The Act of Living: A Photo Exhibition of Women Survivors of Indonesia’s Violence in 1965

The work to unravel the legacy of violence is long-term and complex, and Indonesia still refuses to officially acknowledge its bloody past. Plans for a truth and reconciliation commission, discussed in the early days after the fall of General Soeharto in 1998, have been all but abandoned. However, since reformation, survivors of 1965 have taken an active role in speaking out about the violations they experienced, and demanding justice and acknowledgement. Survivors pushed for an inquiry by Indonesia’s national human rights commission, which was completed in 2012 and concluded crimes against humanity had been committed. A civil-society led truth-seeking process organized public hearings, data gathering, and the launch of a final report, “Reclaiming Indonesia.” Recently, there has been an increase in incidences of elderly survivors who have gathered to support each other being attacked by so-called anti-communist groups.

This photo exhibition is a result of a participatory research, which involved female survivors of the 1965 crimes against humanity. A total of 26 women and children of political prisoners of 1965 participated. Many women survivors from 1965 shared their stories of violence and discrimination. This is not a new finding, and confirms existing research about forms of gender-based violence experienced by women. What have been most interesting are the after life struggles and triumphs of these women survivors. One of the approaches of this research is the photo taking and storytelling. The portraits and stories are presented in this exhibition.

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