Menciummu Sekali Saja
(I Want to Kiss You Just One Time)
Director : Garin Nugroho
Producer : Anastasia Rina
Production : SET Film Workshop, 2002
Duration : 90 minutes
Arnold, a Papuan boy and a student of a senior high school, saw a Javanese girl got off the ship in a harbour of his region, and suddenly he fell in love. The Javanese girl would stay for some days in Papua, to make a pilgrimage and a confession. Some day, when she was praying in a church, her rosary fell, and Arnold found it. Arnold kept the rosary with himself for days.
Meanwhile, there was a friend of Arnold who privately loved him and noticed that Arnold’s attention had changed. Jealousy grew, and in the midst political conflict in Papua, racism sneaked in. In her confession, Sonya not only uttered her envy for the Javanese girl but also protested God who did not give birth to Jesus as a member of her race, and she also expressed her inevitably feeling of inferiority.
Sonya’s feeling of jealousy disappeared when the Javanese girl had gone away and Arnold kissed her just one time in the shade of a tree before going to school. This happened some while after Sonya kissed lovingly a boy who fell in love with her.
In the house of Resident Van Oudijck we have seen some Javanese-Dutch mixed figures. We saw Chinese-styled shirts, rocking chair ornamented with flora and fauna—a characteristic style of Javanese carving from northern coastal areas. In this film we have also seen Raden Ngajiwa puts on beskap (a Javanese shirt), udeng (batik head-cloth) and a bow tie, consumes alcoholic drink and asks musicians to play music—and this is not gamelan Javanese music. Furthermore, we also seen how Van Oudijck is shocked when he finds the water in bath tank becomes red while the reflection in the mirror ripples, and the government officials who like to drink alcohol and gambling.
Perhaps, Indies is these cultural encounters, the meetings between Dutch and Javanese, Dutch and Padangnese, or Dutch and Papuan. Then, how is the process of dialogue in such encounters? What kind of authorities play? Can we say that Indies is the authority of Mr. Resident who feels he should dismiss Ngajiwa since the latter likes gambling and drinking alcohol? Or, Indies is anxieties of some people when they are faced with supernatural phenomena—the world beyond Mr. Resident’s rationality? Does Indies also mean the secret affair of Mrs. Resident with her stepson?
Then, what happens when a Javanese meets with a Papuan, which also has met with the Dutch? What kind of authority that plays when Sonya, a Papuan girl whose Catholicism is the result of her encounter with the Dutch, is consumed with jealousy at Lulu Tobing? What kind of feeling that appeared in the heart of that non-Papuan man when he heard the confession of Sonya that implied racist envy? Is the sensation similar to what Resident Laboewangi felt when he heard the protest of the mother of Regent Ngajiwa?
Indies, perhaps, is cultural encounters and this does not always mean a series of questions. It may mean such happy laughter of Mrs. Resident in the embrace of her stepson on an iron bed, behind the curtain. Or the cheerfulness of Ayis who walks with a camera in his hands in the midst of Beringharjo Market thronged with people, which sometimes looks colourful but more often appears in black and white. Indies is perhaps Bejo van Derlaak. It may be Gepeng, a Punk boy, in the crowded streets of Yogyakarta, running after something or nothing. Indies may be the proliferated icons in the market of consumerism. Indies can be those that look at, or those being looked at, that record, or being recorded, that frame, or to be framed.
3. Short Story’s Stage Performance: Chalie Anak Betawi (Chalie, a Batavian Boy)
“Chalie, a Batavian Boy” is an essay published in a book entitled Bianglala Sastra that deals with Chalie Robinson or Vincent Mahieu or Jaan Boon. Vincent Mahieu collected his short stories written with setting or background that shows Indonesia in the time towards the proclamation of Indonesia’s Independence. The first collection of his short stories, entitled CIS, takes Batavia as its setting and describes everyday conflicts of an Indies family. The second collection is CUK. This collection is more characterised by an atmosphere of armed conflict between the Dutch and Indonesians and takes its setting from the cities in East Java. Both collections are translated by HB Jassin and published by Djambatan. In this project, the stories by Vincent Mahieu collected in CIS and CUK will be performed on the stage, completed with a short story by Seno Gumira Ajidarma.
