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Jakarta Post

Earl Drake: Uncovering the woman behind Majapahit

  • Deanna Ramsay

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, April 19 2012   /  10:18 am

JP/R. Berto Wedhatama“The central figure was this statue and it just mesmerized me.”

That is how Earl Drake, former Canadian ambassador to Indonesia, describes his discovery of Gayatri Rajapatni, a powerful and — as he puts it — forgotten woman of the Majapahit kingdom.

Seven years after his encounter with that 14th-century feat of artistry at Washington, D.C.’s Freer Gallery, Drake describes a visit to a Tokyo museum. There she was again. “There was clearly a message here,” he says.

The result of those fateful meetings is a new book, Gayatri Rajapatni: Perempuan di balik Kejayaan Majapahit (Gayatri Rajapatni: The Woman Behind the Glory of Majapahit), about a woman so important that she figures centrally in a Majapahit epic poem, one of the few remaining records from that time.

Drake has used that work — the Nagarakertagama — as well as Chine...