Daughter of Missing Poet Moved by New Film About Her Father

Wiji Thukul's daughter, Fitri Nganthi Wani, at a media gathering for a new film about her father, 'Istirahatlah Kata-Kata,' in Jakarta on Sunday (08/01). (JG Photo/Lisa Siregar)

By : Lisa Siregar | on 9:17 AM January 09, 2017
Category : Life & Style, Arts & Culture, Movies

Jakarta. Fitri Nganthi Wani, daughter of poet and activist Wiji Thukul who has been missing since March 1998, said "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata" (Solo, Solitude), a new film that tells the story of her father as he went into hiding from the authorities, should be compulsory viewing for all Indonesians, including President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Fitri said she hopes the film will serve as a reminder to the current government that they still owe it to her family and the families of other missing activists from 1998 to find out what had happened to them.

"I am moved by friends who still care about the family of victims of human rights violations. They helped our family survived many difficult times. I spent a lot of time talking to the filmmakers for this movie, and I think of Ebe [Yulia Evina Bhara, the film's producer] as my own sister," Fitri said.

"I hope people see this movie and be reminded that being honest and persistent is not an easy thing to do, but when you do it, the impact is incredible," she added.

Fitri will be joining a group of artists and activists visiting the State Palace on Tuesday (10/01) to deliver an invitation for Jokowi to see Istirahatlah Kata-Kata.

During his presidential campaign in 2014, Jokowi promised to find an answer for Wiji's disappearance. Two years after he was elected president, Wiji's family is still expecting the president to make good on his promise.

"I know Jokowi personally, he's a good person. He's met with our family several times and he came to my wedding. He is our president, but we also know what kind of people he has around him," Fitri said.

Asked how the family would react if Jokowi fails to solve Wiji's case while he is president, Fitri said her family had already felt helpless for so long, it might not change a thing.

"Helpless, that's how we feel everyday since Dad went missing. If one day someone solves this case, we will be very thankful, but meanwhile we need our energy to move on with our lives," Fitri said.

"I'm hoping for the best, especially for my Mom who is still very upset by this case. She won't stop talking about it," Fitri said.

Wiji's wife Dyah Sujirah, or Sipon, declared Wiji "disappeared" when Fitri was seven-year old, but the eldest child in the family had no trouble recalling childhood memories with her father.

"He used to read me bedtime stories, he was better at storytelling than Mom. Our house was always crowded with friends of his. They would discuss politics all night long," she said.

"Dad also turned our house into an art studio for children in the neighborhood, but after he went missing and was soon named a fugitive, kids stopped coming to our place," she said.

Without Wiji, childhood took a dark turn for Fitri and her younger brother Fajar Merah. Not only did they have to face countless interrogations by the police — along with their mother Sipon, the children also had to face ostracism and bullying by unsympathetic friends at school.

"I learned that my father was a fugitive from my best friend, who said she couldn't be friends with me anymore because her parents forbid her to. Words traveled fast, and soon all of my classmates started making fun of me and avoiding me," she said.

As she grew up, Fitri heard different stories about her father and eventually met friends who were less judgmental about her situation.

Now, 19 years after her father went missing, 27-year-old Fitri is a mother to a four-year-old and a housewife who runs a small business from her home in Solo, Central Java.

Fitri is the author of "Selepas Bapakku Hilang" (After My Father Disappeared), a collection of poems written from 1999 to 2007, published in 2009.

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