Chalie died in 1974 in the Netherlands, a year after his last visit to his “motherland”. The ash of his body was spread around the Jakarta Bay, near the Fish Market, accompanied with keroncong music, perhaps the only surviving heritage of the Indos to Indonesians.
Chalie is the son of a pure Dutch father while his mother is an Indo. His mother’s grandfather is an Englishman named Robinson who married an Indonesian. The name Robinson was then used by Jan Boon as his pen name that automatically became his second name. His other pen name was Vincent Mahieu—a name that takes our memories to the initiator of Stambul Comedy, Auguste Mahieu, who in fact was Chalie’s uncle.
Hence, Chalie Robinson or Vincent Mahieu or Jan Boon lived in two different worlds: the one embodied in his parent’s house and his school while the other is manifested in the streets. The children that lived and walked in both worlds must be careful not to confuse these different worlds. Home and school were the world that used Dutch language while the streets were the world that used Pecuk language—a mixed language of Dutch and Malay with Batavian dialect. The sociological spaces of the uses of both languages could not be exchanged one another.
Chalie grew up to be a writer: journalist and storyteller. The stories selected for the present Monoplay—though only a small number—try to observe the urban lives of the past in an environment that was called Batavia and now is called as Jakarta. The narratives represented are surely not comparable to complete maps. Even, the representations may only look like rough sketches. Segi Tiga Emas (Golden Triangle) by Seno Gumira Ajidarma that talks about Java and a cluster of streets in Jakarta—Sudirman, Thamrin and Gatot Subroto Streets, known as golden triangle area—is surely different from what is told by Chalie, an Indo who talked about Batavia with its Ciliwung River. The imageries presented by both writers, Chalie and Seno Gumira, about Batavia and Jakarta, are surely different from the image of Jakarta living in the thought of someone of the present day.
A monthly magazine named Orientatie once edited by Chalie Robinson, edition of December 1949—towards the transfer of sovereignty from the Dutch to Indonesians and before the Dutch-Indos were sent back to the Netherlands—published a story written by Chalie entitled “Batavian Boy”. It seemed that Chalie, in the advent of a new era, wanted to go back to his adolescence, traced back all the paths once had been the area of his adventures. Then, what may be resulted from his encounter with the past?
About the Short Stories
Vivere Pericolosomante from CIS collection.
Vincent Mahieu starts his tale by setting forth subtle questions: How many people should live double lives? How long and when such worlds collide with one another, and how could such worlds arise? Sometimes they arise from a house that has double lives. There are suchlike houses, whose front parts face respectably the respectable streets while their back parts face dark alleys. How many adventures can be made from such backdoors, and how many sufferings or even deaths may be resulted.
Pagar (Fence) from CIS collection.
This short story tells about a clerk who keeps rooted in gaining his desire for honour and pride that may be brought about by his promotion to higher ranks. In trying to realise the hopes, he controls his behaviour in interacting with his neighbour. Fence, a trifling border that separates one and others in a neighbourhood, may become a cliff-like border, a disturbing psychological and social boundary that arises from life’s illusions.
Dasi (Tie) from CUK collection.
“Dasi” tells about a clerk of lower rank who is fortunate since he is promoted to higher rank. At the same time, his friend presents him a tie. Friendship between these two persons of different sexes initially runs smoothly. However, just because the tie that indicates the change of status, their friendship is then struck by problem, but they dare not express it and only keep the problem secretly. This story wants to express romantically that one’s hopes may conversely change to be a problem after they are realised.
Segitiga Emas (Golden Triangle) – Additional short story by Seno Gumira Ajidarma
A super mall located in Jakarta’s golden triangle area (Sudirman, Thamrin, and Gatot Subroto Streets) was officially opened. The opening was celebrated with Javanese shadow puppet show that presented a story about Sumantri Ngenger. When the dalang (the storyteller) told an episode where Dewi Citrawati asks Sumantri to relocate Sriwedari garden, the request suddenly changed. Sumantri has to relocate the golden triangle area. The dalang could not refuse the request.
