Great Indonesians #1 Wiji Thukul – Indonesia’s Whitman Of The Kampung

Wiji Thukul was a Javanese freedom fighter poet, who reminds me of Walt Whitman because he sought to liberate people through poetry. Wiji’s left wing politics learnt from foreign cultural influences did not resonate broadly with his people but he was enormously influential in certain circles.

He wrote words like “Hanya Ada Satu Kata – Lawan” (There is only one word – Fight!) which are almost Shakespearean in the way they have traveled beyond their original use to enter into many people’s consciousness in Indonesia.

Like Whitman, Wiji wrote with and for freedom.

As I recall, esteemed writer Goenawan Mohamad praised Thukul in conversation with me for liberating the simple straight forward use of the Indonesian language like no other writer. Wiji achieved this because he insisted on using language which the people in his neighbourhood or kampung could understand.

Api Hak Pemberontakan” (the fire of the right of rebellion) are words that Wiji and I crafted as an Indonesian transcreation of Walt Whitman’s words: “O latent right of insurrection! O quenchless, indispensable fire!”

Today I turn it into Word Art:

Thukul was a leftist but enthralled by Mel Gibson’s heroic shout of “Freedom” in Brave Heart.

God Bless Wiji Thukul wherever he may be.

God Bless Freedom.

Geoff Fox, 17th June, 2022, dreaming of being back home in Indonesia