The Jakarta Post
Esteemed honor: Renowned writer NH Dini (center) is flanked by her son, filmmaker Pierre Louis Padang Coffin (left) and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet DeNeefe when receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award in Bali. (JP/Anggara Mahendra)
One of Indonesia’s literary legends, Nurhayati Sri Hardini Siti Nukatin, renowned as NH Dini, passed away on Tuesday in Elisabeth Hospital in Semarang, Central Java. She was reportedly on her way home to Wisma Lansia Harapan Asri retirement home from an acupuncture treatment, when her car was involved in a fatal crash.
“Medics attempted to save her life but she didn’t survive. NH Dini passed away at around 4.30 p.m.,” Probowatie Tjondronegoro spokesperson of Elisabeth Hospital told The Jakarta Post.
Probowatie went on to say that according to NH Dini’s relatives, the accident happened on a toll road between Jatingaleh and Banyumanik in the Tembalang area.
A year ago at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali, the author was awarded the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by the festival’s founder, Janet DeNeefe. She received the award for her more than six-decade literary career, and her contribution to Indonesian literature.
NH Dini, born to the Javanese aristocratic couple Salyowijoyo and Aminah on Feb. 29, 1936, had been writing since the early 1950s, producing dozens of novels, short stories and poems. She also received a number of literary awards, including the SEA Write Award from the government of Thailand.
Among her literary works are Pada Sebuah Kapal (On a Ship) and La Barka, portraying Javanese women who dared to break Javanese concepts of patriarchy, where women are attributed the role of partner in the house and bedroom, and limited to raising children and serving their husbands and families.
NH Dini told the Post at last year’s UWRF that at the time of writing the two novels, she did not relate her writings to the Western theory of feminism.
“What I strongly believe is that a woman, wherever she lives, deserves to be treated equally and respectfully. She should also have the rights to her own body,” she was quoted as saying.
Author Laksmi Pamuntjak remembers NH Dini as the quintessential “Modern Woman.”
"The modern person, says Walter Benjamin, is someone who chooses, who is always positioning him or herself as a subject. Dini was “Modern” in that sense: she had the courage to make herself the subject of her life and her fiction, and never felt she had to explain much less apologize for the autobiographical aspects of her writing. She was also modern in another vital respect: her sexuality and her pioneering writing about sex. To her, sex was an integral part of life, not a feminist statement. Not many realized she had broken new ground in matters of sex and sexuality long before the post-Soeharto generation of women writers did," Laksmi told The Post in a WhatsApp message.
Upon hearing the sad news, recipient of Young Author Award from the Southeast Asia Literary Council in 2017, Norman Erikson Pasaribu, told the Post that he felt very saddened by NH Dini’s death.
“We grew up reading bits of NH Dini's stories, and how she was synonymous with the ‘third person narrative’. Later when we were older, we discovered her work in full, awed by her story. She was one of the most remarkable Indonesian writers, and yet so under-read. We need to read, share and talk about her work more,” said Norman, whose book Sergius Mencari Bacchus won first prize in the 2015 Jakarta Arts Council Poetry Competition
Author Okky Madasari expressed condolences on her twitter account, saying “NH Dini, she who from the beginning criticized the ideal notion of women, marriage, love and family. Farewell, Ma’am.”
Nh. Dini. Ia yang sedari awal menggugat bangunan ideal perempuan, perkawinan, cinta dan keluarga. Selamat jalan, Bu.— Okky Madasari (@okkymadasari) December 4, 2018
Sydney-based Indonesian author, media/film scholar Intan Paramaditha also tweeted her condolences, “I always remember NH Dini as a writer who questioned and criticized. Her best works posed critical questions on the nation, citizenship, journeys, identity, boundaries and spaces in between. Farewell, NH Dini.”
Saya selalu mengingat Nh. Dini sebagai penulis yang bertanya dan menggugat. Karya-karya terbaiknya mengajukan pertanyaan kritis tentang bangsa, kewarganegaraan, perjalanan, identitas, sekat-sekat pembatas, dan ruang-ruang di antara. Selamat jalan, Nh. Dini.— Intan Paramaditha (@sihirperempuan) December 4, 2018
NH Dini will be cremated at Kedungmundu crematorium in Semarang on Wednesday at noon.