These four stories were played on the stage in four styles of performance. Ibnu Gundul—student at the Department of Theatre, Indonesian Institute of Art—played “Pagar” by reading the story, accompanied by music played by three musicians. Two musicians played guitar while the other played violin. The story flowed amidst the melodies of guitar and violin. Interestingly, the story—that tells an atmosphere around 1915—was presented with contemporary music style. The melodies and rhythms were not played according to keroncong music style that may refer to the old days. Conversely, the melodies and rhythms alluded to today’s popular music. Ibnu also not tried to distance himself from the character of the story he read. This could be indicated from the costume that he wore on the stage. Gundul did not clothe himself in costume different from the one he usually wears off stage.
The preference to present the old days on the stage could be indicated from the style of speaking shown by Adi Marsono who previously had tried hard to find Dutch songs he would use as the back-sound of his play. Adi—he was born in 1974 and studied Anthropology at the Faculty of Letter, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta—presented his performance with a style that we may call story telling style. Though he used to wear T-shirt, that evening he clothed himself in a long sleeved shirt, rolling the sleeves up to his elbow. In such tidy shirt and shoes, Adi read a story “Vivere Pericolosomante”.
Unlike Ibnu and Adi, Wiro—student of a bank academy of Yogyakarta—presented his performance by reading Seno Gumira’s short story without text. His preference to read the story by heart gave him flexibility to move on the stage, not disturbed by text or paper he must hold. He tried to transform each sequel of the story into performances. He transformed the acts in shadow puppet show into dances that refer to the dances in wayang orang show (stage show played by human of which stories are the same as those of shadow puppet show). His black trousers and T-shirt reminded us of farmers working in paddy fields at the outer areas of Yogyakarta. His performance style, moved between text and daily realties, created humorous atmosphere.
The stage performance of Teater Alto that played “Dasi” completed the Monoplay programme. The play of Teater Alto which was based on this short story presented each sequel of the story as a series of acts on the stage. The presentation of the acts created some problems in the matter of preparing the props on the stage—how to present a setting relevant to the circumstances implied by the short story. Using the replicas of pillars easy to be moved here and there, some plastic sheets easy to be arranged or rolled up and down, Teater Alto tried to overcome the problem of space as implied by the story. This technique was combined with the screens that can be unrolled down from the roof, asking the audience to imagine a proscenium in front of the curtain. Each screen spread out as wide as a metre, placed at the left and right sides of the stage and used as the scenery behind the stage. The paper curtains helped the players who were not in action to hide them or sneaked in the stage quickly to rearrange the props at the turning of an act. The preference to use the method, namely to rearrange the setting quickly, reminded us of video clips we often see in television. The music style used as the back-sound, the speedy rhythm of electronic music played out of computer, stressed the character of video clip.
The preference to present the flux of events on the stage in accordance to those presented by the short story seemed like eliminating the capacity of dialogue as a means of communication that may offer possibility to delimit the space of acts on the stage without reducing its narrative plot. It seemed that events occurred in real space and time had to be presented on the stage as they were. Such dynamic of events on the stage, however, can be seen as a method of refreshment during the stage performance of Teater Alto. This preference seemed to refuse the old convention in the world of theatre that based the technique of dramatisation on the self-conflict experienced by each character.
Teater Alto is a relatively new group. This group was established in 1998. The founders were the alumni of De Britto senior high school, Yogyakarta. Most of the founders and members of the group are now still studying at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.
Enjoying the dramatisation of the short stories, we felt like travelling into the spaces of creativity of the artists.
(Kedai Kebun Forum)
Institutionalisation of Postcolonial Consumerist Identity
By Primanto Nugroho
Whether Indies or Indonesia, there is sharp difference between the situation in 2004 and the period around sixty years ago. Today, those holding Indonesian identity card would find themselves ashamed, stuttering, lacking of self-confidence when they come to an environment outside Indonesia—shortly, they would suffer a symptom of inferiority complex or the twins of it, namely compensation and over-compensation. This is different from the period just after the revolution of Indonesia’s independence when a group of artists in Paris—who were sympathetic to all nations succeeded in releasing themselves from colonialism—gifted a number of paintings to Indonesia. A Sundanese man appointed by Sukarno to receive the gifts told one day that Indonesia ness at that time was by no means identical to inferiority—in the face of the whitest Westerners, ethnically or culturally.
Split, disembedded, alienated.
