Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | 19:57 WIB

The “Saya, Soeriadi, dan Tanah Air” exhibition

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Jakarta, IO – The entire family of the first Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force (KSAU), Soeriadi Suryadarma, staged an exhibition, “Saya, Soeriadi, dan Tanah Air” (Me, Soeriadi and the Nation), in Rumah Puan, Cilandak, Jakarta, some time ago. 

This exhibition was inspired by a memoir containing family documentation and notes written by Soeriadi’s wife, Utami Ramelan. The exhibition collected memories from around 1979 and published them as a book with the same title as the exhibition in 2012, by the Bung Karno Foundation. 

Sabila Duhita Drijono (29), Utami-Soeriadi’s fourth great-grandchild, was involved in curating the exhibition. Sabila, who has a background in museums and galleries in education from University College London, spoke to the Independent Observer and recounted the process of sorting out the photos and documents to highlight in the exhibition. She also expressed her personal impressions of remembering Utami, her “Titi,” as she used to affectionately call her, through authentic photos and writings preserved by her family over the years. 

The exhibition was organized into eight parts. It begins with “Saya, Soeriadi, dan Tanah Air,” an introduction describing the contents of the book with the same title as the exhibition. The next part was describing Utami in “Utami Muda dan Dunianya,” which highlights Utami’s close relationship with her father and family. It also emphasizes Utami, who was born in Sragen on February 2, 1917, and her progressive mindset since her school days. 

The most interesting part was the fact that Sabila managed to picture Utami as a revolutionary figure. Despite her privilege and access to Dutch education, Utami tried hard to achieve her own goal and determine her destiny. “I want to achieve something with my own abilities. I want to work and earn my own living. In short, I want to determine my own destiny,” is one of Utami’s writings that illustrates her progressive thinking. 

The third part, “Pahesan,” tells about a magazine initiated by Utami, her sister, Utari, and several of their friends. The magazine addressed issues circulating around young women at the time, including women’s rights, social critique, and international peace. “Pahesan,” which means a mirror, symbolizes Utami’s struggle to represent women’s rights. 

Utami and her coworkers left their priyayi status (or elite class); transitioning was difficult. Their idealism and teamwork helped “Pahesan” to be published regularly between 1937 and 1941, voicing young women’s ambitions. 

The fourth part was about “Soeriadi.” This part narrates how Utami and Soeriadi first got to know each other, then fell in love and decided to get married, and had three children. The “Saksi Sejarah” (Witness of History) section followed, in which Utami described her perspective on the Dakota VT-CLA aircraft crash, which killed several air force men and served as the forerunner to Air Force Devotion Day. Utami had a new perspective on this event, different from the history that focuses on the events and incidents. 

In one of her preserved written notes, Utami expressed her fears when she heard the unusual sound of the airplane on July 29, 1947. She described her feelings after learning that the aircraft manned by her husband’s colleagues had crashed after being shot down by a Dutch Kitty Hawk plane. 

“My heart shattered when I learned that Adisoetjipto and Dr. Abdulrahman Saleh were on the crashed plane,” she wrote. “I saw my husband in tears for the first time upon his return from Maguwo. After taking care of everything, including bringing the victims’ bodies to the hospital and other things he needed to do,” depicts Utami’s mixed feelings – ones that she never shared except on a piece of paper in her notes. 

Apart from highlighting Utami as a historical witness, this exhibition also features the section “Utami dan Tanah Air” (Utami and the Nation). This part exhibits Utami as a woman who was actively involved in nation-building, with her involvement as an Indonesian representative at the All Indian Women’s Congress in 1947. “Ibu dan Titi” (Mother and Titi) expresses the impressions and messages from Utami’s offspring, and the last part, “Kain, Kebaya dan Identitas” (Cloth, Kebaya, and Identity), wraps up the exhibition by describing Utami’s efforts in consistently connecting her personal identity with Indonesia until her passing. 

Sabila also displays one of Utami’s black kebayas in this section. Sabila admitted to having no significant issues while putting together the exhibition. She successfully applied the select and highlight strategy to depict Titi’s life stories that are relevant to the present time. 

“From those many events in the memoir, I tried to choose and highlight events that I think were important for Titi personally, and I tried to keep the history relevant to young people,” Sabila said. 

“As a woman, I tried to express her gender-equal thoughts, which were her struggle. I emphasized that issue in particular to link with this era, as that struggle has always existed,” she continued. 

Read: Whose Smile Went Viral After Handing Over Impounded Learning Tools

Sabila stated that curating Titi’s memories left her with a special feeling of reconnecting with herself and her identity. 

“The curating process was my way of reconnecting myself with my roots. We are nothing without our identity, and we can get to know our identity by knowing our family, our roots. So, this is my way to reconnect with my ancestors,” Sabila explained. 

The “Saya, Soeriadi, dan Tanah Air” exhibition was held to celebrate Kartini Day, which is commemorated every April 21st. The exhibition lasted for five days, from April 19 to April 23, 2024. (un)

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