We are delighted to present this new digital pamphlet, My Body Is Stone, My House Is the Moon (Excerpts from Tubuhku Batu, Rumahku Bulan), curated by our inaugural Poet and Translator in Residence, Khairani Barokka.
The poems in this digital pamphlet have been selected from the Lakoat.Kujawas’ book My Body Is Stone, My House Is the Moon (Tubuhku Batu, Rumahku Bulan), very recently published by Perkumpulan Komunitas Sastra Dusun Flobamora and edited by Dicky Senda. In full, the book contains work by Yoseph Alfredo Sesfaut, Sersi Lani Nitbani, Alda Fobia, Carmelita Y. Seran, Maria Apriyani Bessy, Ina Kase, Maria Salomuwa, Findy Länga, Laurentius Tapatab, Aldino Sesfaot, Yunista A. Seran, Petra Sisilia Tafui, Yongsen Oematan, Basilia R. Nati, Gloria Dosreis, Putry Babys, Alexander Fransiskus Karel Oematan, Anjela G. Nahak, Endiko Tapatab, Maria Ester Abi, Elen Angelin Talan, Yoneta S. Pantola, Cicilia Calista Oematan, Sandra Natasia Liu, and Rafael Rahaq Wutun. Lakoat.Kujawas are a social enterprise based in Mollo, Timor Island, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. In her recent essay on Lakoat.Kujawas, Okka writes that ‘in creating and preserving culture, they help each other ward off the encroaching threat of mining and other companies that would take their land from them in the name of ‘development’, the threat of human trafficking, and other dangers.’
With this pamphlet we are pleased to give a deepened insight into Lakoat.Kujawas’ writing, and grateful to Lakoat.Kujawas for sharing their poetry with us. We are indebted to Dicky Senda and Lakoat.Kujawas for collaborating with Modern Poetry in Translation, as well as everyone who participated in the online translation workshop on the poem ‘Bonle’u’ by Cicilia Calista Oematan. This pamphlet includes a translation submitted by Kirana Kania, whose work was chosen to feature in this pamphlet from all submissions we received. The rest of the featured poems are translated by Khairani Barokka.
We encourage you to read Khairani Barokka’s two essays published in this residency – Tubuhku Batu, Rumahku Bulan: In Honour of Survival, Placekeeping, and Woven-In Translation, and her previous essay, Against Terra Nullius Translation. You can find Lakoat.Kujawas on Instagram and Twitter.
We thank the British Council for supporting this project.
Listen to our podcast with Khairani Barokka for an introduction to this digital pamphlet, and to hear two remarkable readings of the poem Bonle’u, with the original poet Cicilia Calista Oematan and translator Kirana Kania.
You can also read a transcript of this podcast.
Cicilia Calista Oematan
Translated by Kirana Kania – submitted to our online workshop and chosen to feature here by Khairani Barokka
Bonle’u was God-made without drought in mind
Merely teeming bees, honey their pus
And the beshawled king’s lo’e
Cracked shard-studded roads
Lain proud, still, under mount Mutis’ eyes
Gullet pipes announcing
The springs are alive*
Listen to the podcast which accompanies this pamphlet (transcript included) with Khairani Barokka for more information on this workshop, as well as readings from Cicilia Calista Oematan and Kirana Kania.
Kelompok Pertama (first group)
Poems translated by Khairani Barokka
Petra Sisilia Tafui
Fable from Fautkenat
Even fatu-fatu drown at Noel Nopo
When Sunbanu people dance side by side
While cradling stones
That contain within them the history of Fautkenat
Gardens are no longer the property of sadness and tears
Dew is no longer long hair from the sky
Nor is it coins and coins of money in the ponds of Noel Nopo
Gardens are now in the hands of Tafui
Who, they say, is wild
*Important to note that here I retain ‘fatu-fatu’ instead of ‘stones’ because it was written as such, instead of the Bahasa Indonesia ‘batu-batu’, in the poem. In this digital pamphlet, I have made other similar choices in keeping with the poets’.
Rain contains ancestors’ strength, you say
I, the boned hair of tradition
Then can an ancestor forget because of rain?
You ask in return
I, a tree of salvation that smiles
When rain comes
And you are always rushing
We will be alright in rainy season
Yoseph Alfredo Sesfaut
Grief is a white cloth in flames
Sersi Lani Nitbani
The Big City
The big city seems to hawk quietude
To buy hustle and bustle and offer noise
*****– Taiftob, November 2018
Kelompok Kedua (second group)
Poems translated by Khairani Barokka
Elen Angelin Tolan
Mahoni trees smile upon them
Great ones who write verse
Lasi nak on i je, ton i nak on i je
Live beyond the future
a mengge snake has just now
failed to let out its eggs
Sandra Natasha Liu
The gong beats of mamas who weave
The ties of the round house day
Cooking bose corn in springtime
Meto people blow the spirit of sandalwood
The home of Baun, choppers of bats
The Childbearing Frame
The red frame in my house’s living room
Gives birth to a new face
It emits hope
In the form of a rectangle
On a green-painted wall
It puts on makeup
While going round a bowtie
Covering the block in the living room
When it begins to be created
In the womb of the lifetaking angel
It creates its own face
With a bitter smile
It only misses mother
Who it believes will bring it
Out of the dark
*****– Taiftob, 2018
Yoneta S. Pantola
Drowned from the memories of many sandalwoods
As though the canal of myself in a flood
Elders, it is your turn to spit out red saliva
Medicines are tied at the river
The round houses must protect knowledge
About the Poets
Cicilia Calista Oematan opened her eyes for the first time when Aquarius was shining. They read the work of Sandra Olivia Frans, a writer from Southern Central Timor, admires them. “Kak Sandra is a perfect imagination. They’re a doctor as well as a writer and perhaps I, too, can be a doctor as well as a writer someday.”