Is there anything more accurate to describe both Indies and Indo? We may use the terms to symbolise a figure named Teto—the raden mas sinyo (a Javanese traditional title used by noble Javanese-European descendants)—in a romance by Y.B. Mangunwijaya, Burung-Burung Manyar, or Annelies, her brother Robert, and also Robert Suurhof, in a tetralogy usually called as “Pulau Buru works” by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Their social position is problematic. On the one hand, the Indo is seen as European of different type while from the perspective of the European white people the Indo’s position is a level lower than theirs.
In the late 1984, Mangunwijaya, a renowned writer from Jogja, said:
“You should not think that the majority of our people were at that time as patriotic as Bung Karno and Bung Hatta. That time (and presently?), our people were by no means pitiful if compared to the coloniser in this matter: they were completely colonialist. Our taste was not purely Javanese, not purely Moluccan, not purely Bataknese, etc. We were all Indo. Indo people are those split in their attitude towards life and cultural realities, and moreover they are alienated. They tend to be alienated from themselves and also from the situation of their environment and circumstances. Thus we are. 
Hence, what is Dutch and what is Chinese? And moreover, what is Javanese? What like are Bataknese and Balinese? Is there any one who can claim to be the most Hindu, more Muslim, and can one say what Christian is?
How many are the lands and the inhabitants of Papua can be represented by audio visual technology—namely a film Aku Ingin Menciummu Sekali Saja—not only in the matter of their natural beauty or unique clothes, their gestures when dancing or language accents? How far the film crew directed by Garin Nugroho and their processing technology brought from ex-Batavia are able to move outwards from or even move further into the symbolic shackles named “unity and unification”?
In 1977, renowned writer Mochtar Lubis gave a speech at Taman Ismail Marzuki about Indonesian People. What he said was no more than statements about mental aspects of Indonesians. Though his assumptions were based on reality, the statements continued to be no more than statements. One might find the truth in some aspects, but the rest completely depended on the visible realities seen by the writer himself. The same goes for someone from the Faculty of Psychology, Indonesia University, who responded the speech. He just launched a series of statement on the statements, and no more than that. Such is the fate of the attempts to identify Indonesianess, namely to be entrapped in the statements about mentality and stop short at the aspects of behaviour as merely behaviour itself.
Above all, at the level of nation, following the transfer of power in Jakarta in the end of 1960’s, nothing more apparent in showing the restriction and standardisation of Indonesianess than the Mini project. While in the time of Dutch Indies there was mooi Indie perspective hand in hand with a viewpoint van Sabang tot Merauke with Batavia as the centre, the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Park located in the ex-Batavia is the next project trying to represent Indonesianess. By driving the lift moving along the wire and above the replica of islands that represent the Indonesian archipelago, one would be brought to the high sky and duped into imagining that Java exists in the midst of the outer islands as a territory which is not a part of a colony. Entering the stages built to represent the cultural plurality of people from all provinces in Indonesia, one would be reminded of the tidiness of Indonesia in miniature while forgetting the social chains of one’s environment. Thus the stage for East Timor is represented by traditional house of Los Palos while the stage for South Sulawesi shows the traditional house of Toraja. Both Los Palos for East Timor and Toraja for South Sulawesi, in fact, they are in the tension with the non-Los Palos—including those burnt by Indonesian military in the resettlement project for the East Timorese so that they can be controlled easily in a massive glass house—and the non-Toraja. It is the elimination of the tension among the social chains that makes Indonesian culture comes to a standstill.
Just like the atmosphere and appearance of Indonesian museums that imply stuffiness and gloom, Indonesian culture is classified, cut, and presented in packages. Museum, which basically is a means to integrate the pieces of culture, language, and sensibility of human beings together with their milieu, becomes in practice a part of the chains of human memory standardisation. We can no more identify the difference between the Pancasila Sakti Monument and the museum of textile or the museum of wayang traditional puppet. Is it a kind fiction presented as science or is it the real facts and events?
Outside the Taman Mini Park, in the hands of state bureaucracy, identity is transformed into merely the contents of identity card. Census is the means of standardisation. The statistic office is the operator. The history of census is the history of the power of knowledge applied for social engineering. Both in the era of King Herodes and the time when census in Indonesian archipelago is controlled from the statistic headquarters at the side of Pasar Baru area, Jakarta, the knowledge processing operates through similar mechanism. It produces a dividing wall without bricks and cement. Through census the personal originality is transformed into numbers.
