Friday, August 10, 2007
Denias Senandung di Atas Awan
“Denias Senandung di Atas Awan” (“Denias humming from above the cloud”) is one of good movies produced by Indonesian producers. It is produced by Alenia Pictures. The story-based one a true story-is about one boy named Denias living in Papua, one quite big island in Indonesia, located in the eastern part of the archipelago. The island has one so-called biggest gold mining company in the world, the Freeport. However, it doesn’t mean that the native people there live wealthily. Denias used to live in one poor village located in inland and the villagers still practice the ritual ceremonies from their ancestors.
There are five interesting things that I noted when watching it.
Mourning ritual ceremony
When Denias mother died in an accident, because a torch used fell down and burnt the house made of wood, his father had to undergo the mourning ritual ceremony, his left forefinger was cut. While for the other family members, they had to bath in mud.
For the first ritual, the forefinger is cut to show the mourning, I, as one stranger of one ethnic group in the Papuan culture, am of opinion that this practice is really not humane. The husband will get double pain, the mental and the physical. Although I must say that when I get psychologically troubled, sometimes I want to injure my body so that I will get injured not only inside but also outside. (I always suspect myself as suffering from sado-masochism.)
This ritual reminds me of the practice of suttee in India in the previous century. When a husband died, the wife had to throw herself into the blaze burning the corpse of the body. This is much more inhumane because a woman deserved life no longer when her husband died. Mary Daly stated that suttee was legally banned in 1829. I am wondering if in this era there is still one ethnic group in India still carries out this inhumane practice?
Discriminative treatment toward other people
One scene in the movie shows this discrimination when the Board of School refuses to accept Denias as one student there, with reason, “Denias does not come from the surrounding area. This school is especially for children from ethnic groups living around here.” Sam Koibur, one teacher in the school tries her best in order that Denias can study there because she sees good potential in Denias. This is what she says toward the Board of School:
“When the first time I came to this place, I heard a lot about the discriminative treatment toward other people. At first I thought that the discriminative treatment was only done by the newcomers; but in fact the native people here also can do the unfair treatment toward their fellow inhabitants.”
The situation is absolutely different from the one in Java, the most densely populated island in Indonesia. In Semarang, my hometown located in Central Java province, the government needs to issue regulation of ‘regionalization’ where students are to study in the school located in the same region where they dwell. If not, smart students will flood the most favorite state schools downtown, and the schools located in the suburb will only get the less intelligent students. This creates gap among state schools.
Papua is an island where the native people have dark skin with kinky hair. There are many ethnic groups there with different local languages that make them not able to communicate well if there is no national language-Bahasa Indonesia. Once I met a Papuan person that told me in the past people from those different ethnic groups often fought to each other because of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and different habits. This reminded me of the beginning story of slavery in the United States where many dark skinned people were brought from Africa to America to be slaves. (I refer to AMISTAD movie.) On the ship they could not communicate because they spoke different languages. In America they were treated very badly by the whites, such as being whipped when they were considered to be slow to work, or to do some mistakes. Unconsciously this way to treat other people was stuck on their mind. Consequently, they did the same thing when other people did mistakes, or just to take revenge. In the short story “Sweat” written by Zola Neale Hurston, Hurston wrote how Sykes treated his wife, Delia. It was the same way how the whites treated the black people. Considered to be under the black men, the black women had to get that severe treatment: as a revenge of the black men because they were considered lower than the whites?
The native of Papua have been treated unfairly by the new comers to that island. Feeling inferior, they do not protest. Unfortunately, then they ‘take revenge’ to their fellow native Papuan.
Papua is one of the richest island in Indonesia-with its gold mining company, the Freeport-but most of the native people live poorly.
The land is rich with gold and copper. However the native don’t know how to mine ores containing gold. Therefore they cannot do anything but just become workers after the mining company was established there some decades ago. Who gets the most profit from this mining company? Not the native people of course.
Denias comes from a poor family with an uneducated father. However, one volunteer teacher says that he is smart and suggests him to pursue his dream by studying until he can reach the cloud, to see the world from above. By the end of the story Denias is accepted to study in one elementary school in the town nearby. After the movie is over, it is stated that now Denias is studying in Darwin Australia, with the scholarship he got from the Freeport company.
Studying in formal school
Since Denias’ father is uneducated, he doesn’t realize the importance of studying in a formal school. He is angry when he finds out that Denias is studying (in a makeshift hut used as temporary school) while he needs Denias’ help to do something. Pay attention to the following short dialogs between Maleo (one army member sent to the area. he was willing to teach Denias and his friends simple arithmetic, how to read and write, geography, etc) and Samuel, Denias’ father.
Maleo: I need your help to make Denias able to study again.
Samuel: Don’t interfere my affair. That is not your duty.
Maleo: I know this is not my duty but your duty.
Samuel: This is not Java. All sons have to help their parents. You don’t understand that.
Maleo: I understand that. That’s why Denias has to study. If he studies, he will be able to help you a lot later.
Samuel: That’s it. You only can say later later and later. What I need is now now and now.
From the above conversation we can conclude that process of acculturation between the culture of the native and the culture of the comers really need handling carefully and wisely so that none feels cornered and marginalized. The comers are not supposed to feel more civilized than the native, while the native are wiser to adapt with the new things. It is understandable if the native didn’t find it necessary to study arithmetic, reading, writing, etc in the old time. However now with more and more people move to Papua, it is advisable that the native study the same thing as the comers: to protect Papua their native land from the greed of the comers.
“Koteka”, traditional clothes in Papua.
To find out more about koteka, check this site: http://www.answers.com/topic/koteka
People in Papua wore ‘koteka’ in the old times. This ‘cloth’ is only to cover the genital organ of both men and women. Papuan women in the past were topless and breasts were not considered to be covered. In the beginning of the movie, there is a ritual traditional ceremony called “Wearing Koteka”. The ceremony is done in a religious way that means ‘koteka’ can be categorized something sacred because only to wear that, they need to hold a special ceremony.
This reminded me of one experience of one of my Professors at college. Several years ago he was among some other experts in culture involved to carry out some acculturation process in Papua. One of them was: “To make our brothers in Papua wear more proper and decent clothes. We are already civilized here. How can we let our brothers there stay naked and not well cultured?”
If you were the native of Papua, would you consider these strangers more civilized only because they covered up their bodies? Or would you consider them as colonizers?
Not knowing what he would do in Papua at the beginning, my Professor protested after finding out the intention of a group of so-called expert in culture from Java.
“Denias Senandung di Atas Awan” is indeed worth watching with so many moral lessons behind. The casts are: Albert Fakdawer as Denias, Ari Sihasale as Maleo, Michael Jakarimilena as Samuel, Marcella Zalianty as Sam Koibur, one teacher who helps Denias accepted in the school in the town nearby.
PT56 12.21 100807