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The Fine Arts in Gender Transformation: A Study of Kartini Characterization


emancipation, javanese art and culture, javanese women, kartini, letters

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The formation of Kartini's character as a female character in addition to awareness of the acute Dutch colonialism practice, also internal factors, namely family and external, namely the condition of Indonesian society at that time. This can be seen from the contents of Kartini's letters to her two friends in the Netherlands, Stella Zeehandelar and R.M. Abendanon was also with important people, both Dutch East Indies government officials and native aristocrats his father's friend. Apart from the issue of women's emancipation which she always fought for until the end of her life, Kartini was also a person who paid great attention to the development of culture and art in Jepara. Kartini is considered to be an independent curator. At the age of 12 Kartini studied batik. She wears the batik sarong she made herself. He also learned to draw and paint. Kartini often writes about various things that surround her life, as well as in the field of batik art which she is familiar with with her two younger siblings. That is why Kartini praised and highly appreciated art as part of Javanese culture. Its openness to Western culture and civilization has never been interpreted as leaving behind the beautiful elements of Javanese culture. He always wanted to live as a Javanese as he wrote in his letter to Mrs. Van Kol, dated 21 July 1902.

Research Paper

The Fine Arts in Gender Transformation: A Study of Kartini Characterization




The formation of Kartini's character as a female character in addition to awareness of the acute Dutch colonialism practice, also internal factors, namely family and external, namely the condition of Indonesian society at that time. This can be seen from the contents of Kartini's letters to her two friends in the Netherlands, Stella Zeehandelar and R.M. Abendanon was also with important people, both Dutch East Indies government officials and native aristocrats his father's friend. Apart from the issue of women's emancipation which she always fought for until the end of her life, Kartini was also a person who paid great attention to the development of culture and art in Jepara. Kartini is considered to be an independent curator. At the age of 12 Kartini studied batik. She wears the batik sarong she made herself. He also learned to draw and paint. Kartini often writes about various things that surround her life, as well as in the field of batik art which she is familiar with with her two younger siblings. That is why Kartini praised and highly appreciated art as part of Javanese culture. Its openness to Western culture and civilization has never been interpreted as leaving behind the beautiful elements of Javanese culture. He always wanted to live as a Javanese as he wrote in his letter to Mrs. Van Kol, dated 21 July 1902.

Keywords: kartini, emancipation, javanese women, letters, javanese art and culture.


Gender is often interpreted as a synonym for sex, especially given to human beings. The denotative meaning of gender is the gender of the woman. In this case the meaning of gender is what is related to what is being carried by women, namely emancipation. All of these discourses were related when during the Dutch East Indies colonial period, the relationship between the colonialist and the colonized party occurred a hegemonic relationship. In this case the colonialist is the superior and the colonized is inferior. From this relationship, then emerges what is called domination and subordination. Such a pattern of relations then gives rise to unpleasant images of the colonized as an ignorant and backward group of people. From this kind of relationship pattern it is possible to bring up attempts to criticize this representation.

From the description above, it can be assumed that talking about gender is caused by a patriarchal bias. Because in a general view everything is measured according to masculine standards, so this is what makes feminine out of place. What is experienced as a feminist movement, should not only question emancipation or gender equality, but rather explore the extent to which democratization and egalitarian echoes contribute to social formation on those who are considered masculine sub-ordination.

At a time in the discourse of civilization from the present context, feminimism is welcomed as an articulate picture of experiencing pressure apart from masculine gender bias, as well as being victims of colonialism practices as depicted by feminists in third world countries (Gandhi, 2001: 114). Strangely, because the discourse of feminimism is commanded by the West, it is possible that if there is a feminine element in hers, it is always referred to as the first world feminine which is liberal and is not categorized as a sub-altern of feminism.

Starting from this, it is interesting to reveal the historical events of feminimism in Indonesia that are inherent in the figure of R.A. Kartini. In Indonesian historiography it is always played out that there is no historical democratization because it tends to be masculinity. Even so far, only big people and the role of women are put aside. Kartini's case is at the same time an example to prove that the gender theory that embraces post-colonialism can help this narrative. Interestingly, Kartini, in this chaotic discourse of feminism, was during her lifetime during the Dutch colonialism era where fighting hegemonicism was considered a protest against emancipation. In another area Kartini must also oppose her own culture, namely the Javanese feudal tradition, because it is related to the position of aristocratic women who must obey tradition. Kartini's movements were also heavy because of the element of hegemonic dependence, as when she had to draw from the West. In this case Kartini also admits that her appearance was also influenced by two of her correspondence partners, namely Rosa Manuela Abendanon Mandri as representing liberal feminism and H. Stella Zehandeelaar as radical feminism. R.M. Abendanon Mandri is the wife of J.H. Abendanon a Director of the Office of Education, Religion and Industry in the Dutch East Indies. His very close relationship with Kartini often made other people considered his mother. Likewise, Stella Zehandeelar is a Jewish woman and activist for radical feminism and is active as a member of the Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij (SDAP) party in the Netherlands (Bouman, 19543: 28-29). After crossing various obstacles that ended at a young age and having to be willing to wait for the marriage period, it turned out that what became Kartini's concept of thought was successful until it became discouraged in the Netherlands.

The feminism movement that Kartini fought for can only be found out through her letters sent to her two friends. In 1911 the correspondence by R.M. Abendanon Mandri is entitled "After the dark comes the light", which is translated into Dutch "Door Duiternis Tot Licht", while into English "Letters of Javanese Princess" (ANRI, Verslag Van De Toestand Der Gemeente Semarang, 1917: 356) .