Social sphere becomes suggestive and crammed with illusions. Facts and fictions are mixed together. Psychology sells well as it is needed to affirm narcissism while at the same time sociology, which is able to arrange an event with another, is swept aside. The market law is adopted as dogma without a single centre. The trees of gossip and prejudice bear a lot of fruits while the society is constantly separated from information which has been replaced by the flow of commodification of information.
The twins of criminal reason and spectral reason are hanging around.
Trough criminalisation, the political issues appear among the civil forces are transformed into personal criminal issues. Using spectral reason, state apparatuses are narrowed into individual persons while evidence can be made to exist or absent. The evidence exists in the machinery of reproduction. It may be produced or abolished like the evidence in the case of Marsinah and Udin. It is similar with the imagination of the Dutch in 1974 concerning the Oost Indie of which atmosphere is full with black magic and supernatural powers as we can see in film De Stille Kracht. This is comparable to the reason operates behind the horror films and television programmes showing supernatural phenomena broadcasted by Indonesian television industry in recent years. The breakdown of production owing to real causes is tried to be camouflaged with and restored through devising non realistic stories.
The danger for the works of knowledge and arts in such suggestive milieu is that they may unconsciously become reactionary. In other words, artworks may be created continuously—on any pretension and basic ideas—but when the works are seen from certain distance, one can easily find that all of such aesthetic efforts take place in the island of prosperity in the midst of the ocean of poverty…
It is the correlations between such conditions that become the hindrance to Garin Nugroho and Wimo Ambala Bayang, or Tita Rubi and other artists in the event of Opening Up the Suitcase of Indies Culture in Kedai Kebun, isn’t it? Films, visual arts, and short stories created by “our people” presented in Kedai Kebun with the theme Indies have one similarity: they exist in a social sphere that for as long as three decades their driving power was imported from the outside of our country like a tonic. The driving power can be these:
a. Foreign debt, grant, or foreign capital—those subsequently were known in the theory of dependency widely discussed in the 1980’s as “the debt trap”.
b. Knowledge packages and cultural technique apparatuses—so that in the 1980’s the Indonesian social scientists hotly debated about indigenisation of social sciences and grounded research technique, in the world of Indonesian literature there was a debate about contextual literature, and the NGOs which just started to proliferate in Indonesia raised a theme of community’s autonomy (though, until I write this essay, it is at the very point of autonomy we find the weakest point of our self-sufficiency). This means, the more aggressive a statement is expressed; the result is usually the reverse.
Perhaps, in the whirl of the problem of identity, we may give a special place to Pangemanann—with double n. He is a Manadonese and, because of this, he is a native occupied the upper level of social classes under the power of Dutch Indies government in Buitenzorg (Bogor). We may once again read the tetralogy of Buru Island by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, especially the latest volume entitled Rumah Kaca.
As a collaborator—who always appears anywhere in the world—he is familiar with and even lives in a split. In a time, “the double n” can sweep out full-heartedly the enemies of colonial government but in other time he is sick of his own actions, whether those he did towards si Pitung or Mr. T.A.S.—for whom he has a great regard wordlessly—though it is Pangemanann himself who has arranged restriction, terror, arrest, banishment to Maluku, and annihilation—legally and physically.
Now we can easily substitute Lopez da Cruz for Pangemanann.
In 1996, when Bishop Bello from Maubere was appointed to be the Nobel winner, CNN broadcasted an interesting interview. The interviewer, Jonathan Mann, asked Lopez da Cruz who at that time was one of Indonesia’s representatives for the East Timor affairs, “Mr. Lopez, you are an East Timorese who works for the interest of Jakarta. Whose side are you on, actually?” The television screen then displayed the man answered stutteringly, almost tongue-tied.
East Timor affair was then recorded in the human history as one of the cases of Indonesia’s (and Indonesian officials’) betrayal during the past 25 years of the 20th century towards the spirit written in the Introduction of 1945 Constitution that says “freedom is the right of all nations”.