Yoneta Silfana Pantola comes from Oelnunuh. Doesn’t speak much. That’s all.
Sandra Natasia Liu. In her mother’s womb, she saw darkness and roots spreading outwards. Now she wants to be a midwife, wants to be led by Virgo to know more about the world. Love is about sincerity, a message from her mother she still remembers.
Yoseph Alfredo Sesfaot is one of the most frequent borrowers of books in 2017 and 2018 in the Komunitas Lakoat.Kujawas library in Taiftob Village. He is now in Year 7.
Petra Sisilia Tafui or Sisil was born 6 August 2005 in Kupang. She really enjoys the sport of badminton. Her father is Jefri Tafui, her mother is Veronika Tamonob. ‘One day, I must visit America as a normal person.’
Sersi Lani Nitbani was born in Laob, a valley region in the land of Mollo near Noebesi, where the tale Besimnasi is set (about a wise old grandfather who turns into a crocodile). She was born on 7 September 2004 and enjoys playing futsal as well as volleyball.
Elen Angelin Talan would like to be a mermaid if she is reincarnated into this world. She is a Libra and feels certain that Libras are full of love. Sivarani is the name of the queen mermaid in her imagination. Elen is a mountain child who also loves the sea.
Alexander Fransiskus Karel Oematan is the great-grandson of a cleric who founded a Catholic church in Mollo, of the same name. ‘I would like to write about the AFK Oematan who could speak with animals, in the next book.’
To provide further insight into the final biographical text, Dicky Senda provided the following information:
Alexander Karel Fransiskus Oematan’s great-grandfather was of Mollo Chinese heritage (a man from mainland China who used to go to Mollo to trade in sandalwood, honey and candles, married a Mollo woman who gave birth to him. His Chinese name was Cung Ki Fun. He was a cleric or a transcriber in the swapraja (autonomous region) era of Mollo (in transition from a Kingdom to a system of districts), he was the first to spread the Catholic religion in the Mollo mountains. His great-grandson of the same name is the [poet], with the same nickname of Fun (from the great-grandfather’s Chinese name). The great-grandfather was known as a cleric, a Catholic religious teacher as well as a naturalist. He enjoyed keeping animals, and had a coffee plantation in Mollo. There is a story about him that his great-grandson is writing down. The junior Alexander Karel Fransiskus Oematan is writing about how the senior AFK had the ability to herd deer only by moving the deer’s footsteps.
In the last three years, our community has begun to revive the tradition of oral storytelling in our village. And we have found many interesting tales of the senior AFK. For instance, about the site of the Napi stone that has become the faot kanaf of the Oematan clan. The stone protected by AFK’s family. Every large clan in Mollo has a stone and spring [of water] site. These are two elements besides forest and earth that are always close to Mollo people. Faot kanaf means ‘name stone’, a stone that is the reference and symbol of a certain clan. Fatu means stone and kanaf means name. The Napi Stone in our village is the one protected by the family of AFK Senior. This stone will always come up in pantun, poems, greetings in our traditional language. It’s like a compass stone. When I formed the creative writing class with the kids, I asked them to do a bit of research by asking their parents about the stones in Mollo. The results are there in the poems of the My Body Is Stone… book. AFK Junior and many children in my writing class are the heirs of Mollo, their are now in a situation where their connection to the cultural history of the past has been disconnected. There are many factors that caused this, one of which is our education system, which isn’t contextual in my opinion. Our mission is for the kids to be reconnected through elders and the creative writing class.
Mutis in Calista’s poem about Bonle’u is the highest mountain in Mollo, thought to be the place where all Mollo souls live. It is the king of mountains and the smaller stones around it, including the Napi Stone in our village. This is why, when mines and industrial tree plantations entered Mollo with [Soeharto’s dictatorship] the New Order, the people rejected this and resisted. There came to be an environmental activist woman from Mollo, Aleta Baun, who won the Goldman Prize, which is a kind of Nobel Prize for environmental activists. It is this perspective that I am trying to rebuild in Mollo’s young generation. Things they cannot get from formal education.
Glossary of Bahasa Mollo Words
Provided by Dicky Senda in Bahasa Indonesia, translated by Khairani Barokka into English
Noel Nopo: the name of a river in Mollo. Noel means river.
Sunbanu: one of the eight big clans in Mollo, and one of the largest.
Tafui: one of the Mollo clans. Tafui means quail, thus they do not eat quail meat nor quail eggs.
Mahoni: the name of a tree (Swietenia mahogani).
Lasi nak on i je, ton i nak on i je: means ‘every era/time has its own problems’.
Ular mengge: a ground snake, also known as ular bandotan in Bahasa Indonesia.
Meto: a name for the indigenous inhabitants of West Timor. Meto means ‘dry’, or ‘people who inhabit a dry island’ (Timor Island is a fairly dry coral island).
Jagung bose: a dry corn that is pounded until its skin comes off. A main staple for Timorese. Cooked with a variety of beans and vegetables.
Baun: the name for one of the eight big clans in Mollo.
Okka is a writer, poet and artist in London. She was an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow for her masters, Emerging Writers Festival’s (AUS) Inaugural International Writer-In-Residence (2013), and Indonesia’s first Writer-In-Residence at Vermont Studio Center (2011). Published internationally in anthologies and journals, Okka has presented work extensively, in fifteen countries, is a frequent public speaker, and has been awarded seven residencies, and various grants and award nominations. She is author and illustrator of poetry-art book Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis Press, 2016) translated by Red (Yen Hai) into Vietnamese as Loài bản địa (Ajar Press, 2018), and co-editor, with Sandra Alland and Daniel Sluman, of Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press, 2017). Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, was published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017. Visit her personal website.