Raden Ajeng Kartini was born in Jepara, Central Java on April 21, 1879 as the son of a Javanese aristocrat named Raden Mas Adipati Aria Sasraningrat who at that time served as regent of Jepara. Kartini as the first daughter of her mother named Ngasirah, whose status is the wife of a concubine. R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat, is the third son of R.M.A.A. Candranegara IV, a regent who is known to be progressive and open-minded with modern culture. Meanwhile Kartini's mother is, Ngasirah, the son of Kjai Haji Modirana and Siti Aminah. Kjai Modirana is a scholar in Telukawur village, Jepara who leads a boarding school in the village. Starting from this, Kartini from this lineage has flowed the blood of aristocrats and scholars. Regarding Kartini's mother who was not of royal blood, R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat to preserve his aristocratic status, then remarried RA.Muryan, who is said to be a descendant of the Madurese nobility. Marriage with Ngasirah R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat had children who were Kartini's siblings, among whom were R.M. Sasrabusana, R.A. Cakraadisara, R.M. Sasrakartana as an older brother, while his younger brother is R.A. Kardinah and R.M. Sasra Mulyana. Furthermore, with the wife of the consort R.A. Muryan, R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat has three children as brothers and sisters of R.A. Kartini of whom is R.A. Sulastri, R.A. Rukmini, and R.A. Kartinah.

In this case, polygyny had become a habit among Javanese aristocrats for centuries before Islam entered Indonesia. At that time polygyny was practiced in the traditional priyayi family of government officials. In a polygynous Javanese household, one wife is considered the first wife socially. This wife is not necessarily the first woman a husband will marry, but she must be a person of her own rank and social status. This wife is called by the term patmi. The other wives, called concubines, were always women who came from the lower classes (Koentjaraningrat, 1957: 66).

Since childhood, Kartini realized and understood very well that the tradition of Javanese aristocratic status, still placed its preservation position regarding regeneration for social status. This is related to the marital status of his father R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat, because he had to have a wife of noble descent, so put his mother, Ngasirah, as his concubine wife (Geertz, c 1964: 12). In connection with this, his biological mother received the title Mas Ayu, and oddly enough when she had to call Kartini, who was her own child, called her the word ndara. In fact, in Javanese tradition, this word is used as a communication between the servant and the master, while for Kartini and her siblings, if she calls her mother Mas Ayu Ngasirah, the word Yu. Starting from this, Kartini did not really like the tradition of Javanese nobility, so that when interacting with anyone she always asked herself to be called: "Just call me Kartini" (Wicaksana, 2019: 16).

Starting from "just call me Kartini" is an initial reflection to find out to what extent Kartini can make great work in slices of women's history in Indonesia. This simplicity made Pramoedya Ananta Toer the theme of an intriguing work, even though it actually took from the substance of Kartini's correspondence to H. Stella Zehandelaar on May 17, 1902. The letter was as written: "For the first time, my name would come out openly in connection with my people. I am proud of that, Stella to be named in the same breath with my people ”. (Toer, 2000). The letter shows Kartini's sense of humanism, which naturally has similarities in the formation of social status. This means that Kartini does not want to be considered far above other people, because she already feels so close to the people. This letter happened to be received by Stella Zeehandelaar, who is also a democratic girl in accordance with the environment in her country.

The formation of Kartini's character as a female character is in addition to her awareness of the acute Dutch colonialism practice, as well as internal factors, namely family and external factors, namely the condition of the community at that time. Starting from the contents of Kartini's letters addressed to her two friends, Stella Zeehandelar and R.M. Abendanon was also with important people, both Dutch officials and native aristocrats, his father's friends. From internal factors, Kartini admitted that without becoming the son of a regent, it was impossible to study at ELS (Europeesche Lagere School), so that it could lead to a modern personality. There is little that distinguishes it from the children of ordinary people or the people, because they are not so strict in family rules, especially regarding the period of seclusion. This period dictates that all girls should be inside the house, not to go out if there is nothing very important. Before the seclusion period, which is at the age of 6 years, is a period of growth and time to study at school, where there is an opportunity to go out and socialize with peers. After the age of 12 years, you must obey the seclusion period and the time is determined until you get a marriage or wait for the marriage period. This tradition of seclusion does not exist in Western countries that are so modern that Kartini feels jealous, as in her letter to Stella Zeehandelar, dated. However, Kartini must also respect tradition and also not reduce her love and devotion to her father who really believes in Javanese tradition. The tradition of seclusion of children for Javanese society is more strictly enforced on girls, especially noble families. However, Kartini and her two younger siblings, Rukmini and Kardinah, were also accepted and made a feeling of happiness. Before the end of the seclusion period when he was 8 years old with his two younger siblings, Rukmini and Kardinah had been invited by his father R.M.A.A. Sasraningrat to Semarang. The visit was because he was invited by Jepara resident Maria Oevink to attend the celebration of Queen Wilhelmina's coronation day on May 3, 1898 in Semarang.

The seclusion period for Kartini did not feel tired even though every day you could see only thick walls, so she spent the time reading books, mostly in Dutch. The book was obtained through his pen pal, including Mrs. R.M. Abendanon, Stella Zeehandelar, and Mrs. Oevink Soer. The various books read include the book Max Havellar by Multatulli, De Stille Kraacht by Louis Coperus, Goekoop de Jong Van Beek by Van Eeden and Augusta de Witt, De Locomotief magazine, and the women's magazine De Holandsche Lelie (Wicaksana, 2019:59). Apart from receiving books from both teachers and friends, Kartini also received great attention from her older brother R.M Sasrakartana. Even since he was still studying at HBS Semarang and then continued his studies at Leiden University, the Netherlands, he often sent books both international and national in nature. National books include Serat Wulang Reh and Centhini. According to R.M. Sasrakartana, by studying Javanese philosophy, it is hoped that Kartini will become a strong observer of culture.

