Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Natrah's "grief" echoes in IB
<="By WAN NORAZAH WAN CHIKrencana@utusan.com.my">
Not many people can relate to Natrah's story, especially the young generation. Natrah's story ends with a tragedy, but with a lesson behind it.
Natrah, a Dutch girl raised by a Malay family in Kemaman used to be the focus of the country. It all happened due to a clash of culture and religion of an incident which happened in December 1950.
This story of a girl, named Bertha Hertogh, who was born to a Dutch soldier in Indonesia, started when her father was arrested by the Japanese army in December 1942. Her mother and grandmother, who were poor, then decided to rerturn to the Netherlands.
Bertha, who was then five years old was then given to Che Aminah Mohamed who took her to Kemaman, Terengganu.
Since then, Natrah was raised by a Malay Muslim family until she Arthur Locke, the British adviser in Terengganu, in September 1949. Natrah was 12 years old then at studied at Sekolah Perempuan Melayu, Chukai.
The meeting was the start to all the life sufferings endured by Natrah. To make the story short, there was a tussle on her custody and following the clever trick by the British and Dutch, Natrah was returned to her family in the Netherlands. Hence, began her story of bitterness when she was forced to abandon her religious faith.
That was some of Natrah's life story. It is not a fairy tale, but a bitter reality.
The strength of Natrah's story is what prompted Istana Budaya to bing her life to the theatre. Istana Budaya Director General Mohamed Juhari Shaarani said the idea to bring Natrah to the stage was mooted by Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim.
He said the idea of staging Natrah was made since seven years ago, but due to several constraints, especially budget, it was postponed.
Now, after Natrah's death last July 9 in Huijbergen, the Netherlands at the age of 72, efforts to stage her life story was revived.
"We chose Natrah after looking at the agenda behind the tragedy. Natrah's tragedy heightened hatred for the colonial masters. The public became angry when Natrah was forced to change her religious faith. They were more united in opposing the colonials.
"That feeling didn't only exisit among the Muslim Malays, but also other races and religions. That was what IB saw and it was that element which we want to promote on the theatre stage," said Juhari.
According to him, another aspect to look into, but which many people may not understand, was on the conspiracy by the British and Dutch in the case.
Natrah was not English, but the issue involved religious conflict, between Islam and Christian, which was the faith of the British and Dutch. They strongly wanted to win the case because it involved their pride as the colonial masters.
"The British helped the Dutch by deceiving Che Aminah into going to Singapore. The Dutch would not win if Natrah's case was heard in the courts of Malaya," said Juhari.
The trick by the British and Dutch was seen in the conspiracy between the two colonials.They tried to pressure the people even in small issues involving custody of an adopted child. If Natrah's story is studied, there were many hidden agenda by the colonials.
He said Natrah was also brought to the stage to give opportunities to those who didn't know Natrah to follow her life story.
Most important, he said, it was to serve as a lesson so that there would not be another "Natrah" in the society.
"We don't want the tragedy involving Natrah to recur. Let it be a lesson and those who see it will understand and pledge not to allow a second incident liike what Natrah went through.
"It was staged in the form of story telling. There will be Natrah when she was young. The story line is clear and the audience will understand the trus story and what happened," he added.
He also spoke on the love story in Natrah, about a Muslim girl of Dutch descendant, who fell in love with Mansor Adabi, a 21-year-old Malay teacher.
"It should be remembered that at the first meeting, when Natrah was taken to Singapore from Kemaman, the girl was only 13 years old. But a girl of that age in those days, was already matured and married.
"So Natrah was married to Mansor with the hope that she would no longer be harassed by the Dutch, but Che Aminah's move was wrong," he added.
Juhari believed that the staging of Natrah would leave a deep effect on the audience.
"We have to understand what Natrah went through. She suffered since leaving Malaya, especially after receiving news that Mansor had remarried," he added.
Asked on the selection of Erma Fatima as the theatre director for Natrah, Juhari said it was because of her capability.
"We evaluate from all aspects, including the success of the theatre on Sirah Junjungan which she directed. Apart from that, Natrah is about a woman. We feel a woman would understand another woman better.
"Also because of her track record, which gives IB the confidence to choose her. What is important is that we are confident Erma will not let us down," said Juhari.
He said Erma's capability was proven when she managed to bring the big names in the entertainment industry onto the Istana Budaya stage, like Maya Karin, Sofea Jane and Umi Aida.
"They accepted the offer by IB because they wanted to act under Erma. As a government institution, IB can't afford to make lucrative offers, but Erma and Natrah managed to bring them to this stage. We hope these big names will make Natrah a success," he added.
For those who want to see Natrah, the performance at Istana Budaya would be held from Nov 30 until Dec 9.
Can Natrah competes with Mahsuri and Di Mana Setangginya? This will be determined by the audience, but it is IB's hope that Natrah will be a huge success before the curtain is let down for this year's theatre performance.
The possibility would be studied from all aspects, including the script.
"We (Ministry) are mulling the prospect of filming the story but the script need to be different and not 100 percent absorbed from the staged play.
"To be filmed, there should be some innovations and modifications to make it interesting, especially the script and how the story will be played," he told reporters after watching Natrah at Istana Budaya here tonight with his wife Datin Seri Masnah Rais and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The story evolves around Natrah, raised in Malaysia by her Malay foster mother before a custody dispute ensued over custodial rights between Che Aminah and Natrah’s natural parents in Holland.
The love conflict between Natrah and Mansoor Adabi was the cause of riots in Singapore in 1950 and this riot was sparked off as a result of religious sentiments and skin colour.
On July 9, 2009, Natrah died of Leukemia, at the age of 72 in Huijbergen, Holland.
The play (Natrah) was staged at Istana Budaya on Nov 30 and was supposed to have ended yesterday but due to overwhelming response, the dateline has been extended to Sunday.