The point of question about “taking side” above can also be directed towards the hearts of all Indonesians. Any one can see that actions called as “development” have produced a concrete result, namely the creation of “the island of prosperity in the midst of the ocean of poverty”. Concerning such practices, which side opted for by “the eyes and ears of Indonesians”? Will the people tend to continue the tradition of mooi Indie perspective or choose to get together with the “wild animal” poet expressing the spirit of Karawang-Bekasi?
Now, if we close the novel Rumah Kaca and we go to Minahasa land, we will find another panorama of alienation. Since less than two centuries ago, a certain way of life has been in operation that later was known as the characteristic of those giving much attention to personal body, complete with the taste and pleasure. At least, soon after the Javanese War in the first quarter of the 19th century, Minahasa—together with Maluku and Timor—was known as a locus that supplied human labours from the outside of Java for the KNIL military division. Apart from the post factum judgment on the side they opted for during the colonial era, a collective practice of life depended on monthly salary was in operation from one generation to another. It is the style of domestic practice—and also the religious practice—and the way of managing the family of those regularly received salary owing to their role as a part of colonial machine that differentiate them from the lifestyle of other natives. The skins may have the same colours but it is the supply for life that differentiates the people. It is a group of people whose daily lives were neatly organised in family units complete with schedule, plan, and taste that, based on the Minahasa case, brings the Indies and Indo categories out from the biological limits or the skin colour and goes into what has been said by Mangunwijaya mentioned above concerning our “Indo-ness”.
In 1999, a book dealing with brief biographies of some young members of Nahdlatul Ulama was published. Its title is Kultur Hibrida: Anak Muda NU di Jalur Kultural. The editor writes that the young generation of NU lives in hybrid culture which shows their participation in pesantren traditional Muslim education as well as the secular education course. The book says that the youths have generally received secular education or mix education, namely religious and secular ones, and they have been able to creatively make a synthesis between those kinds of education so that it may enrich the cultural mosaic of NU. 
Hybridise in the case of NU as mentioned in the book seems still polite. Like corn, one may still be able to trace out its degree of manipulation. But this: Indies culture! Based on the lineage, this is the real orphan of development project. And if we like to follow the historical categorisation in Indonesia, this is the mutant generation!
Whether to celebrate or to be anxious about the image of the White and Indo on the stage of Indonesian celebrities, it is the obvious picture of collective and genetic mistake.
Hence, the question about our Indies-ness may be comparable to questioning the height of our bodies using the scale of kilogram. The question about Indies should not be separated from the net of institutionalisation and social practices that have created “collective identity” in the form of religious indoctrination, educational mechanisation, management of violence, and economic institution that never steps away from infant industry position. The four areas of culture exist in the clutches of ideological engineering.
Using different formulation, we can say that Indies as a topic of identification is not so much a psychobiological reality than social practices in certain limits of space and time.
The axis of situational transformations in such suggestive social sphere can never be single. As a form of consumerist reason, it is always double-faced and arrives with the face of Janus. On the one side, the face appears in the forms of egocentric pleasure (which is the continuation of the mooi Indie perspective) while on the other side it appears as violence, violence, and violence. While on the former side the Janus’ face appears through a semi-documentary film entitled Pengkhianatan G30S/…, on the later side it appears through films like Ada Apa dengan Cinta? and television programmes such as Akademi Fantasi. While the propelling institution of the first side is the school bureaucracy totally controlled by state apparatuses, on the second side the whole arrays of the film audience and the senders of SMS are moving together like a music concert conducted by the hands of corporations.
1] YB Mangunwijaya, 1984, ’Pengakuan Seorang Amatir’, in Mengapa & Bagaimana Saya Mengarang, Pamusuk Eneste, Jakarta, 1986, Gunung Agung, p. 104.
2] Hairus Salim HS and Muhammad Ridwan (eds.), 1999, ’Kultur Hibrida: Anak Muda NU di Jalur Kultural’, Jogjakarta, LKiS, p. 17.