From external factors, Kartini also felt how the condition of the community in her environment, especially in Jepara, still had moral decadence, especially related to understanding of religion and many who became opium drinkers. Disappointment with the understanding of religion, especially Islam in the surrounding community, because she was consulted through her letters to Nellie van Kol, Mrs. R.M. Abendanon Mandri, and Kiai Saleh Darat. To Nellie van Koel, he expressed his disappointment, because God is considered to be jealous and is more in favor of his Christian religion, while with Mrs. R.M. Abendanon Mandri feels uneasy because Muslims are deemed not to know the depth of the contents of the holy book Al-Quran. Kartini finally retracted this statement and did not continue to be consulted, because she realized that what was wrong was not her religious teachings but depending on the individual who deliberately did bad things to Islam. Regarding the relationship with Kiai Saleh Darat, is a scholar who became the teacher of his brother R.M. Sasrakartana, so that Kartini also followed him. When there was a feeling of dissatisfaction with his questioning friend, Stella Zehandellar, especially in relation to the Javanese people who generally only memorized the Al-Quran by heart, although they did not have to understand the meaning. Kartini then clarified this to Kiai Saleh land when there was a recitation meeting at the house of his uncle R.A.Hadiningrat, a regent of Demak on the following date, the dialogue between Kartini and her teacher Kiai Saleh Darat can be quoted as follows (Najmuddin, 2013):

"Kiai, let me ask how the law is when a knowledgeable person hides his knowledge ?. "Thus Kartini opened a dialogue.

Kjai Saleh Darat replied: "Why did Raden Ajeng ask that ?.

Kartini continued the question: Kjai, this is the first time in my life that I have the opportunity to understand the meaning of the letter Al-Fatihah, the first and mother letter of the Al-Quran. The contents are so beautiful, it shakes my heart.

Then Kjai Saleh Darat just stunned and did not say a word. Then Kartini continued the question: However, I wonder why all this time the scholars have strictly forbidden translating and interpreting the Koran into Javanese. Isn't the Al-Quran the guidance for a happy and prosperous life for the people ”.

Starting from this, Kartini has been able to awaken the awareness of Kiai Saleh Darat to translate the Al-Quran into Javanese. The translation of the Al-Quran starts from the letter Alfatihah to the letter of Abraham into the Javanese language called pegon and is known as the book of Faidhur Rahman. The book is the first interpretation in the archipelago in Javanese with Arabic letters (Abdullah, 2013; Tim Sarkub, 2013). Therefore, as a form of high appreciation and with the spirit of preaching especially to Kartini, Kiai Saleh Darat gave this book as a gift when his wedding ceremony was held with the regent of Rembang R.M. Jayadiningrat.

The next external factor was that at that time the people of Jepara seemed to be mired in consuming opium. From various sources throughout 1879 to 1882 the opium trade supplied to Jepara averaged 732 pikul or 44,681, 5 kilo grams. It can be said that this amount is too large and is estimated to be a third of the island for Java (ANRI, Verbal Kabinets Geheim 3/2. 1885, no. 7). The opium trade in Jepara became a big discourse to the point that involving the colonial government had to pay attention to it. The negative impact that occurs is due to the illegal opium trade or deliberately mixed with tike ingredients with the aim that prices are low but contain high health risks. The opium trade became wild because the syah-bandar handed over to the local dealers to trade in the villages (Indische weekblad van het Recht, no. 804, 1878).

The illicit opium trade invites lawlessness. The case of The Kong, a traveling peddler from the city of Jepara, was arrested because he was caught interfering with opium, so the head of the bandar shah was brought to Landraad. The embezzlement case, was Pak Rasimin from Jepara, who brought 432.6 kilograms of dark opium to the island of Borneo, but got lost on the island of Karimunjawa, so he was arrested by the marine police and brought to court. (ANRI, the Charles TeMechelen, H. 422b, 30 January 1882).

The chaos of the opium trade problem in Jepara was due to the fact that since 1883 there was a large opium mafia group. This trading division headed by a Chinese trader, Han Liong Ing, based in Kediri, managed to spread to the cities of the north coast of Java, including Jepara. It is estimated that in the long term the impact of this illicit opium trade will make Governor General Frederick Jacobs assign a team of investigators mandated to Charles TeMechelen after replacing C. Van Santen who was previously an opium commander in Jepara. Charles TeMechelen, in his work to curb the opium trade, had to change his tactics, namely by involving the assistance of the Assistant Resident of Jepara. The work was also not easy, because when you had to go through the local priyayi group, it turned out that there were many obstacles. (Rouffaer, 1918: 305)

Starting from this, the Governor General took firm action, because the smuggling of opium was considered the same as violating article 47 of the Regeerings Reglement Act or the Basic Law, so it was considered hostile to the policy of maintaining rust en orde or security and order and was subject to serious penalties. (Opium Regie, 1915-1933). With the enactment of strict measures related to the crime of opium, it can be said that until 1890 in Jepara it was considered stable against social disturbances.


