Locating the historical Kartini by Joost Coté, 22/05/2017, Indonesia at Melbourne
A new feature film has prompted a renewed interest in the life of national hero Kartini.
Dr Joost Coté will speak tomorrow at a panel discussion on “The film ‘Kartini’ and Kartini as a source of historical and contemporary inspiration in Indonesia”, sponsored by the University’s Indonesia Forum. Coté was a researcher and adviser for the film, which was released inIndonesia earlier this year.
Joost Coté is also the editor and translator of Kartini: The Complete Writings 1898-1904.
Like so many iconic figures of history, over the last century, Raden Adjeng Kartini (21 April 1897-17 September 1904) has been much mythologised, misused and misread – or should that be not read?
The creation of Kartini as a national feminist icon all began with a Jacques Abendanon, the former director of colonial education, who selected and published letters Kartini had written to prominent Dutch progressive figures to support his campaign for colonial education reform. The result was Door Duisternis tot Licht (1911). An American feminist, Agnes Louise Symmers, on hearing about this remarkable Javanese woman, produced a (rather loose) English translation. The result was an international “feminist text” in 1920, ever since known by the inappropriate title, Letters of a Javanese Princess.
Two years later, the erudite North Sumatran author Armijn Pane produced the first Indonesian translation, Habis Gelap, Terbitlah Terang, for the colonial government’s “good literature” program, Balai Pustaka, and 16 years on, a definitive version for Indonesian readers. In 1939, the first Javanese translation appeared – which has since effectively disappeared –in 1940, a Japanese translation, later a French translation, followed by others.