Indies in Contemporary Indonesia
By Nuraini Juliastuti, KUNCI Cultural Studies Centre
Prior to Japanese invasion to Indonesia or during a time usually called as “preparatory period”, the Indo—those born in Europe and lived in Dutch Indies and the half-breed people having European and native blood—generally enjoyed social and economic positions better than others, even if according to social stratification prevalent among the Dutch living in Indies the “sinyo” or half-breed European usually held a lower economic status. The Japanese arrival in 1942 and the time towards the proclamation of Indonesia’s independence became the worst period for the Indo in Indonesia. Anton Lucas called the assassination of the Indo in the late 1945 or just after the Indonesia’s independence—in connection with “Peristiwa Tiga Daerah” or the incidents in three districts—as “a time of turbulence”. The Indo went through the most violent anarchy especially because they were seen as foreigners but enjoyed special economic status. In addition, this sentiment was intensified by racial prejudice, which is one of the main causes of the disorder. Nevertheless, in Indonesia today, the Indo can enjoy again a comfortable period. Now, one tends to be happy to know the fact that he or she is the descendant of a mixed-race family since this means “tampang bule” or having physical appearance that looks like a “bule” (Indonesians usually call white people as “bule” and those having physical appearance akin to the White as “bertampang bule”). “Tampang bule” can be the potential entrance that allows someone to become a star or celebrity. The stars, celebrities, entertainment world, television are important topics in Indonesian contemporary culture and hence it would be relevant to give attention to this postcolonial phenomenon in relation to the history of Indo.
The story of Bertrand Antolin (father: Thierry Robert Juhel [French]; mother: Jennonica Vernorita [Riau, Indonesian]), when he was a student, he was often ill-treated by scoundrels from other schools. Everyday, he lost this or that thing he brought to school. “Because I look like a bule, they thought my parents are rich and anything I have is expensive. One day, when I went home from school, I lost almost all things I wore, since they took away my shoes and watch, though in fact my shoes were never more expensive than Bata. And I bought the watch from a vendor on a sidewalk, the price was no more than Rp. 5000. But they came in group, I was scared, they might gang up on me. So I gave them all I had…” (Meteor Indonesia, 2004: 12). The main point of this story is that the “tampang bule” or Indo people are often identified with rich people.
The story of Indra L. Bruggman (mother: Indonesian, father: Dutch-Indonesian). “As a teenager, he grew up to be an attractive young man. His father is in fact an Indo-Dutch. Realising the merit, and supported by all family members, he tried to sign up for a cover boy competition run by a youth magazine..” (Meteor Indonesia, 2004: 22).
If we need to make a longer list, we can still mention a long array of Indo celebrities in Indonesia such as Chintami and Minati Atmanegara (Indo-German), Ryan Hidayat (Indo-Czech), Dian Nitami and Agnes Monica (Indo-Japanese), Marissa Haque (Indo-Pakistani), Bucek Depp (Indo-Arabic).
The term “Indo” contains intersectional meanings inside. The Indo people are said as having “white” complexion, especially if compared to native Indonesian complexion in general, which is tan or dark brown. Indo can also be said as representing the world’s ultimate beauty, which usually represented by white people, though Indo people are in fact not completely white since only one of their parents is purely white, or even one of their grandparents. Indo people are only 50 percent white or even 25 percent white. They are “global” and “local” all together. The grand machine of capitalism, amplified by globalisation, soaks up the Indo for the market of advertisement or entertainment since only this group of people widely acknowledged as the representatives of the mainstream beauty in today’s society.
However, in more recent development we can also see the representatives of other faces, namely those having darker complexion, or the surfacing of oriental faces. In Indonesian case, we may remember an array of Chinese-breed celebrities that were popular following the marketability of a television serial named “Meteor Garden” (Indonesian people have been familiar with the names such as Leony, Fery Salim, Roger Danuarta, etc.). Capitalism always needs a broad market, including its desire to be accepted in specific spaces. This is, in my view, a point that may explain the emergence of dark or oriental faces. This also makes clear that the discourse and ideas about “white” are unstable and always fluctuate. These days we often read in women’s magazines articles about the skincare for those having dark complexion. “Dark but Always Healthy”, thus the magazines say, complete with description of the recommended cosmetics suitable for dark skin.
We have discussed above the organic hybridise generated by interracial marriage. Now let’s turn to non-organic one, namely the mix between the different concepts of culture. Idea that cultural identity is continually changing has brought us to an insight that culture and identity are like a melting pot in which different cultures and identity meet and mix together.