Kartini is one of the children of the Indonesian nation who received a discourse to be recognized as an important figure in history, because it was formed with the spirit of the hegemonic era of Dutch colonialism. From the fragments of his struggle in the field of emancipation, it turns out that there are still others who can support his position. The background that accompanied the condition when Kartini reached adulthood was that the situation seemed to be carried away by the end of the Kulturstelsel that the Dutch government replaced its territory as a source of exploitation based on privatization. This policy was marked mostly by the leasing of land to foreign entrepreneurs because it was intended to increase the capitalism of the Dutch East Indies government.

The contribution that quickly supports the change in character both personally and in groups is after the replacement of the direct government system with a modern bureaucracy (Sutherland, 1983). The most obvious change in the field of culture, is the indigenous community, especially from the priyayi group. They must accept Western culture, as in this case is the custom of the European lifestyle, including: parties, dancing, drinking, as well as various arts. It could be said that once the Dutch government fully controlled it, all kinds of facilities that it liked had to be held in the Dutch East Indies. This phenomenon causes a mixture of European and indigenous cultures which is called the mestizo culture. The term mestizo was originally socialized by the Portuguese, when it came to referring to children born as a result of marriages between Europeans and Asians. The mixing occurred in an effort to develop trade interests, so that they had to live in Asia as a colony (Boxer, 1965).

This mestizo culture can be assumed to exist within the border period as a dichotomy between tradition and modernity. The reorganization that hit the priyayi group, made the mestizo culture acceptable if it had to stick to the patron of Javanese court culture, it turned out that the result was also not intact. Such conditions are easily seen, especially in the northern coastal region of Java, which is often insinuated as a "semi-European atmosphere", one of which is Jepara (Sutherland, 1987). In this life, according to Kartini's confession, sometimes there is a sense of beauty. According to Kartini, if the ideals are achieved, the dream of beauty will be relieved. The beauty that is easy to respond to is the beauty of nature. According to Kartini's depiction, what was often discussed with her friends when she was still studying was considered the beginning of a "journey of self-discovery" (Smail, 1971: 281).

Natural scenery seen by Kartini: Klein Scheveningen in his correspondence there are a number of two letters describing the natural conditions around Java. The letter addressed to Mrs. Abendanon in January 1902 was:

I went in the evening at dusk to Mevrouw Gonggrijp beach to bathe together there. The beach is very calm and the sea is blue. I sat on a rock with my feet in the water and my eyes fixed on the distant horizon. Oh, this world is so beautiful in its creation and peace is in my heart. If we go to nature for comfort, it will not let us leave feeling uncomfortable (Abendanon, 1976: 93, Symmers 1976, 96).

Ten days later he wrote again:

I turned my pensive face outward, staring at the blue sky, as if I was hoping to find there the answer to the doubts that swept through my soul. My eyes unconsciously followed the clouds as they made their way across the wide sky until they disappeared behind the green leaves of the waving coconut trees. My eyes then picked up a sparkling dau painted in the golden glow of the sun, (Abendanon 197: 101, Symmers 1976: 98).

In this case the sea mentioned by Kartini in the two letters refers to a beach called Klein Scheveningen, a beautiful place located near her house (there may be some guesswork that gave this place the name Kartini). Klein Scheveningen is certainly a famous tourist spot on a white sand beach on the outskirts of The Hague. It seems that Kartini compared the beauty of Jepara beach to the natural panorama of the north sea and added the word Klein which means tiny.

The word "Klein Scheveningen" can also be seen in a letter sent to Professor and Mrs. G.K.Anton in Jena on October 10, 1901. In this letter found words that are praising the natural beauty of the motherland of Kartini's birth, as written:

When we enjoy the music of birdsong, then we are grateful that God did not create us as deaf people. When we are in Klein Scheveningen, a beautiful place by the sea, where everything is calm and peaceful, and witnessing the incomparable sunsets, we cannot be grateful enough that we have been blessed with well-seeing eyes. As far as the eye could see, a mystical colored light pattern spread out over the sea and rose into the sky; and in my heart arises a prayer of thanksgiving towards that great unseen spirit, who created and still controls the universe (Abendanon, 1976: 113, Symmers 1976: 109-110).

Figure 1: Landscape painting: "Klein Scheveningen"

In this sense, the beauty of the landscape is universal, because it belongs not only to certain groups of colonial Javanese society, but to other places where the gods reside. Starting from this, the envisioned view is a reflection of the expression of the mestizo culture that still resides in Kartini's mind. This inspiration by Kartini, succeeded in trying to paint with oil paint, entitled "Tempo Doeloe", which is essentially a romantic expression of the past (Tsuchiya, 1986: 76). The period of seclusion made Kartini's world narrow, she was prohibited from leaving her magnificent house complex, let alone the porch of the porch, only occasionally stepping on it. Even then, her tedious days grew lonely when Letsy Detmaar, her old school friend, visited her before returning to the Netherlands. Kartini understands art as an element related to the conditions of the surrounding community. This he said in a letter sent to Abendanon on August 15, 1902:

That night, the windows and doors were open, chrysanthemum flowers bloomed about our room and together with the gusts of fresh breeze rustled with their leaves and sent us saying greetings in the form of their fragrance. I sat on the floor as I do now. At a low table, to my left Rukmini's sister was also writing. On my right Annie Glaser is also on the floor sewing, and in front of me a woman is singing us a story from a book. Some are the beauty of a dream that floats in a beautiful voice, holy, clear and clear, which lifts our soaring spirits upward into the kingdoms of happy beings.

While enjoying art, Kartini captures it as a way to show the importance of planning a happy life together. He wrote in a letter dated 15 August 1902 to E C, Abendanon:

how much I want when you are in the middle of our neighborhood. You will feel like us, enjoy the same, have the same dream .. A dream but life is not a dream but a reality that wants and naked. But that fact doesn't have to be bad if people don't want it. He's not bad. She is beautiful because there is beauty, in us.

