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||Muhammad Yamin (1903-1962)|
Indonesian historian, poet,
playwright, and politician, sympathizer of the leftist Murba Party (Partai
Murba), founded by the national hero and
Communist leader Tan Malaka
(1897-1949). Yamin started his career as a writer in the 1920s, when
Indonesian poetry was marked by an intense and largely reflective
romanticism. After the early 1930s, he devoted himself entirely to
politics, history, and promoting Indonesian cultural unity and national
identity. Yamin introduced the sonnet form into Indonesian poetry.
Di atas batasan Bukit Barisan
Minangkabau Muhammad Yamin was born in Talawi,
the island of Sumatra. His father, Oesman Gelar Baginda Khatib,
was the much-respected penghulu andiko (headman) of
Indrapura. Yamin was educated at Hollands-Inlands School (Dutch-Native
School), in Palembang, and Algemene
Middlebare School (AMS). After the death of his father, Yamin studied
law in Jakarta, graduating in 1932. He
worked in Jakarta until 1942, specializing in international law. He
also served as the legal adviser of Himpunan Antero Lid Tubangan Untuk
Fonds (HALTOF), a mutual fund founded by railway workers. In
1937, he married Siti Sundari, a teacher and feminist activist; they
had one son.
While still a student, Yamin started his political career in
nationalist movements and organizations. His
first political home was the relatively moderate Parinda (Partai
Indonesia Raja, Greater Indonesian Party). When it was dissolved, he
joined in 1937 a new party, the Gerindo (Gerakan Rakjat Indonesia,
Indonesian People's Movement), which combined the struggle against the
threat of Fascism – resulting in Japan's aggressive policy in the 1930s
– with the struggle for national independence.
With a few exceptions, Yamin's early poems did not have a
agenda, but reflected personal feelings. He began to contribute poems
in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra
in 1920, but his works were still tied to the clichés used in Classical
Malay. Captured by national enthusiasm, Yamin published in February
1921 the poem 'Bahasa, Bangsa' (Language, Nation), which glorified
Malay language. Its motto was derived from Goethe's Faust: "Was
du ererbt von deinen Vatern hast. / Erwieb es um es zu besitzen" (That
which you inherit from your fathers / You must earn in order to
possess). Tanah Air (1922, The Fatherland) was the first
collection of modern Malay verse
to be published. Noteworthy, the first important modern novel in Malay, Sitti
Minangkabau Marah Rusli, appeared in the same year. Rusli's work
ten years of great popularity. The 'fatherland' to which Yamin
referred, was not Indonesia but Sumatra. In the title
poem, Yamin stands on the hills of his native Minangkabau country,
praising its natural beauty. 'Bandi Matatam' (Hail, Motherland!), a
long poem about Indonesia's great past, which appeared in 1923 in Song Sumatra, was not included in Sanjak-Sanjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin (1954, The Youth Poems of Mr. M. Yamin), edited by Armijn Pane.
In 1928, the Second Congress of Indonesian Youth proclaimed Malay, since known as Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), the language of the Indonesian nationalist movement. Yamin made an initiative through the organization Indonesia Muda, that Bahasa Indonesia is made as the foundation of a national language. Today it is the republic's official language and the principal vehicle for innovative literary expression. Also attempts at writing modern literature have been made in most of Indonesian major regional languages.
Through the years 1920-23, Yamin published poems in Jong
Sumatra. His second collection, Indonesia
(1928, Indonesia, Land of My Birth), which came out on 28 October,
1928, stressed the political idea of Indonesian independence.
The date of the publication was historically
important – then Muhammad Yamin and his fellow nationalists
resolved to revere a single – Indonesian – homeland, race and
language. In the first Indonesia Muda Congress in 1930, Yamin spoke of
"the power of the national idea, which rests on the existing unity of
fatherland, people and language". (The Idea of Indonesia: A History by
R. E. Elson, 2008, p. 78) His play, Ken Arok dan Ken
Dedes (1934, Ken
Arok and Ken Dedes), was the first drama to use Malay after Rustam
Effendi allegorical drama Bebasari
(1926). Written in prose, it took its subject from Java's history, from
founding of the illustrious kingdom of Majapahit. Originally the play
prepared for the Jakarta Youth Congress of 1928, and staged again many
times in the subsequent years.
From the late 1920s until 1933, Roestam Effendi, Sanusi Pané
with his poems (Madah Kelana, 1931) and plays (Kertadjaja,
1932; Sandhyakala ning Majapahit,
1933), and Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, were the principal shapers of the
Malay language and its literature. Yamin made much use of the sonnet
form, borrowed from Dutch literature. At that time, in the
1920s, among the major writers were national activist Abdoel Moeis
(1898-1959), whose central theme was the interaction of Indonesian and
European value system. Pandji Tisna's (1908-1978) Sukreni, gadis
possibly the most original work of pre-independence fiction, came out
in 1936. It dealt with the destructive effect of contemporary
commercial ethics on Balinese society. Distinctly innovative poetry
began to appear in the 1910s. The European sonnet form was especially
popular, but the influence of traditional verse forms remained strong.
Although Yamin experimented with the language in his poetry, he uphold the classical norms of Malay more than the younger generation of writers. Yamin also published essays, historical works, and translated Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a play about loyalty and betrayal, and a works by the India's Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (Menantikan Surat dari Raja; Di Dalam dan di Luar Lingkungan Rumah Tangga). Invited by Javanese intellectuals, Tagore visited Indonesia in 1927; he had a great influence of Yamin, whose translations of the author came out after the visit. Yamin's Julius Caesar, which was intended as a literary and historical study, was published in 1951; it puts little emphasis on its nature as a theatrical work, although there are "stage directions" not found in the source text.
During the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) Yamin worked for
the Japanese-sponsored confederation of nationalist organizations, the
Center of People's Power (Putera).
In 1945 Yamin suggested to BPUPK (Badan Penyelidik Usaha-Usaha
Persiapan Kemerdekaan), a committee preparing Indonesian's independence
process, that the new nation should include Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya, and
Portuguese Timor, as well as all the territories of the Netherlands
Indies. Achmad Sukarno (1901-1970), who was a member of BPUPK,
supported Yamin. In addition, Yamin was a central member of a
subcommittee, which drafted the ideas for the Indonesian Constitution.
In 1945, Sukarno became the first President of
Indonesian Republic. Following the July 3, 1946 affair, a theatrical coup
attempt, Yamin was put in prison for two years, and then pardoned.
Under Sukarno's long period of power – he was stripped of
office in 1967 – Indonesia became a leader of the Third World, and
developed close ties with China and the U.S.S.R. During and after the
struggle for independence, Yamin held important posts in the
governmental administration. He also became President Sukarno's
principal national historian, his "myth-maker". In 1957, Yamin was
challenged by Soedjatmoko, a publicist and diplomat, who was
dissatisfied with the nationalistic
historiography and who spoke for "passionate but controlled dedication
to the search for historical truth while knowing its ultimate
elusiveness" (see An Introduction to Indonesian
Historiography, 1965, pp. 414-415).
Yamin died in Jakarta on October 17, 1962.
He was buried in the family plot in Talawi, next to his father.
Referring to Yamin's colorful, strong personality, it
was said that he "was like a horse: if you were in front of
him, you were likely to get nipped; if behind him, to get kicked; and
if under him, to be trampled on. But if you were on top of him, with
the reins in your hand, he would carry you fast and far." (Java in a Time of
Revolution: Occupation and Resistance, 1944-1946 by Benedict
R.O.'G. Anderson, 1972, p. 288)