Category Archives: Indonesia Blog

Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Pramoedya was born in Blora, in the heart of Java, in 1925 as the oldest child in his family. His father was a teacher and his mother was rice seller. He studied in Radio School and then worked as typist for Japan newspaper in Jakarta during Japannese occupation in Indonesia.

After Indonesia independence struggle, he joined military group in Java and often placed in Jakarta. He wrote short story and books during his military carreer, and imprisoned by The Dutch in Jakarta in 1948 and 1949.

In the fifties, he lived in Holland as part of cultural exchange program, and after the returned he joined Lekra, a left wing organisation in Indonesia. His writing style in that perios is shown in his piece, Korupsi, fiction about intrix among officials who are trapped in corruption. This created frictions between him and the government of  Soekarno.

He learnt the torture to Indonesian Chinese and he had good relationship with writers in China. He published correspondence with those writers about Chinese Indonesian history, entitled as Hoakiau di Indonesia. He was a criticus who concerned about Java-centric government and other regions interests. In 1960s he was arrested by Soeharto regime for his Chinese communist vision. His books were banned and he was imprisoned without court in Nusakambangan and finally moved to islands on the eastern part of Indonesia.

He was arrested 3 times in the colonial period and once in the Old Order, and during the New Orded he was a political prisoner without court in 13 October 1965-July 1969, July 1969-16 August 1969 in Nusakambangan, August 1969-12 November 1979 in Buru Island, November – 21 December 1979 in Magelang.

He was prohobited to write in Pulau Buru, yer he arranged to write his popular series Bumi Manusia, semi-fiction novel about Indonesia history. The main character is Minke, alow  royal Javanese man as reflected by his experience. The first book was read by his fellow prisoner, and the rest were smuggled abroad to be collected by Australian writer and later were published in English and Indonesian.

Pram was released in 21 December 1979 and received not-guilty legal letter and was not involved in the 1965 coup, but still should under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992, and also city arrest and country arrest until 1999 and should report once a day to Kodim Jakarta Timur for 2 years. During that period, he wrote Gadis Pantai, a semi-fiction novel according to his grandmother’s experience. He also wrote Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu in 1995, a autobiography based on his letters which were not allowed to send and Arus Balik in 1995.

Ketika Pramoedya mendapatkan Ramon Magsasay Award, 1995, diberitakan sebanyak 26 tokoh sastra Indonesia menulis surat ‘protes’ ke yayasan Ramon Magsasay. Mereka tidak setuju, Pramoedya yang dituding sebagai “jubir sekaligus algojo Lekra paling galak, menghantam, menggasak, membantai dan mengganyang” di masa demokrasi terpimpin, tidak pantas diberikan hadiah dan menuntut pencabutan penghargaan yang dianugerahkan kepada Pramoedya.

Yet few days later, Taufik Ismail, revised the news. He said that he did not ask to withdraw the letter only remind people of who Pram was and people did not know Pram’s dark side in the past. He mentioned that Magsasay award was a carelessness. Mochtar Lubis even threatened  to return Magsasay Award awarded to him in 1958, if Pram would still be awarded the same award. Lubis said that HB Yasin would also return Magsasay Award, yet HB Yasin said different thing.

In various opinions on Media, artists who felt that they were suppressed by Pram asked him to admit and apology for what he did in the era of Demokrasi Terpimpin, as Pram was accused to suppress artists who disagreed with him.

Pram appraised his writings and speeces in pre 1965 were no more than polemics which could be followed by anyone. He regretted to be involved in various actions too far. He was even malingned when he was accused to burn books. He asked this matter to court if the materials were sufficent. If the materials were insufficient, he asked to bring it to open forum, yet he asked to answer and defend himself.

Since New Order, Pram had not gotten freedom to speak up, he had been attacked openly on newspapers.

Pram had written in numbers of colums and short articled critisized Indonesian government. He wrote Perawan Remaja dalam Cengkeraman Militer, a documentation written in sad style how Javanese women were in Japanese occupation. Those women were transported to Pulau Buru and experienced sexual abuse , and chose to live there instead of returning to Java. Pram made introduction when he was sent to Pulau Buru as political prisoner   in 1970s.

Many of his writings touched inter cultural themes, between the Dutch, Javanese royal, Javanese in general and Chinese. His writings were semi autobiography where he describes his experience.  He received Ramon Magsasay for Creative Communication Journalism, Literature and Arts in 1995.  He was also considered to get Nobel in literature. He won Fukuoka XI Asian Culture Award in 2000 and in 2004 he was awarded Norwegian Authors’ Union Award. He went to north America in 1999 and won an award from Michigan  University.

He wrote until he passed away, though he health was deteriorating by his age and smoking habbit. In 12 January 2006, he was ill for 2 weeks in his house in Bojong Gede, Bogor and finally moved to hiospital. Pram was reported to have diabetes, respiratory problem and his heart weakened.

On 6 February 2006, in Taman Ismail Marzuki was held an exhibition of Pram’s works, for his 81st birthday.

 

Legend of Rara Mendut and Pranacitra : Javanese Romeo and Juliet

Roro Mendut was a very beautiful lady who had strong will. Her beauty could make men’s hearts melt, from just common men to noble men or battle commander. One day Roro Mendut was kidnapped by Adipati Pragolo II, who reigned Pati and wanted to make her as one of his concubines. But before he could make her one, Roro Mendut was taken by commander of Mataram, Tumenggung Wiraguna who wanted to make her as his concubine as well. Here is the story of the legendary Roro Mendut,.