Kartini also emphasized the importance of education for the people with the support of artistic advancement. Education can be developed through art. As a formation of the character of society he said:

“Oh, because of that I want that in the field of education, character formation should be paid attention no less well to and above all: education of grit. In our education, it must be developed in the child, on, on, ...”.

That is why, Kartini praised and highly valued art as part of Javanese culture, her openness to Western culture and civilization was never interpreted as leaving the beautiful elements of Javanese culture. He still wants to live as a Javanese. In his letter to Mrs. Van Kol dated 21 July 1902, he wrote:

Approximately a week before receiving Mrs.'s letter, one night, we sat outside the garden, the full moon at that time, you know not, that Javanese children like the light of the full moon, playing and singing in the courts,. in front of us, playing a group of little boys like that. Know that our own childhood plays in front of us. It was there that I suddenly got the inspiration to be able to keep that feeling of happiness alive and stored in our memories. I took out the paper and the lottery and in the light of the full moon I noted the games and songs that came out of the boy's mouth.

One of the branches of art that received Kartini's attention was Javanese music, namely gamelan. We see him in his fascination with the Ginonjing pieces. The name of the gending that Kartini and her younger siblings like. Ginonjing comes from the word (wobbly due to imbalance) with an “in” insert (representing an accident). Ginonjing means to be shaken without knowing who made the unbalanced position. Ginonjing can mean the experience of losing gravity, so that people can no longer control themselves. This gamelan brings Kartini to another world, losing all its sharp aspects. than everyday reality. He mentioned in his letter dated January 12, 1900 to Estella Zeehandelaar:

if only I could shrink myself so that I could crawl into the cover, I would of course go with this letter to you, Stella, to my beloved and best brother and to. . . Shut up. Don't go on! It's not mine, Stella, here and there I write some silly things. The glass gamelan in the pendapa can tell a lot more than I can. They were playing the three of us favorite song. It would be more accurate to say that it wasn't a song, not a melody, just a note and a sound, so soft, so soft acting and vibrating aimlessly. Soar but how touching. How touching beautiful! No, no it is not a sound from the glass. Or the brass, or the wood that rises there, that is the voice that comes out of the human soul, speaking, to us, groaning for a moment, then weeping and sometimes I laugh, and my own soul floats along with the sound of its sacred silver voice. it up to the blue sky, to the cotton wool, to the glittering stars, the sound of a deep gong soaring into the sky, and the sound of the sound carried me through deep and dark valleys and lurahs, through the deserted forest, through impenetrable wilderness. While my soul trembled with fear, pain and sorrow.

Kartini wrote again:

I have heard Ginonjing thousands of times, but not a single sound, not a single note I can catch. Now, after the gamelan has stopped, there is not a single sound that I can remember, everything is blurred in my memory, the beautiful sound of grieving, which makes me unbelievably happy, but it is so sad. I can't listen to Ginonjing, without being deeply moved. Already at the beginning of the opening notes, I have disappeared drowning, when Ginonjing is heard by me, I don't want to, listen to a sad song, that, however, I must, have to listen to the voices that whisper the sigh, which tell the story. to me about the past, about the future, and it was as if the breath of the shaking silver voice had blew away the veil that closed the mysteriousness of the future. And as clear as it is with the present, the pictures of the future appear before my inner heart, So it shudders me, when it appears to me, dark sad images appear before me. Don't want me to see it but my eyes remain wide open, and at my feet gaping into the abyss that makes me nervous and in my heart the light rises again.

Kartini was able to immerse herself in gamelan music, in fact she is more accurately described as a gamelan worshiper. In her letter dated December 12, 1902 to Mrs. Abendanon, she said that music had a great influence on us. This means that gamelan always brings it to the realm of memories in the past. Kartini's love for gamelan is very great because gamelan is able to carry her feelings, especially with the Ginonjing music. He could not forget the gamelan (letter Zeehandelaar, 12 January 1900). With the gamelan, Kartini feels like she is living in the glorious age of her ancestors. Meanwhile, with Western music he feels alive in modern times. In her letter dated August 20, 1902, which was sent to Mrs. Nelly Van Kol it said as: "pouring a stream of fire into our veins".


The background of Kartini's appearance did not necessarily have to be related to the interests of the Dutch government, especially in terms of proving to bring up one of the advanced personalities from a colony. Kartini was chosen because she could intensely interact with her friends who were Dutch people and in correspondence her letter had a story that was specifically (Bachtiar, 1990). This cannot be separated from Kartini's position, who happened to be the daughter of the regent of Jepara, so she had special access to high-ranking officials of the Dutch colonial government.

One of the accesses is a deep awareness of Jepara carving, because it is considered as belonging to the community. The event that awakened Kartini's awareness was when she was introduced to Zimmerman, a Dutchman, as an observer of Jepara carving. When found together with Mrs. Van Kol and Abendanon, they agreed to promise to introduce Jepara carvings to the agenda of the meeting "Oost en West", namely in the form of exhibitions in the Netherlands (Letter to Abendanon, 15 August 1902). Kartini's attention to the nation's cultural traditions is also shown through her concern for developing various fields of art. Kartini's observation of various branches of the performing arts at the district pendapa did not escape the observations of Kartini. In fact, she paid particular attention to wayang kulit performances that contained high philosophical values.

