Learning from the survivors of 1965
Sri Muhayati could not hold back her tears after performing a play entitled Gejolak Makam Keramat (Sacred Grave Unrest) in front of around 400 audience members at the Koesnadi Hardjosoemantri Cultural Center, in Yogyakarta, in July.
Several youths who watched the play asked for permission to embrace the 76-year-old.
The scene was captured in a video recording of the play, which was recently shown during an event at Kedai Kebun restaurant, also in Yogyakarta.
“I was deeply touched. We weren’t selling our suffering,” Muhayati told The Jakarta Post after watching the video along with the other survivors of the 1965 tragedy.
For Muhayati, the young people’s reaction after watching the play indicated that they had begun to understand the gravity of the tragedy, which followed the death of seven generals on Sept. 30, 1965.
“They’ve started to grasp the history of the 1965 incident; [that it was] nothing like what they were told as children,” she said.
The tragedy began with the murder of seven generals by Cakrabirawa state palace guards in Jakarta. Army Strategic Reserve Commander Maj. Gen. Soeharto accused the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) of attempting a coup and masterminding the assassination.
The military and police later hunted down anyone viewed as supporters of the now-defunct PKI. The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) noted in 2012 the presence of initial evidence of systematic rights violations, ranging from the denial of freedom and rapes to the forced disappearance of people, with victims estimated to have reached between 500,000 and 3 million.
Muhayati was among the people caught amid the political upheaval. After authorities arrested her father, she and her mother were also captured. Her father, a PKI member, was executed and buried in a mass grave in Wonosobo, Central Java.
“I was jailed for five years, moving from one prison to another,” she said.
Gejolak Makam Keramat was adapted by visual artist Agung Kurniawan from Leng (Hole), a play written by Bambang SP from the Gapit theater group. It depicts a factory that evicts and disrupts the life of village people. Any villager who dares to oppose the factory, a symbol of capitalism, disappears without a trace. This story is close to the fate of the 1965 tragedy victims, who were either jailed or disappeared.
The 13 survivors were slated to read the story of Gejolak while sitting or standing. However, Sumarniati, who testified at the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia 1965 in the Netherlands in 2016, and had trained 19 times for the event, failed to go on stage after suffering from a light stroke.
Although physically infirm due to their age, the 1965 tragedy survivors retained their high spirits for the theatrical performance to offer their best contribution.
Muhayati said Gejolak players are members of the Tamara theater troupe, an acronym for Tak Mudah Menyerah (Unwilling to Surrender). They also belong to the Kiper organization, an abbreviation for Kiprah Perempuan (Goalkeeper).
“Kiper is an organization to keep the goal of families; we’re supporting each other to survive and be able to educate our posterity to become worthy citizens of the country,” she said.
High enthusiasm was also shown by another player, Kuatini, 75, who lives in Sorogenen village, Bantul, in Yogyakarta. She covered the distance of 6 kilometers by bicycle to Yogyakarta for theater training.
Sri Wahyuning, 84, a former state palace singer of the 1960s, also displayed her great zeal despite her need for a support to walk. She wrapped up Gejolak by singing her own song titled “Rawa Pening,” which is a marshy zone near Ambarawa and Salatiga, Central Java.
“I want the youths to be concerned about the nation and state of Indonesia,” she said.
Agung, the initiator of Gejolak Makam Keramat, was the promoter of the recording and performance of Dialita in Yogyakarta, an all-female choir group of 1965 survivors living in Jakarta. Agung wishes to invite the younger generation to learn about the tragedy through the arts.