Mother Goddess, Eco-feminism and Body Memories

Ali Jafar | CRCS | Wednesday Forum Report

Mother Goddess

In the beginning of her presentation, she drew a picture portraying goddesses of Nusantara (Indonesia Archipelago) on white board and told about narrative and myth over the mothers. She said that in humility paradigm of ecofeminism, all trees, animals, land and water have its own systems of thinking and communicating. How the stone whispers, why the water is raging, and how the land thinks. There is equality between human being and other non-human being. It was Dr. Phil. Dewi Candra Ningrum, the editor- in chief of Jurnal Perempuan (JP- Indonesian Feminist Journal) presenting in the CRCS’ Wednesday Forum on November 25th 2015.

Ningrum continued her explanation about earth as mother through showing some of her paintings about femininity of bhumi (earth). The ideas of natural femininity are often lost in present history because of oppressive myths. Now, we can see how Dewi Sri (padi-rice) is already poisoned by pesticide. How the knowledge about blood of our mother was oppressed. Dewi Sri meets and greets us in stories of blood of fertility and sacrifice in order that we can discover our ancestry and rebuild our genealogy to our very land. Here, Ningrum said that our modern generation is facing the lost consciousness about the myth of mother.

Our knowledge about our mother was also reduced through oppressed faith, said Ningrum when showing another painting of mother goddesses. As she said that modern Religious political has turned Indonesia to be unfriendly with our mother earth. “Have we visited Candi Sukuh (Sukuh Temple ) ? Prambanan? Borobudur”. If you have visited these temples, you have conversation with the goddess. There are god and goddesses in these temples. In the myth of our narrative, there are Saraswati, Pertiwi, Sri, Durga, Calon Arang, Rangda, and other important figures from the narrative of myth. Said Ningrum through showing the pictures of her painting, she said about her pictures , “Here I like to paint them, because painters may sometimes stresses that using the visual language of risk will be more productive than talking about narrative of goddesses—the beauty they present, sacrifice, and strength to serve humankind”, now our mothers were imprisoned and we have to release them.

Ningrum continued her explanation about the existence of myth with the extinction of mother body and biodiversity. She said that when the myth is dead, then the forest is in danger. Can we see that the forest of west Java is disappearing from wide and mass production which caused the extinction of Ujung Kulon forest? It also happened in Muria slope, Kudus. It is about the 700 women who went to labor in Saudi Arabia, because since 2005 farm land in Muria is disappearing because of furniture industry in Jepara. If the body of our mother continuos to disappear, our grand children will face unclean water, a shortage of land, and limited oxygen.

Now we have to understand, that our mother has been polluted and made sick by global warming. In our tropical consciousness about Pranoto mongso (the cycle of season of time), the traditional schedule was suitable for  rice cultivation,  but now global warming has altered our pranoto mongso. For her, a poem about Hujan di Bulan Juni (rain in the June) no longer shows romanticism, but rather catastrophe. Our mother provides everything including sacrificing her blood. If we used to say Tanah Tumpah Darah (motherland- land spilled blood), whose blood it is? Is it blood of our mother or blood of warriors?

Ningrum stated that to see whose blood is it, we have to unpack the meta narrative of our mother. There is large distance between patriarchal culture and pre-patriarchal culture. Pre-patriarchal culture derived its epistemology, spirituality and values from earth, or from the Goddess, We discovered powerful female bodies of all sizes honored and revered; statues that were half bird and half female. In Vedic tradition, Mythology is not only story or legend; it is as part of understanding the subtle grace of the divine power.

In the discussion session, Abdi a CRCS Student gives commentary about unpacking myth, he gives an example about unpacked the story of Kancil (deer) by Ki Ledjar Subroto through his Wayang Kancil. Rather than retell the story about the Kancil as a thief, Ki Ledjar rejuvenate the Kancil as the victim of deforestation. Here there are possibilities to retell the story of Kancil in different version and different interpretation, and I do wonder if it is also applied in our Terra Mater (mother earth). Along with Abdi,  Jenni asked about Ningrum’s painting in how she pains her painting humbly? It is different with their portrayal in the temple, except Sarasvati. Another question, what is the relation between myth and economic issues.

Dr. Ningrum responds commentary and question with showing her painting about mother goddesses. She said that, we now have different values, different axis mundi, and we have different system in knowledge. For my painting about humble mother goddess, I will say I don’t know, when I have visited some temples, I felt that I have genealogical inheritance between me and the builder of temple and suddenly I can paint. If we talks about myth and economic issues, we can see Candi Sari which is incomparable with huge building around. It just like connecting between car and nude women, no connection at all. But it is coming from myth, and used by capitalism.

In the end of discussion, Dr. Ningrum was completing the discussion with explaining our ethic over mother earth. To my students I said “if you are submitting paper with plastic cover or using 80 gram of paper, you are impolite to our mother”, how many plastic we consume in a day?. Our culture in eating and style should consider global ethic, probably, we can buy an expensive devices or eat as much as we want, but ethically we are impolite to our mother. Our task is to train ourselves to do all things, including to eat slowly and spiritually.

(Editor: Greg Vanderbilt)

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