In the field of dance performances, as a child Kartini was also happy to perform, and together with her peers. In fact, he once dreamed of becoming a dancer and making friends with the dancers in the regency building. He wrote in a letter dated 29 August 1902 to Mrs. Nelly van Kol:

Very often my mother dressed us as dancers, then danced until we fell tired. Duh. Holy holiness: with complete confidence we immersed ourselves in the dancers' embraces. We admire the art and they are very kind to us. (The art of traditional dancers in Javanese society was considered low at that time based on reasons of decency). Long, long after, we learned to understand who they really were, those whom we admired, and we reduced that admiration as our knowledge of the human world became more and more complete. So, we felt ashamed because we wanted to be dancers. And much, much later, we learned to separate the art from the people who raffled it…

Besides that, Kartini is also interested in the art of batik. While in seclusion, being confined to the walls of the regency house, Kartini had written a letter to Stella Zehandelaar on November 6, 1899. The substance was to express her joy regarding the batik article she had written a year earlier and which would be published in a book. In the book, besides himself, there are also other writers, namely G.P. Rouffaer and H.H. Juinboll entitled “De Batikkunst in Nederlandsch Indie en haar Gescheidenus” (Rouffaer, 1918). Kartini wrote on the theme Handschrift Jepara in good Dutch and was placed in the first chapter.

Figure 2: Kartini batik works (often called batik Kartini motifs)

As for Kartini's greatest interest in art is the field of literature, as can be seen in her letter sent to Stela Zehandelaar:

"Everything that is beautiful and wonderful in life is poetry." . Stella also admitted that she wanted to be a writer. You know my passion for literature and you know it is my dream that one day I can become a writer who is reckoned with in the field of literary arts.

Kartini was also interested in painting, although it was not as strong as in literature. Regarding this, he said as follows:

I can paint too, but I'm always tempted to write. Even so, he wrote and painted as he admitted. My current activities are writing, painting, and doing anything that can comfort my father.

Kartini is a figure who knows the power of art but she also knows human flaws. According to him, artists are not always as beautiful, sacred, and pure as the works of art they do, whether in the fields of carving, music or dance, and there is no economic, social, and moral unity between art and artists. However, he appreciated them because his artwork directly helped glorify and increase the prestige of the Dutch East Indies natives among other nations in the world. Various works of art produced by Kartini in this case will be displayed, namely painting, carving and batik. In painting, it is a realist depiction, two swans swimming on a lake, whose blue water is enlightening. In the element of the figure that houses the painting, it is made of teak wood which is carved with Jepara motif ornaments. Only one of these paintings is still stored in the Rumah Kartini museum.

Karya R. A. Kartini

Figure 3: The painting of two geese birds (This painting is the only one of Kartini's works which is still kept in Kartini's house in Jepara)

The carving work created by Kartini is a box complete with carvings in the form of a wayang figure placed on the top cover and on the four walls. The box measures 88 cm long, 33 cm wide, 13 cm high, 5 cm high cover, and 2 cm high leg rests. He admits that the application of motifs with the theme of wayang characters is due to his love for puppet shows (Kartini, R.A, 2010: 148).

Figure 4: Carved work in the form of a jewelry box / cepuk with a wayang motif carving with lung-lungan

Kartini as an independent curator. At the age of 12 Kartini studied batik. She wears the batik sarong she made herself. He has also studied drawing and painting, some of his works in the form of drawings and paintings are published in Pramoedya Ananta Toer's book "Just call me Kartini". Kartini often writes about various things that surround her life, as well as in the field of batik art which she is familiar with with her two younger siblings. When she was 19 years old, namely in 1898 in The Hague, the Netherlands a large exhibition was held, namely the Exhibition of Women's Works. During the exhibition, the queen queen stopped at a booth called "Java", where various examples of handicrafts and art products of the Indies people were displayed, including those from Java. The royal queen mother was also interested in batik, so she examined and flipped through the script about the creative process of making batik which is written in detail.

According to H. Bouman, the manuscript on batik entitled "Handschrift Jepara" was written in very good, if not perfect, Dutch. It is Kartini's writing. A year after the exhibition, Kartini's introductory writing was included in the book De Batik Kunst In Nederlands Indie en Hare Gescheidenis, by G P. Rouffaer and H H. Juynboll. In the foreword, the two indologists wrote that the initiative to compile the book was inspired by Kartini's "Handschrif Japara" which was intended to introduce the advantages of folk arts and handicrafts from her country.

From Kartini's writings as expressed by Parmoedya Ananta Toer, Kartini wrote many introductory or promotional writings for batik works and folk crafts. Pramoedya's point was in line with the writing by the introduction to Joost Cote  who translated some of Kartini's writings which were later published into the book Letters from Kartini (Joost Cote 1992). In his writing, Joost Cote said that “Kartini's interest in traditional batik art and her support for the Jepara wood art industry is of particular concern. Kartini positioned herself as an observer, artist, writer and entrepreneur in documenting "traditional" designs, encouraging innovations and introducing more efficient production and trade arrangements.

The influence of the writing entitled Kartini Handschrift Jepara is very significant, which thanks to this article has resulted in the results of the wood industry in Jepara being the focus of attention of many enthusiasts. In addition, many people in the Netherlands became more acquainted with the works of art and crafts of the people of the Dutch East Indies. In his letter to Stella Zehandelaar dated 11 October 1901, Kartini said that she cheered when she heard the news that an envoy from the Netherlands would arrive to the Dutch East Indies who cared and wanted to help the Dutch East Indies art in general and batik art in particular. Kartini was also pleased when she learned that the delegation from the Netherlands was planning to clean up foreign interference which might degenerate Jepara's traditional arts.