Long time ago, on the northern coast of Java, notably on the coast of pati, Central Java, there was a fishermen village, Teluk Cikal. The village was part of Pati Regency reigned by Adipati Pragolo II. Pati was one of regions conquered by Mataram Sultanate reigned by Sultan Agung.

IN Teluk Cikal village lived a girl, Roro Mendut. She was very beautiful. And she could straight forward-ly rejected men proposing her, as she had young man whom she loved, Pranacitra, the son of Nyai Singabarong, a rich trader.

Oneday, her beauty was heard by Adipati Pragolo II. And he wanted to make her as his concubine. He had asked her over and over again, but Rara Mendut kept rejecting him. He was disappointed and he sent few guards to kidnap her when she was drying fish nearby beach. She tried hard to escaped from the guards but she failed. They brought Roro Mendut to horse carriage and took her to palace. As future concubine, she should stay inside the palace (pingit = old Javanese tradition for girl over 12 years until her wedding day), and she was accompanied by Ni Semangka and her assistance Genduk Duku). When she was in pingit period, Pati Regency was having an upheaval. Sultan Agung accused Adipati Pragolo II as rebellion as he did not want to send tribute to Mataram. Sultan Agung attacked Pati, and led the assault himself. According to folktale, Sultan Agung could not hurt him as Adipati Pragolo wore armour of kere waja. Seeing this the umbrella holder of Sultan Agung , Ki Nayadarma, asked Sultan Agung to fight with Adipati Pragolo II. Sultan Agung allowed him and gave him Baru Klinting spear.

Ki Nayadarma fought with Adipati Pragolo II, but Adipati Pragolo II could avoid every attack from Nayadarma. When Adipati Pragolo was careless, KI Nayadarma stabbed Adipati Pragolo II with Baru Klinting spear, to part of body uncovered by armor. Adipati Pragolo II died.  All soldiers led by Tumenggung Witaguna seized Pati belonging, including Roro Mendut. Tumenggung Wiraguna was mesmerized by Rara Mendut beauty and he brought Rara Mendut to Mataram to be his concubine. Tumenggung Wiraguna persuaded her to be his concubine, but she rejected, even she said frankly that she had a lover already, Pranacitra. Her frankness made Tumenggung Wiraguna angry. He finally threatened that if she did not want to be his wife, she should pay tax to Mataram. Rara Mendut was not afraid of that threat. She preferred to pay tax than being Wiraguna’s concubine. Monitored by Mataram soldiers, Rara Mendut was allowed to sell cigarettes at market. Tumenggung Wiraguna agreed, and Rara Mendut could sell her cigarettes well, even people (men) crowded buying cigarettes that she had smoked. She was popular in the market for her cigarettes and for her beauty. Oneday, when she was selling cigarretes, she met Pranacitra who came for her. Pranacitra tried to find a way to get Rara Mendut out of Mataram. Rara Mendut told her meeting with Pranacitra to Princess Arumardi, one of Wiraguna’s concubine, hoping that she could help her to escape. Rara Mendut knew that Princess Arumardi did not agree Wiraguna would make another concubine. Princess Arumardi and Nyai Ageng (another Wiraguna’s concubine), planned a way to get Rara Mendut out of the palace. Rara Mendut and Pranacitra tried to return to their home village, Pati.

Unfortunately, Rara Mendut and Pranacitra escape was smelled by Wiraguna, and they were found by Wiraguna. Rara Mendut was taken to Mataram and quietly he ordered his men to kill Pranacitra. Pranacitra died and  wasburied in a small forest in Ceporan, Gandhu, 9 km east of Yogyakarta.

Wiraguna then asked Rara Mendut to be his concubine. But Rara Mendut rejected him again, finally he told her about the death of Pranacitra. Mendut did not believe that and said that she saw him yesterday. . Tumenggung Wiraguna then took her to Pranacitra’s grave. She cried at the grave of Pranacitra. Not far from the grave of Pranacitra, Rara Mendut threated Tumenggung Wiraguna that she would tell Sultan Agung about this. Tumenggung Wiraguna was angry and he drew Rara Mendut home. She struggled to get loose of Wiraguna, when she could released herself she drew Wiraguna’s keris, and ran to her lover’s grave. Wiraguna ran after her. Rara Mendut killed herself, and Wiraguna failed to stop her . She stabbed herself with keris and she fell to Pranacitra’s grave. Wiraguna was very sorry for his mistake. But his sorry was useless everything had happened. To amend his mistake, Wiraguna buried Rara Mendut at the same grave as Pranacitra. That was the story of Rara Mendut struggling for her dignity and loyalty.

Rara Mendut Tale from Pati, Central Java is still told as symbol of true love by Javanese. By YM Mangunwijaya, this story was written in trilogy, Rara Mendut, Gendukku, and Lusi Lindri. A Movie adapted from the novel was also made, directed by Ami Prijono with title Rara Mendut. In 2008, a trilogy novel was published in a compilation : Rara Mendut: Sebuah Trilogi.

The message of this tale is that wealth, position, could not guarantee to get true love. True love present from understanding and accepting each other as Pranacitra and Rara Mandut.