This article studies how the experiences of former women political prisoners in the New Order era of Indonesia have been recollected to reproduce identity. In 1979, these women were returned to their community after a rehabilitation period of nearly 10 years. The public, which could not accept their past, attached a lingering stigma to them and continually rejected them. This article attempts to uncover the process of memory articulation and the context in which these women sought to reproduce their identity through Dialita (Di Atas Lima Puluh Tahun, Above 50 Years Old), a choir group consisting of former women political prisoners and their relatives. Dialita positioned itself as a medium for cultural reconciliation that aimed to alter public perception of the women’s identity and reposition them in the country’s collective memory. This is how the politics of memory work in Indonesian society, where the government has the power to decide which memories should be remembered and which should be forgotten. Dialita brought almost forgotten songs back to life because its members were not allowed to write songs while being imprisoned at correctional facilities in Bukit Duri, Plantungan, Salemba and Ambarawa. Interviews and textual interpretation have allowed us to delve deeper into the lives of these former women political prisoners, who were positioned as the main actors of a past historical event and encouraged to articulate their memories by reproducing songs as a part of their identity reproduction. The articulation process and the re-interpretation of the past helped the women shape their sense of self and, more importantly, to alter the way the public remembers the events of 1965.
- collective memory
- former political prisoners