Apart from batik, Kartini's concern is also directed to the field of carvings carried out by the community in Blakang Gunung Village, Jepara, where the people have traditionally carved wood as work. Unfortunately, their lives are still poor, their daily social conditions are far from pleasant. Their expertise in the field of carvings cannot be appreciated proportionally and they have not earned a decent income. In her letter dated August 25, 1903 Kartini was very concerned about the lives of those who, according to her, were far from prosperous. In an effort to improve their lives, Kartini campaigned in two ways. First, he strives for the widest possible publication of these artists and their works. among others, through a prose paper entitled "Van een vergeten Uithoekje" (Forgotten Corner). In this article, he explained the various uniqueness of the Jepara area with carving products from teak wood. Second, Kartini directly participated in improving the daily working conditions of the artists who sat half naked on the ground without any foundation, with their legs stretched out with kathok trousers covering their knees (letter dated 20 August 1902 to Mrs. Nely van Kol).

In addition, Kartini also sent examples of artworks everywhere as part of the promotion, including to the Queen of the Netherlands in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies branch "Oost en West" based in Batavia. Kartini's promotion produced many things, including the entry of orders in large numbers from the “Oost en West” association for Jepara carving works produced by residents who live in the village of Blakang Gunung.

In the design field, Kartini also has several initiatives to create new carving design patterns, but still in harmony with the existing design patterns in society at that time. Another noteworthy achievement is that Jepara's carving works were not only favored by Europeans who were the target audience for Kartini's promotion, but also reached indigenous leaders who filled their houses and offices with Jepara carving works. In his letter to Mrs. Abendanon dated August 25, 1903, Kartini's intention was to seek broader and strategic efforts to develop the Jepara wood carving industry. Kartini has also developed the Jepara wood carving industry. Kartini has also thought about the management and economic aspects of the people's industry, for example she said:

"To make the industry a little meaningful, first of all it takes capital and leadership. a big workshop had to be set up, lots of kenek needed, as well as guiding other people, and placing them under constant supervision and a place near us always. I think that within a year, at least the capital put into this company will return twice as much. "

In addition, Kartini also had an awareness of the importance of work commitment and loyalty to agreements in doing business, in this context with the association "Oost en West", in Batavia, which marketed the products of the villagers of Blakang Gunung. In the same letter Kartini suggested that "Oost en West" open a branch office in Semarang closer to Jepara because many prospective buyers in Semarang could not understand why they had to order from Batavia for products produced from areas not far from Semarang. This was considered important by Kartini because at that time the agreement between Kartini who represented the villagers of Blakang Gunung and the “Oost en West” group stated that they only distributed products through the “Oost en west” association.

As previously stated, the activity to curate is to pay attention, select, collect, display, research, discuss, document, and manage works of art (Moon, 1999:11-15). Kartini has also paid attention to and cares about batik works, wood crafts and the renewal of her designs. She has written articles introducing and promoting the art products of her community and has even written a comprehensive and detailed introductory article on batik works for a large forum, namely the National Exhibition of Women's Work in the Netherlands. Kartini also opened a corridor connecting the Jepara craft community with the “Oost en West” association which manages sales, she also helped maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the two parties. Based on what Kartini has done with full commitment and high dedication. Kartini deserves an award, not only as a figure of female emancipation, but also as an artist curator and independent curator, as well as protector and promoter.

Kartini's attention to the development of fine arts and crafts is shown by her concern for the fate of artists and craftsmen, including in the fields of batik, weaving and carving in Jepara. The art of carving wood, forging gold and weaving is on a significant level, so it has received great attention from “Oost en West” for Santa Claus. These creative and skilled artists are able to carry out and express beautiful ideas as a result of the composition of the lines and shapes of the waves that sway very beautifully with a brilliant and glowing finish. According to Kartini, the fate of the artists and craftsmen at that time had not yet received the respect they deserved. Therefore, Kartini tried hard to raise the traditional art that has long been practiced by artists and craftsmen from generation to generation in order to get the respect it deserves. Therefore, Kartini tried to raise the traditional arts that have long been practiced by artists and craftsmen from generation to generation in order to get the respect they deserve. To understand their situation, Kartini did not hesitate directly to the craftsmen's settlement to find out firsthand the realities of life and their socio-economic conditions, then looked for solutions to help solve the difficulties they faced.

According to Burger, economic efforts within Indonesian society are not separate from cultural life, it is different from economic life in Western countries which have completely separated from cultural life (Burger, 1970). . In addition, the individualization of social life in Indonesia is insignificant when compared to that in Western countries, in general, Indonesians are more attached to their communities, thus individual business is more tied to customs and traditions. The efforts made by Kartini showed her concern as a member of society who was bound to customs. He felt he had a moral obligation to help the difficulties faced by craftsmen, according to the voice of his conscience. The ways this is done is by gathering artists and carving craftsmen in the district to work on various ordered items. This is done so that the craftsmen who produce their products can be more widely recognized by the enthusiasts. The enthusiasts can see firsthand how difficult and complicated it is to do handmade items, so that there is an awareness among them to appreciate the handicrafts of the hands according to the level of difficulty carried out by the craftsmen. Finally, the various efforts that have been made have obtained positive results and promise positive expectations.