The riots lasted till noon on 13 december, with 18 killed, 173 injured and many properties damaged - the worst incident of its kind ever witnessed in Singapore.
The Maria Hertogh riots had received widespread press coverage by The Straits Times, etc.
Reunited after the war, my biological parents began seeking for me in the late 1940s. They lodged a request with Dutch officials to locate me. Arthur Locke, the Administrative Officer (East) was the first to alert authorities about my whereabouts when he spotted me at a school competition in Kemaman. A custody battle then ensued over me,drew much public attention and fuelled religious sensitivities.
Initially, my custody was given to Aminah. Within 4 days of the ruling, on 1 August 1950, I was married off to Mansoor Adabi, a 22-year old Kelantan teacher at Bukit Panjang Government School, heading a second year Normal Class.
I think that Adeline Hertogh has the right to claim Maria Hertogh back as she had clearly stated that she did not give up Maria Hertogh's custody. She had to leave Maria Hertogh under the care of Che Aminah due to some financial problems. Lastly, according to the Dutch law, a girl can only married after 16, therefore the Dutch did not recognize juvenile Maria Hertogh's marriage.
The riots highlighted the insensitive way the media handled religious and racial issues in Singapore. The British colonial authorities also failed to defuse an explosive situation when emotional reports appeared in the local press of the custody battle accompanied by sensational media photographs of a Muslim girl in a Catholic convent.
Although the rioters were mainly Malays, they included a large number of foreigners including Indians, Pakistani and Indonesian Muslims.
As a result of this historic event, the Government of Singapore, upon independence in 1965, instituted legislation against racial discrimination. It became an offence to incite racial and religious hatred in Singapore. The local media exercised greater discipline in the coverage of sensitive issues. National integration and nation-building took top priority in the formulation of government policies.
The most heart-rending story ever brought about in my home-land, which was the place where I was born, Kemaman. Resulting "it" to be in the history, which carried and tagged all the way until today, while bloggers write about the late Maria (may peace be upon her) . My late mother was also a close friend of the late Cik Aminah binti Mohamed and I have vaguely heard about her aka Nadrah during their conversations.
In 1980's I came across writings about her by a distinguished writer, Datin Fatini Yaacob, who spent a great deal of time, traveled the continent looking for her, found her, met her with her family... but... but... could not hug her (as she put it)... although she sadly very much wanted to... instead, the late Nadra was hugging her child at that instant. I was personally moved by her effort to trace and write about this lady.
Until her passing on, no justice was ever done to her.... only Allah Knows best.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The war torn country
Opened up a history for me
With gladness I accepted this desperate request
That vary day Bertha was in my care
From someone I had known
To be a friend and companion
Who was facing serious trouble
In a war torn country
Sincerely I adhered to her wishes
Back to Kemaman with Bertha I went
I then treated her like my own
Embracing Islam as she should
From a merely less than 5 years of age
She was tenderly cared and loved
Affection was showered endlessly
It grew and grew blossomed like flower
She was a good and a beautiful child
She was a faithful child
She obeyed me so well
She was much loved by all
However, beyond our expectations
Things abruptly changed
Someone came and looking
Manipulated facts and promises were made
Believing they were true
I adhered to the words
I was naive
I agreed to the plan
I was promised a letter
The Dutch Consulate was going to issue
For the legal adoption of Natrah
I would just do anything for her
The bloke who gave the promise
Was the bloke that manipulated it all
I and Natrah traveled the seas
To Singapore we sailed with high hopes
The Colonial time was the time
Innocent people were taken for a ride
I was one who fell victim
Losing my self esteem and pride
Once the promise was proven untrue
I was desperately fighting
With guts, pride, spirits and faith
Were my best weapons put in use
Supports received were overwhelming
People tried to save a young Dutch girl
Whose faith in Islam was so strong
Whose love and affection was undying
WE had sleepless nights and restless days
Desperately trying all avenues
To save Natrah's faith and the love so pure
Soon to be torn from this heart mine
Winning the court case was not the end
Natrah's paternal family fought strongly
The second time round we were defeated
Natrah was to return to them, her rightful parents
Heart breaks, aches, despair and helplessness
Tormenting nights and days followed
Battles lost won wider sympathy
Endless empathy set in from people all around
The distinguished politicians
The men in the streets
The whole nation felt
The whole battle was coming to an end
I would have never thought
The desperate lady would turn around
And say "I have never given Natrah to you"
Sadly I also have misplaced the letter she once wrote
Out of ignorance I lost
I had lost everything
I felt my whole life was taken away
My heart died the moment she went
Now I am home alone in Kemaman
Pondering the past wondering the present
How is Natrah getting on over there
With life and religion so very different
I severed my friendship with the Hertoghs
It was so unbecoming of them
No words of appreciations were delivered
No feeling of gratitude ever felt
The pain, anguish, disappointment, emptiness
All set in like the fierce strikes of lightning
My heart went with Natrah, my beloved child
My whole life was suddenly bleak
What do I have now?
I was left with empty arms
My heart was full of pain and hurts
NO! It was more than pain...
Thus their demise ended their despair
BUT something else never ends
History, journals, texts, pictures
Lingers on and on and on
Theater liven the history
Finger tips writing endless stories
Poems and scripts replacing their torments
Heart felt grieves were shared across
They both made a grieving history
Successfully capturing our hearts, mind and soul!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Natrah's life as I am describing in my poetic manner
Was it my fault that the war happened?
Was it my fault that I was forced to be separated?
Was it my fault that I was fostered
At that raw age of 4 yrs plus?
Was it my fault that I embraced Islam?
Which I was glad that I did
Was it my fault that I learned to read
the Al Quran and to pray?
Which I was glad that I did