Determination: the Using Identity

Right before the 63rd celebration of Republic of Indonesia Independence Day, 17 August 2008, Banyuwangi warmth by national hero discourses. As an effort in local pride and identity strengthening, Banyuwangi carry three names of heroes to be claimed as national heroes. They are Wong Agung Wilis, Rempeg Jagapati and Mas Ayu Wiwit.

These three local figures fought against the colonial empire in Blambangan. Three years ago it was proposed to the government that they be ordained and placed among the official national heroes. But, during those years, there has not been any indication that the request would be fulfilled. The government requires the making of biography of each figure as recommended by Masyarakat Sejarah Indonesia (MSI).

 One of the local culturist, Hasan Basri, say that "The proposal of those heroes are important for local pride, and lately, many students are using those icons role during the Independence Day celebration."

Actually there is nothing new about the debate regarding local pride and identity issues in Banyuwangi, especially among politicians and the cultural elite of this area. The discourses have always found new momentum, starting with history, ethnicities, anniversaries, to accounts of the old culture. Just exactly like the historiography debate in the national arena, cultural elites and the elite political of Banyuwangi seems to be so dynamic in interpretating and representing the history of Banyuwangi.

In the year of 2002, Banyuwangi regent officer, Samsul Hadi, excitedly declared a cultural movement of Jenggirat Tangi: an Using identity confirmation movement which is believed to show the original face of the natives (Banyuwangi) with all its cultures, language, and all its rich tradition. According to Samsul, Banyuwangi society is left from the Blambangan Empire which was pushed aside by Mataram Islam and Netherland colonial. Their tribe language is also Using.

From this political culture movement Jenggirat Tangi, was born a project about culture and identity, with the publishing of some Regent Decrees (SK) Number of 173 dated 31 December 2002 and regent decree (SK number 147 year of 2007) concerning Gandrung (dance in couple) as an tourism icon and official welcoming dance (Jejer Gandrung). Added with the publication of a Using language dictionary, local payload added Using language in education curriculum, determining of Banyuwangi Anniversary, traditional cloth, official book of traditional art and ritual (Seblang and Gandrung), and also many reference books. From here, the identity determination project become stronger.

Ironically, the image identity and 'nationalism' of Banyuwangi citizens which are pictured by a group of elite were not more than a 'translation' of the Dutch colonial note and knowledge through the idea of Lekkerkerker (Blambangan), Stoppelaar ( Blambangan Adatrecht), Scholte ( Gandroeng van Banjoewangi), van der Tuuk ( Woorden van het Banjoewangisch dialect), Epp ( Banjoewangi), Brandes ( Verslag Over Een Babad Blambangan) etcetera.

This Colonial note also seems often to be the ammunition of Banyuwangi historiography debate, as traced in their discussions and their writing which become an “official references” about UsingBanyuwangi: A Problematic, Sekilas Puputan Bayu: Sebagai Tonggak Sejarah Hari Jadi Banyuwangi Tanggal 18 Desember 1771, Kamus Bahasa Using and many others. So even also with Hasnan Singodimayan ( Jawa-Santri) through Seblang Perjuangan, Gandrung Banyuwangi, Kota Gandrung and Serambi Mekkah. Or the other masterpieces written from Banyuwangi culturists. and things about Banyuwangi. For example Hasan Ali (Pakistan blood) promoting this 3 local heroes figure in.

Will the Banyuwangi historiography debate only happen on the desks of local elite group? And will it be the only window, which is open to see through the Banyuwangi identity? Isn’t the autonomous area with its decentralization spirit providing more space for those who have never been heard?