Dorothea Rosa Herliany
The Indonesian poet and writer, Dorothea Rosa Herliany, was born in Magelang/Central Java in 1963. She studied Indonesian language and literature at Sanata Dharma University in the Javanese town of Yogyakarta.
Herliany already started writing at the age of 16 and worked for various newspapers and magazines during her studies. She belongs to the post-colonial generation of Indonesian writers for whom expressing their national identity and writing in their own language is a natural thing. Her first volume of poetry »Nyanyian Gaduh« (tr.: Raucous songs), was released in 1987 and caused a furore in her native country. In a patriarchal and highly religious society, Herliany wrote abut taboo subjects like the female body, sexuality or violence against women. The woman is not subordinate to the man in her poems, is no longer merely the object of male desires, but turns the situation around and renders the man subordinate. She has often been called a feminist because of her criticism of outdated gender roles, but it is a title that Herliany herself rejects. For her, she maintains, it is all about giving a voice to those who are not heard. In her poems, she also deals with the political abuses in Indonesia’s recent and eventful history. As such, »One day in July« is about 27 July 1996, when a peaceful demonstration against the then dictatorial ruler General Suharto ended violently when he sent in his militias against the protestors. Although many of her works deal with real events and circumstances, the poet always emphasises the fictional nature of her poems. She describes a transient reality and the reader is called on the use this to create his own reality. In fitting with her provocative subject matters, Herliany’s language is very direct, but without being objectionable. The deliberate provocation in her poems tends to come across subtly, concealed within a language that is rich in imagery, but also lyrical. In addition to several volumes of poetry, Herliany has written prose, above all short stories and stories for children, as well as essays and reviews of art and theatre. 2009 saw the publication of a selection of her poems in German titled »Schenk mir alles, was die Männer nicht besitzen« (tr.: Give me everything that the men possess). At the same time, she received a grant from the Heinrich boll Foundation.
She has been awarded many prizes, among these the Poetry Prize of the Jakarta Arts Council (2000), the Art Award of the Indonesian Ministry for Culture and Tourism (2004) as well as the renowned Indonesian Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2006. Dorothea Rosa Herliany lives with her family in a small town in Magelang. She is currently a guest of the DAAD Artists’ Programme in Berlin.