An exhibition in Jakarta to celebrate author Pramoedya Ananta Toer seeks to give a glimpse into a different side of the late Indonesian literary legend.
Titled Namaku Pram: Catatan Dan Arsip (My Name Is Pram: Notes And Archives), referring to the name Pramoedya, as he was commonly known by, the show is currently free for viewing at Dia.Lo.Gue in Kemang, South Jakarta until May 20.
Speaking to reporters to mark the recent opening, Pram’s daughter, Astuti Ananta Toer, said the family together with organisers had carefully curated manuscripts of his works as well as personal letters written by him.
The collection on display illustrates Pram’s elaborate writing process, Astuti said, explaining that her late father had always conducted extensive research for his creations.
“To make, for example, Bumi Manusia (This Earth Of Mankind), Pram had to spend days in the library and also had his students’ help to write, where they were assigned to sit in the library and study one year’s worth of Indonesian newspapers to produce Bumi Manusia,” said Astuti.
Also exhibited are several of Pram’s letters written to his family during his imprisonment on Buru Island in Maluku. Pram, who was an outspoken democracy advocate, was imprisoned under successive regimes throughout his life, including 14 years under the dictatorship of Soeharto.
He often sent letters with messages reminding his children to respect and care for their mother.
“Pram is close and loving to his family. He always made the time to write letters,” said Astuti.
This is the first exhibition of its kind in Indonesia, after having previously held similar events overseas, including the Netherlands and Germany, said Astuti.
Plans were ignited following a successful theatre adaption of Bunga Penutup Abad (The Flower That Ends A Century), which ran for a two-day performance last year.
Director and scriptwriter Wawan Sofwan had combined This Earth Of Mankind and Child Of All Nations for the play co-presented by the Titimangsa Foundation, which was founded by Indonesian actress Happy Salma.
Happy, who starred in the play and has been a lifelong admirer of Pram and his work, wanted to take the next step and sought to unveil the late author to a larger audience.
Through an existing relationship with Pram’s family, Happy collaborated with Astuti, as well as Dia.Lo.Gue owner Engel Tanzil and Renitasari Adrian, the programme director at the Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation, to hold the exhibition.
“Pram’s work transcends time, and it is still relevant today. All his stories are about the essence of living, of which there is no instruction manual for life. But we can learn from someone who writes about it well, and the way he writes it is full of emotion and outstanding dedication, which I can only find in his writings,” said Happy.
The opening celebrations involved several notable figures, including senior journalist Najwa Shihab and veteran actor Slamet Rahardjo, who each read passages from Pram’s work.
“Coming from a film background, Pram’s writings translate into a rich scenario, with every paragraph describing a scene vividly,” said Slamet.
Pram was born in Blora on Feb 6, 1925, and his work began to gain prominence in the 1950s through his short stories and novels.
His best-known works are the Buru Quartet novels, which trace Indonesia’s birth of nationalism and the independence struggle against the Dutch.
Throughout the span of his career, Pram produced more than 50 books and essays, which have now been translated into 42 languages.
Pram was nominated several times for a Nobel Prize in literature before passing away in 2006 at the age of 81. – The Jakarta Post/Asian News Network