The Inspirational Life of Amir Hamzah

Posted on March 19th, 2011 at 8:45 am by Farah Fitriani


While young people can sing the praises of contemporary Indonesian authors such as Dewi Lestari and Djenar Maesa Ayu, it is unfortunate that many of them have never heard of Amir Hamzah, one of the most influential figures in the country’s literary history.

That, however, may change this year.

In order to commemorate Amir’s legacy and inspire Indonesia’s youth to read his classic works, Kerapatan Adat Kesultanan Langkat (Traditional Community of the Sultanate of Langkat), in collaboration with the Indonesian Council on World Affairs and a number of other organizations, announced that this year they would be celebrating “The Year of Amir Hamzah.”

The year-long series of events, which will include poetry readings, literary discussions, bazaars and art exhibitions, also marks the 100th anniversary of Amir’s birth.

“The event is in both recognition and appreciation of his life works,” said Tengku Azwar Aziz, the chairman of KAKL. “Hopefully, the event will inspire Indonesia’s young people to follow in his footsteps.”

During his brief life, Amir wrote over 160 literary works, comprised of both poetry and short stories. In the early to mid-1900s, when most local authors favored Western literature, Amir introduced Persian and Asian classics — such as the Hindu epic “Bhagavad Gita” — to these shores by translating them into Indonesian.

In 1975 Amir was declared a national hero, by decree of President Suharto, for his support of the Indonesian independence movement through his articles in Poedjangga Baroe (The New Poet), a magazine Amir co-created in 1933.

Today, however, not many people could tell you about his works, much less his numerous accolades.

“History lessons teach us that Amir Hamzah was a poet,” Azwar said. “But he was a lot more than that. He was also a national hero.”

Born in 1911, Amir was the son of Tengku Muhammad Adil, a treasurer of the Sultanate of Langkat in North Sumatra. As the son of a nobleman, Amir enjoyed a number of privileges, including going to the best schools in the country.

When he was 7 years old, Amir attended the Langkatsche School, a Dutch language elementary school, in Langkat. He also studied the Koran and the Arabic language with a private tutor.

After attending junior high school in Jakarta, Amir continued his studies at Algemene Middelbare high school in Yogyakarta. There he became actively involved in the Jong Sumatranen Bond (Sumatra Youth Organization), and collaborated with national heros such as Mohammad Yamin and Sanusi Pane to organize the second Indonesian youth congress in Jakarta in 1928.

The congress resulted in the Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Pledge), in which all youth organizations in Indonesia pledged their allegiance to one motherland, one nation and one language.

“I cannot fathom how a 17-year-old boy could think about and do so much for his country,” said Joop Ave, former minister of tourism and culture and the current chairman of the ICWA .

In 1930 Amir continued his studies at the Rechts Hooge School (School of Justice) in Jakarta, where he befriended renowned scholars Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana and Armyn Pane.

After Indonesia gained independence, Amir was appointed the regional head of Langkat in 1945. The poet came to a bad end at the age of 35, when a revolution broke out in Kuala Begumit (a region of Langkat) and he was captured by rebels and beheaded in 1946.

During his life, Amir’s inspirational poetry was collected and published in three anthologies, “Buah Rindu” (“Fruits of Longing”), “Nyanyi Sunyi” (“Songs of Silence”) and “Setanggi Timur” (“Scent of the East”).

“All of his poetry and stories were written in Indonesian,” Azwar said. “Despite being fluent in Dutch, English and Arabic, the poet refused to write in any language other than Indonesian.”

Even though Tengku Rina, the poet’s granddaughter, never got to meet Amir, she said that she is very proud of her grandfather. “From what I heard from my mother, he was a soft-spoken and very intelligent man. He did a lot for this country.”

Amir’s work also inspired contemporary poet and artist Sujiwo Tejo.

“Like all poets, I’m very much inspired by Amir Hamzah,” he said. “His poetry is beautiful and is full of deep meaning. It reflects his wonderful soul.”

Love for Amir’s work goes well beyond literary circles. One of the poet’s letters to his friend Armyn Pane changed the career of Tengku Ryo Riezqan, a violinist from Serdang, North Sumatra.

“I read that letter in a book,” Ryo said. “In it, he wrote, ‘Don’t write the words if their meaning is not ingrained in your heart.’ That sentence really slapped me in the face.”

Ryo said he used to play classical compositions by Frederic Chopin and Antonio Vivaldi. But after reading Amir’s letter about three years ago, he started to play music by Malaysian composers.

“The letter inspired me to return to my roots,” he said. “We should always try to understand our roots before going out into the world. We may, of course, play music from other countries, but we should never forsake our own roots.”

To celebrate The Year of Amir Hamzah, Ryo will perform at the Malam Kebudayaan Melayu 2011 (Gala Night of Malaysian Culture 2011), which will be held at Sasana Budaya Ganesha in Bandung on April 17.

“Amir Hamzah is a son of Langkat,” said Gatot Pujo Nugroho, vice governor of North Sumatra. “But he doesn’t only belong to us. He’s an important asset to the country and belongs to all people. I’m sure this program’s events will help to inspire many people with his exemplary life.”

news source : The Jakarta Globe

Popularity: 1% [?]

Share this Good News!
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace