Social, Political, Cultural and Economic Issues
“The Struggle of Naga Tribe” is one of the most famous plays in Indonesian literature history. The play was written and performed by Willy Brordus Surendro Rendra, one of the greatest writers and dramatists of Indonesia origin. Rendra tries to awaken his countrymen to their rights and set them against developments that are taking place around them. The play is satirical in nature and yet describes several crucial issues in a communicative manner. It reveals several hypocrisies and compels people to think over social, political, cultural, and economic issues in a new perspective. This is a paper on the play “The Struggle of The Naga Tribe” by Willy Rendra. Special focus is given to the writer’s use of literature devices to describe a traditional society grappling with the effects of modern capitalism.
This play takes place in a remote village in Indonesia and replicates the whole Indonesian Society. The play depicts the political and economic issues facing the Naga tribe which is primarily typical of the Asian continent. The Naga tribe is very poor, but their land is rich in copper mineral deposits (Rahman). Multinational corporations that seek to exploit these minerals have invaded the land and threaten the traditional Naga way of life.
Dramatic performance of “The Struggle of The Naga Tribe” play attracts thousands of people. Rendra captivated his audience with excellent writing and performance skills. His content engaged the ordinary people by addressing issues that affect their day to day lives. Issues raised in this play compel the audience to reflect on the social and economic situations of the Indonesian society.
The plot unfolds as a foreign company reaches the village in search of minerals. The company has a hidden agenda, to grab the land of the Naga people. The company has learnt of the rich copper mineral deposits on the land and seeks to take over the mining activities in a covert way. The company bribes government authorities in order to get authorization to enter the land and commence the mining activities. The company acquires the documents required by the authorities and starts its operations on the land.
The Naga tribe opposes the company’s operations as they are concerned about the loss of their traditional values and way of life. The capitalist nature of the company introduces a new way of life that threatens to suck them into a modern order of life. The company also threatens to disposess them off their ancestral land. Naga tribe fully opposes the company and uses all the means at their disposal to derail its operations. The story is a portrayal of the antagonism between the tribe and the company as each party tries to defend its interest. The government has abandoned the Naga people and sides with the company which causes frustration among the tribesmen.
The portrayal of Rendra is exceptional wherein he portrays how Naga tribes were betrayed by their people and their own government and left to their fate to survive. Marxism concepts of social stratification are deep seated in the Naga community. The capitalists control the fate of the poor Naga tribesmen and use their resources to sway the government which acts against its own people. The two social classes are locked in a political and economic confrontation. Marxism values are evidenced in the Naga’s struggle to defend their land (Rahman). Rendra has effectively displayed how the rich and the privileged exploit the poor for their own financial gain. Rendra is aggrieved by the traits of his own people who sell out to the corporation for their own selfish gains.
Rendra is known for raising various crucial issues in the Indonesian society. Rendra witnessed the rule of Indonesian president Sukarno and Indonesian army General Suharto. He found both of them to be extremely corrupt. These two rulers were equally oppressive and murdered millions of Indonesians. Corruption was deeply rooted in the government where officials cared about their own interests instead of serving the people. The poor people became poorer while the rich grew richer. Nobody cared for the underprivileged, deprived people, poor people and the tribes. Rendra was utterly aggrieved with the condition of people and he expressed his anguish through his satirical poetry and art performances such as the satirical “Snapshots of Development in Poetry” that earned him a nine months jail sentence (Miles).
Rendra’s rebellious nature against oppressive regimes has pitted him against authority on several occasions. Rendra was sent to prison for writing and speaking against the military rule. “The Struggle of Naga Tribe” was banned by the Indonesian government (Miles). Theatre became a powerful medium of expression that helped him in expressing his revolutionary ideas. Apart from writing this play, Rendra also wrote various issues oriented poems. Rendra has used the same satirical tone in the “The Struggle of Naga Tribe” play where he thoroughly excoriates the leadership as the cause of the various negative issues that affect the Naga tribe. The author always raised issues of oppression of the poor by the rich and influential people. Rendra appears anti-authority at times, but the reality is that his writing and performances are always pro-underprivileged.
Critics such as Professor Teeuw describe as a writer who was true to his calling. He never expressed his opinions nor did he push for his own ideology. He also did not present practical solutions for problems that affected his people as a politician would have done. All he did was present his work to people who were ready to listen and acknowledge his message (Rahman).
The play does not portray any other conflict of interests, but only the division between the rich and poor Naga tribesmen. The plot revolves around the two social classes. The rich try to exploit the poor by taking away their land and diluting their cultural values while the poor Naga people fight back to retain their resources and way of life. All the themes in the story such as betrayal, cronyism and greed depict the capitalists and collaborators as profit minded individuals interested only in their course with no regard of their impact on the local Naga community. The Naga people are assertive and resent being sucked into a foreign way of life.
Rendra portrays and focuses on modernization, authoritarianism, mass exploitation and ideological delineation. Rendra raises his voice against the international invasion in the tribal territories. He questions the intentions of the international investor and their collaborators. He suggests that the society should not be left at the mercy of the capital bourgeoisie. “The struggle of The Naga Tribe” argues in favor of indigenousness and preserving cultural independence. Rendra suggests that pastoral and community values should be preserved at any cost.
In the overall, the play is very educative and addresses several crucial issues. It entertains the audience and at the same time it resuscitates various issues. People come to know about their society and its issues in a practical manner. Rendra indicates how people should fight every kind of oppression. Rendra, in his play, talks about the rights of Naga tribe because they are underprivileged and neglected by the government. The author does not support rich foreign corporations but instead, he advocates the rights and traditions of Naga tribe.
Rendra is known for his issue oriented writing, and he does not fail on this front in the play, “The Struggle of Naga Tribe”. There is some scope of improvement at this front, but it successfully communicates what the intended message. The play inspires the readers to fight for their rights which are the most important feat that Rendra achieved as a writer.
After observing above noted analysis of the play, “The Struggle of Naga Tribe”, it can be concluded that the play is one of the best literary creations in the Indonesian history. Rendra has proved his adroitness once again, which explains why he is considered as one of the greatest scholars of the Indonesian literature. Rendra describes significant social issues in this play and advocates for cultural originality of indigenous people. The author indicates his political and ideological stands and also his commitment to social issues affecting the Naga tribe. Rendra has delivered a masterpiece that educates people a lot about his Naga tribe and various other issues of ancient social and cultural traditions.
Miles, Douglas. “Douglas Miles: An Essay On W.S. Rendra.” Douglas Miles on WS Rendra.” Mascara Literary Review, 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2014
Rahman, Azly. “W.S. Rendra's "Struggle of the Naga Tribe".” The Papers of Azly Rahman. Personal Blog, 02 Dec. 2005. Web. 7 Nov. 2014
Rendra, W. (1979). The Strugle of Naga Tribe. USA: University of Queensland Press.