The “Missing” Eye of the Messenger
Let us imagine Indonesia in 1965 as a 20-year-old nation. A dynamic, intelligent, vigorous youth. Brave enough to refused the aid from United States. Believed in being revolutionaries to change the nation faith for the better. The political dynamic was in its heyday, with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI – PartaiKomunis Indonesia) seems to be winning the majority. Then suddenly after the night of 30th September 1965, this youth changed dramatically. The eye of the youth changed into a dark gloomy desperate old eye. The youth body lost its spirit, oppressed and just stood there as to watched the bloodiest event in the modern Indonesian history. Millions were killed and gone missing, no one know the exact number. The effect of the event was tremendous that the rivers in Java and Bali turn to the color of blood red.The army took power under General Suharto. No one stop the killings under the name to exterminate the communist. Since then the word “communist” went missing from the tongue of Indonesian cause of fear and traumatized memories. It was an unstoppable mass killing unheard by the world maybe even until today.
Forty-six years later, we found this same eye lingering still in Iwan Effendi’s paintings. At sixty-six years old, Indonesia became the fat old corrupted image of an old man. But the eyes, the same dark gloomy desperate old eye stayed the same. It stayed as to wait for judgment day. Some say, the eyes are the key of the heart. These eyes represent the Indonesian heart struggling with their unresolved histories.
In the series of paintings by Iwan Effendi together with the poems of Maria Tri Sulistyani, this “missing” histories making their way to be re-interpreted by the generations of Indonesian who are lost in the knowledge of their own history. For to understand ourselves today is to dig into our own history, on where we come from and how are we standing here today. Iwan uses the metaphor of eyes, heads and birds throughout his paintings to describe his perception of the event in 1965. The lost of hope in the sad eyes, decapitated heads everywhere and rumors around the event (“kabarburung” in Indonesian means “news bird” or to be translated as gossip surrounding the truth). While Maria’s poem seems to sing away in a melancholic tone accompanying the paintings. If Iwan’s painting could sing, Maria’s poems are their voices.
While working on his works, no matter how bright the colors Iwan’s trying to put in his painting, the gloom of the work atmosphere always stays. The process for him is like taking off a dark veil of his own nation. Like what Maria said because this matter could not be taken lightly that it’s not a bright happy thing to be brought up. To talk about the killings, the sadness, the anger, the silence and the lost of hope from such a long time, had never been an easy thing to do for anyone. To express the poems for her is to mourn the faith of the unheard victims.
These works are an attempt to reread the history of a nation, of what had gone wrong, putting a puzzle together to convey a message from the past for a better humanity in the future. It is a reminder for us that the same thing could happen again. Humancapability of destruction and violence could create such a hellish moment in a nation’s memories. Finding the truth of the event is very important as a learning process for every single human being. For the hope someday the eye of the messenger could flicker and brighten. That an old body could maintains its young spirit and optimistic heart. That hope could never be completely lost.
Yogyakarta, 10th September 2011