After Kartini got good relations with the association "Oost en West", he took the initiative to call Singowiryo the most famous carving expert at that time from the village of Blakang Gunung to lead the craftsmen. (Gustami, 2000, 114). Kartini's initiative was continued by creating new designs that had never been done by Jepara carving artists. At that time, the ornament in the form of a puppet, which was still considered taboo at that time, was asked by Kartini to be used as an ornamental element to work with. This requires extra careful awareness to convince the craftsmen that carving wayang as decoration will not have a negative effect. This event also reflects a renewed mindset, which was originally based on a mythic tradition that considered the taboo of depicting wayang forms in any place, then entered a new modern mindset that had a different point of view at that time. Kartini gives freedom to craftsmen to do the making of goods according to their own abilities and desires. This was intended to provide opportunities for the growth of creative power without pressure from outside. In this context, Kartini wanted to emphasize freedom of creation. The freedom to create is in line with the new values ​​that are developing. It must be admitted that many old traditional values ​​are still useful in modern life, but there are also old traditions that require renovation and innovation and adjustment to the realm of renewal.

The works produced by artists and craftsmen are then included in exhibitions, both at home and abroad. The exhibitions that are carried out are also in the context of promoting the nation's own art products to a wider forum in the hope that their work can be seen by so many people and provoke the interest of buyers. Kartini suggested that this good opportunity had come for crafters after the National Exhibition of Women's Work in The Hague or Nationale Tentoonstellling voor Vrouwenarbeid. On that occasion, an institution called "Oost en West" was established whose aim was to revive the art of handicrafts in the Dutch East Indies, which was experiencing a decline at that time. Furthermore, the association "Oost en West" held exhibitions and succeeded in attracting the attention of people in the Netherlands to the handicrafts of the Dutch East Indies people, so that the craftsmen received large orders. Kartini did not take advantage of the order at all, they were only burdened with the cost of kirin which should have been borne by the craftsman. The large order has further stimulated the craftsmen to be busy in production activities. Along with promotional activities through exhibitions, Kartini also wrote articles published in several European magazines. Several well-known newspapers in the Netherlands published Kartini's writings and articles on Jepara carving, including Eigen Haard and de Echo magazines.

The endeavors taken by Kartini eventually paid off, namely the growing development of the wood carving furniture industry in Jepara. As a result of the large number of orders, a new problem arose, namely the lack of capital to support production activities. As is known, the material used for carved furniture products is super teak wood. Therefore, the price is expensive and it becomes an obstacle for craftsmen who are experiencing growth. Thus, efforts should be made to find an owner of capital who is willing to help overcome these difficulties. Kartini made an approach to owners of strong capital to be willing to help expedite efforts to develop the traditional arts industry. Her efforts have paid off, so she can move more freely in developing various kinds of products that are of interest to buyers. In terms of marketing Kartini has contacted major cities in Semarang and Batavia. Especially the owner of "Oost en West" who has become a marketing subscriber of the work of indigenous craftsmen. The marketing activities that were successful in attracting buyers from the Netherlands gave Kartini immense joy, for in doing so she helped overcome the socio-economic difficulties of craftsmen.

The various advances that have occurred have to do with changes in the structure of Javanese society. Village ties and feudal ties were very strong at the end of the 18th century, since the 19th century experienced changes with the abolition of capitalism. The increasing weakness of adult bonds and the widening of induvudualization are indications of the stronger desire to be independent in economic and business life. Around 1800, the traditional ties in the economic life of the Javanese people were very thick and strong, namely village ties and feudal ties. The situation in Java has changed since the 19th century, with the elimination of feudal ties and the weakening of deaa ties. This means that economic life becomes more independent and individualization progresses. Throughout the twentieth century the individualization process continued. This was developed by Kartini in helping craftsmen who give freedom to work and be creative. Kartini's great devotion spirit seems to be understood by the present generation of women, as evidenced by the era of independence and development, there were many female figures who paid great attention to the development of traditional arts.


Kartini's case is at the same time an example to prove that the gender theory that embraces post-colonialism can help this narrative. Interestingly, Kartini, in this chaotic discourse of feminism, was during her lifetime during the Dutch colonialism era where fighting hegemonicism was considered a protest against emancipation. In another area Kartini must also oppose her own culture, namely the Javanese feudal tradition, because it is related to the position of aristocratic women who must obey tradition. Kartini's movements were also heavy because of the element of hegemonic dependence, as when she had to draw from the West. In this case Kartini also admits that her appearance was also influenced by two of her correspondence partners, namely Rosa Manuela Abendanon Mandri as representing liberal feminism and H. Stella Zehandeelaar as radical feminism. After crossing various obstacles that ended at a young age and having to be willing to wait for the marriage period, it turned out that what became Kartini's concept of thought was successful until it became discouraged in the Netherlands.

Kartini's seriousness in developing Jepara carving was also seen in her efforts to form a cooperative. Together with his close friends from the Netherlands, Kartini sought support and foreign capital to develop the desired cooperative. This is evidenced by the birth of a fundraising institution for Kartini's activities in Java, centered in the Netherlands, which became known as Kartini Fonds. This organization managed to raise a number of funds, although the realization of these funds only occurred after Kartini died. The funds raised were then used to improve the delivery of vocational education and Kartini Schools throughout Indonesia. The condition still looks apprehensive.

Based on the various available data, it shows that Kartini's character as a fighter for emancipation does at a certain level seem inseparable from the Dutch colonial image politics related to her ethical political system. At least it can be said here that the hegemony of the Dutch colonial government in "exploiting" Kartini's narrative was so dominant that there was a reduction. In Kartini's letters, which had just been published at that time, Notosuroto felt that there was a similarity in stance. He gave long quotes from Kartini's letters to illustrate how Kartini was struggling towards a harmonious unification of elements of Eastern and Western civilizations. It is not a narrow nationalism, not an imitation of foreign elements with an attitude of inferiority to oneself, but rather continues to build on its own good foundation, towards the common human ideal.


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