De njai: moeder van alle volken : 'De roos uit Tjikembang' en andere verhalen
KITLV Uitgeverij, 2007 - Social Science - 347 pages
'Zij is en blijft de inlandsche vrouw, die alleen met de Europeaan wil zamen wonen, zich aan hem ten beste geeft, hem al hare diensten wijdt, alleen omdat zij daardoor de zekerheid bekomt, dat zij nu een goed leven leiden en in ruime mate voldoen kan aan de onbegrensde zucht naar pronk en opschik'. Met deze woorden karakteriseerde W.L. Ritter in 1855 de njai, de concubine van menig Europese, Chinese en Arabische man in Nederlands-IndiŽ. In de Nederlandstalige koloniale literatuur van de tweede helft van de negentiende eeuw was de njai het symbool van degeneratie en dreigde zij de koloniale samenleving te ondermijnen. De njai deugde niet.
In de Maleise literatuur daarentegen is zij de trouwe, spaarzame en integere vrouw. De njai deugt wel, maar valt in de Maleise verhalen en gedichten ten prooi aan de meedogenloze mannencultuur. Zij is daarin vooral de brug tussen rassen en tussen culturen, want zij is de moeder van Indo-europeanen, Indo-chinezen en Indo-arabieren. De njai is de moeder van alle volken.
Maya Sutedja-Liem selecteerde zes verhalen waarin de njai de hoofdrol speelt, vertaalde ze en bracht ze samen in deze bundel. Tezamen vormen deze vertaalde portretten een belangrijke bijdrage aan debatten rond gender en identiteit in een koloniale context.
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The description of Johannes Everhardus Tehupeiory reflects the young doctor's excellence in mobilizing literary skills [not to mention his useful but short medical career and political acumen] in support of his liberal ideals. The editor’s neglect of his roots, however, makes his uncommon level of achievement appear surprising.
"Surprising" because one could expect two attitudes from his "gewone komaf," common descent. Logic would demand that Johannes Everhardus (‘Nanny’ within the family) should be conservative, given his social status as a doctor. Or he should be a revolutionary, considering his views on the social injustices of colonialism. His precocious record of the Borneo expedition observes that these were not merely headhunting savages, but a people living in harmony with nature. The ‘savages’ consistently showed kindness and hospitality to the White Man’s Borneo expedition. The ingenuous whites were primitive and helpless, dilettantes in the jungle.
Johannes Everhardus was neither conservative nor revolutionary, but a liberal patriot, as his selection of the newspaper's title showed: “Holland's Flag.” His surviving younger brother, Willem Karel, was likely of the same persuasion. Also a medical doctor, Willem Karel carried on a life-long campaign for social justice through loyalty to the "Mother Country" Netherlands. He was reported to have protected with his body the portrait of the Queen in his office, when a Japanese officer tried to hack it down with his sword.
Reasons lie in their uncommon descent.
Both were born in Ema, in the Moluccan archipelago, and better known as Ambon, the prized island of the colonial spice wars with Portugal. Coming from Indonesia's eastern fringe, far removed from Java and Batavia/Jakarta, they would have been unknowns from the beginning, foreigners in what was not yet their own land.
Their values, as one would expect, were formed at home.
Their Father, Ahasverus Jacobus Tehupeiory was the school Head Master in Ema, thus literate as well as respected.
To be a Christian was a prerequisite for the government job of teaching. The family had been Christian as far as can be remembered. Much of Ambon had been converted long before by the Portuguese, with the Dutch later introducing competing Protestant versions.
Moreover, to follow this career - or calling - Ahasverus had renounced the position and title of Rajah of the coastal town Hutumuri. If one compares this position to the medieval European designation of a hereditary village head, the title corresponding to "rajah" would be a baron.
Ahasverus Tehupeiory had elected to live for the common good rather that occupy a sinecure as administrator in an unjust system.
It appears that both Ahasverus’ sons conformed to the Tehupeiory style.
Hence I would respectfully dispute the editor's dismissal of Johannes Everhardus’ as deriving from “gewone komaf.” Tehupeiory was nobly motivated to employ his talent and intellect in the service of tempered idealism. This was a natural sequitur deriving from his uncommon descent.