Of Hidden Queens, Warrior Women, Emancipist Princesses and Managerial Mothers

Jennifer Dudley, Ph.D. Candidate and Filmmaker, Asian Studies/Media, Communications, Culture, SSHE, Murdoch University, Murdoch University

Pub Talk 11 April 2002


A discussion of the iconic and archetypal in representations of Indonesian women of history and legend in art, film and contemporary discourse.

Over the past few years, I have spent considerable time in Indonesia researching my Thesis and making a film about the artist Lucia Hartini and her paintings. In contextualising her life and these works, as in the selection of images from which the film is constructed, I have considered a myriad fascinating cultural and artistic threads, alluded to many, but ultimately followed only a few.

The iconic women represented by Lucia Hartini in her paintings since 1985, have been intimately connected with the artist's self-actualisation and personal growth and mention will be made of this here. But ironically it was an "imaginary" portrait, - a painting of Laksamana Keumalahayati, the "Sea-faring Woman" of Aceh, by one of Lucia's peers, the social realist painter Dede Eri Supria, and a character from a less wellknown film of Kurosawa which has led me to look more closely at this particular part of the jigsaw puzzle which forms my Thesis.

And for those like me who long for peace in strife-torn Aceh, a dinner conversation revealed the existence of the forgotten Queens of Islam whose rule followed the era of the clever Admiral, with her diplomatic skills, and who were in turn followed by Cut Nya Din, immortalised in film by Christine Hakim in the 1990s. Indeed, Cut Nya Din has an impressive mosque named for her in Central Jakarta, in the area where I often stay when visiting.

Now that Indonesia has its first female President, achieved after 55 years of Independence, (whilst we in Australia have yet to have a woman Prime Minister or Governor General after 100 years of Federation), constructing a hypothetical genealogy of cultural precedence where the emphasis is on such iconic representations of women in their own right and on their achievements, might prove most useful in both "national" contexts.

Jennifer Dudley Ph.D. Candidate and Filmmaker,
Asian Studies/Media, Communications, Culture,
SSHE
Murdoch University
South Street
Murdoch
Western Australia


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