We Archipelagians

Story by A. Ruwidrijarto


Editor’s Note:

I am happy to introduce this new section: Book Review. It’s also quite a miracle because it is defying the usual process of: idea-writing-editing-publishing then a book review. Our book review shows the non-linearity processes of our magazine, life, and nokens. A producer and film-studio executive David Geffen said: “I have no talent except for being able to enjoy and recognize it in others.”1 It resonated with me because it describes, in a way, my role at the Nokens. I’ve surrounded myself with exceptionally talented poets, writers, idealists, crafters, baristas, cooks, leavehomecomingologists, activists, artists; in short: nokenners. In terms of format, this book “We Archipelagians” represents the transformation of the way books are written, published, and read. From papyrus and calfskin, to paper, to digital (e-book) format of the Digital Age, to the now spiritual (s-book) format, called by this lifeSpace Age. As always, we appreciate our readers and writers’ trust in the magazine to share their stories.

Book Review: We Archipelagians

There is finally a serious counter to Muchtar Lubis’s book, Manusia Indonesia (English translation: We Indonesians), based on his 1977 cultural oration at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta. According to Muchtar Lubis the unique characteristics of Indonesians are hypocrisy, tendency for “buck-passing”, feudalistic mentality, belief in superstition, artistic, indecisiveness. Those and several more bad: wasteful, instant-obsessed, jealous of other’s success, easily carried away with success, copier, etc…etc.

In the “belief that deep down, underlying his seemingly unfavourable remarks, lies Lubi’s strong desire to see Indonesia as a strong and well-respected nation,” and that “the way to achieve this goal is not necessarily through perpetual praise”2 there are reasons to not despair, yet.

“We Archipelagians” is exactly one of those reasons. Probably the most important reason. The five characters of archipelagians, the people of the archipelago, presented by the book is the reason to be optimistic, joyful, and positive in becoming the humans of the archipelago, from Sabang to Merauke.

Nababan deserves the attention. He’s canny about the characters he chases. From the most remote indigenous community to the rural villages, big and small islands, big and small towns, he’s been all over the archipelago to find them, understand them, and buildup a conceptual framework that underlies We Archipelagians.


As it happened, We Archipelagians was presented for the first time to the world in Nababan’s cultural oration during the Noken in Timor Land, on August 27, 2021, at the mystique marble forest garden of Nausus. (SAMDHANA/Anggit)

Connectedness to God

Archipelagians believe in God. It doesn’t matter what the religion is, it could be new or old religion, it could be non-religion, archipelagians are connected to the divine creator of the universe. Connectedness calls for deeper than observience of rites, it’s of spiritual journeys towards unity with the One, oneness.

(SAMDHANA/Anggit)

Connectedness to Ancestors

Archipelagians know where they come from. They constantly seek the wisdom and guidance of their ancestors. Their story is part of the continuum of ancestral history.

Connectedness to Other Humans

Thus they are always part of a community. They form indigenous communities,
they are in local community, they are connected one to the other.

(SAMDHANA/Anggit)

Connectedness to the Universe

This connectedness is about the energy that resides in all. Archipelagians seek to be connected to each of the other, to the earth, the universe, the universes and the cosmos. For the creator created matter and energy for it to be connected eternally.

Connectedness to the Nature

Archipelagians respect all being, living and non living, tangible and non tangible, to the biggest as well as to the smallest. After all we are just part of the nature.

A whole day of failed goat-hunting in Nausus, August 27, 2021. We learned that we’re not respecting and connected enough to the nature: didn’t quite understand the speed and ease of movement of goats in their natural environment, the treachery of stones and rocks, the resilience of the sacred mountains. We didn’t have good strategy either: focusing and planning too much on how to butcher and roast in accordance to norms and religions, forgetting the fact that we have to capture it first.

In the meantime, the girls were having a really easy and fun time, playing with weaving, crafts, friendship bracelets

The book’s third section, titled “Weaving Connectedness,” offers a familiar space for nokenners as it puts in eloquent paragraphs the philosophical essence of noken, weaving connectedness of knowledge, spirit, and solidarity among communities and being, with the universe and the nature, oneness in Love.

In summary,
Indonesia can be disorienting and enthralling, chaotic and amokicitic. Indonesians may be seen as hypocrites, feudalistic, superstitious, indecisive etcetera as portrayed in Lubis’s We Indonesians, but Nababan’s book “We Archipelagians” firmly establishes that the quality and characters of the peoples of the archipelago, their indigenous alliance, is where there is hope and foundation for sovereignty,

prosperity, and dignity of the nations.

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