Issues concerning the use of Dutch vs. Malay have been dealt with during the era of Indonesian movement, such as the debate between Syarikat Islam and Budi Utomo. Should people use Dutch or Malay when talking about the fate of the emerging republic? In Anak Semua Bangsa by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, for example, we can read a debate between Minke—who always write his articles in Dutch—and Kommer who often translates Minke’s articles into Malay on the reason that “the Malay reader can be sympathetic to Minke’s upright struggle”.
Sutan Takdir Alisyahbana once told an interesting phenomenon in relation to Dutch as the lifter of social status: “During the first quarter of the 20th century, Indonesian people often asked for greater opportunity for their children to learn Dutch. The result was that Dutch held a very important position in Indonesian society. Dutch became not only the prerequisite for any one who wanted to continue his or her Western education but also to get a good job that offered satisfying salary. Apart from these facts, one’s ability to speak Dutch was also regarded as symbol that someone belonged to an upper class in Indonesian society” (Allen 2004: 225).
Today, in Jakarta, there are scores of schools—from elementary to high schools—that call themselves “international school” as they allegedly offer curriculum different from others while the practice of daily teaching and learning uses English as the main language. This kind of schools sells well since parents in Jakarta are enthusiastic to send their children to such schools. The fluency in English is one of the signs that indicate the success of today’s children. There is a combination between the efforts to gain success in global competition—often simplified as fluency in English—and the hopes to gain honourable social status among local society. Indonesian labour market tends to treat those graduated from foreign schools and universities—whatever they may be—as holding higher status. A month ago I still found an advertisement for a position of operational editor for Femina magazine that reads: a graduate of foreign university preferred.
Antariksa in “Identitas Hibrida” (KUNCI Newsletter, ed. 6-7) notes clearly that in youth culture the style is the main identity apparatus for the youth and hence it becomes the main arena of hybridity. We may note some examples such as rap music presented in bahasa Indonesia and Javanese (Neo, Iwa K, G-Tribe), internationalisation of music (rock, rap, hip metal, punk), internationalisation of brands (MTV, Nike, Adidas), and internationalisation of sport (NBA, Italian or British football, etc.), or the hairstyles of those often called as “bulok” (local bule) who like to dye their hair blonde or cut the hair in Rasta style. “Which ones originally Indonesian and which ones unoriginal do not matter since the most important is style itself.”
Here I want to quote James Clifford who said that it is inadequate to understand cultures only in their relation to physical places. Cultures would be better understood in terms of travel. Cultures as travels. Cultures and the people that always in the process of travelling from a place to another. Cultures as sites of dwelling and travel, to take travel knowledge seriously. Culture as criss-crossing travellers.
In relation to Clifford’s concept of travel, another interesting example is the youth who wear T-shirts with printed words on them, such as Harvard University, UCLA, or Hard Rock Café (California), in the streets in Jakarta or Yogyakarta. Those wearing such T-shirts may never visit the places written on their T-shirts. Nevertheless, it is clear that they have “travelled to some place” so that eventually they adopt certain symbols without travelling physically. As to those wearing T-shirts that display the picture of Che Guevara or Osama bin Laden, the question is whether this phenomenon is merely a fetishistic attitude towards other cultural symbols or is it a way to localise the symbols already accepted as global ones. Relevant to these examples, the shops selling used clothes are important places where the clothes that have travelled far away from their original places meet together and where the youth can get all kinds of clothes, global symbols and attributes, and even certain clothes not suitable for the tropics like Indonesia. Chunky sweaters, leather coats with fur, are worn in sunny streets of Yogyakarta. The original meaning of the clothes has been emptied and replaced by new meaning.
The condition of today’s Indonesian society sliced by global culture has enabled us to mix anything so that we also have opportunity to produce imitations. However, the imitation should not be seen as submission to some culture or anything considered as “Western” often crystallizes in our minds as the “centre”. It may be more adequate if we say that this is an exchange between “centre” and “periphery”. In this context, we may find some awkward imitation, misplaced emulation, anything inappropriate or inconvenient. This is a condition essentially suggesting that being on the outer side does not mean to be pushed aside. Through the awkwardness, the centre is actually tried to be disrupted, put into question, adjusted and utilised in line with necessities. (*)