“In my mind and heart,” a young woman read. She took a deep breath and went on, “… I do not wholly live in the Dutch East Indies; I feel like I live in an era with my white sisters in the far away West.”
The young woman stood on a stage in a dimly lit room. In her hands were letters written more than 100 years ago. Accompanied by acoustic guitar and violin, university student Winner Fransisca read excerpts from a letter written by Kartini, an Indonesian heroine, in May 1899 to a penpal in the Netherlands.
Kartini dedicated her life to improving the conditions of Javanese women, who had low social status, through education. But Kartini’s concerns spanned beyond women’s empowerment. Not only did she want indigenous women to reach their dreams, attain freedom and obtain legal equality, she also criticized the education system and mainstream religion.
“I do not respect Javanese men. How could I admire a married man who, if bored with the mother of his children, could bring another woman into his house and marry her legally under Islamic law?” author Firliana Purwanti recited a passage from another of Kartini’s letter.
More on Kartini’s legacy here.