Kwee Tek Hoay
|Born||31 July 1886|
Bogor, West Java
|Died||4 July 1951 (aged 64)|
Cicurug, Sukabumi, West Java
|Notable works||Drama of Krakatoa, Dramatist Digoel|
|Spouse||Oeij Hiang Nio|
Kwee Tek Hoay, the youngest son of Tjiam Kwee Hong and Tan Ay Nio, often played truant during his early school years because he could not understand the language of instruction, Hokkien. He started learning the textile business from his father, and during this period began taking interest in reading books. Kwee began his writing career as a journalist. He served on the editorial board for magazines and newspapers, such as Ho Po Li Po (Bogor), and Sin Po (Batavia, Jakarta). In 1926, Kwee ventured into publishing his own magazine, called Panorama, but could not sustain it; he eventually sold it to the jurist, politician and newspaper proprietor Phoa Liong Gie in 1931. His most famous paper on the history and background of the founding association Tiong Hoa Hwee Koan, "The Origins of the Modern Chinese Movement in Indonesia", came out in series from August 1936 to January 1939.
As a journalist Kwee attained much success, but he achieved yet another mark as a novelist and playwright. His first story in drama form that received acclaim was Allah jang Palsoe (Counterfeit God). Published in 1919 the story condemns those people who are driven by money. Another of his works, Boenga Roos dari Tjikembang (The Rose of Tjikembang), was inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Kwee adapted the story to reflect Indonesian circumstances, but also used the book to open discussion on the issue of the nyai, a concubine often kept by young unmarried men. The novel has been adapted for a play and twice for a screenplay, in 1931 and 1975. A recent staging of the play drew many people to see it for the sake of nostalgia.
His drama The Victim Yi Yong Toan was staged in 1928. It was a criticism of the removal of young men to China to fight the Japanese army. Most of his works were inspired by real-life incidents and political issues. The drama Digoel was based on the life of a Communist Party leader and his daughter. Another of his works, titled Drama in Boven Digul, was based on the events of the PKI rebellion against the Dutch government. In 2011, this drama was also selected as Kwee's magnum opus by the Gerakan Indonesia Membaca Sastra (GIMS) or the Indonesia Reads Literature Movement as their first work of Indonesian literature to be read.
Another of Kwee's works, Nonton Cap Go Meh, was honoured by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in November 2011, along with eight others with the Bintang Budaya Parama Dharma award for contributing to the cultural heritage of the country. Set in the 1930s, the drama is a reflection of Kwee's progressive philosophy. It revolves around the life of a married couple, Thomas and Lies, who wanted to watch 'Cap Go Meh', a celebration of the 15th day after the New Year. However, they were not allowed to go out together, because of the restrictive old-school social rule that allowed them only the company of the members of the same gender. The couple not only expressed their dislike for such restrictive thinking, but also set an example for the youth to adopt more modern thinking.
During the 1920s, Kwee became actively engaged in the Tri Dharma. He ensured that the Buddhist temple in Jakarta also served as an institution for lessons on Buddhism. He is credited with the publication of the first Indonesian-language magazine on the teachings of Buddhism, Dharma Moestika (1932–1934).
Recognizing the contributions of Kwee and other major writers to Indonesian literature, Gramedia released a series of ten volumes, titled "Kesastraan Melayu Tionghoa dan Kebangsaan Indonesia", (Chinese-Malay Literature and Indonesian Nationhood). Many of Kwee's writings that document the life and culture of the 19th and 20th century Indonesia are included in the publication. Kwee's works have been performed by many theatres, such as Theatre Bejana that started with Bunga Roos dari Cikembang in February 2004, an adaptation of Kwee's Pencuri (The Thief) in 2010, Zonder Lentera (Without Light) in 2011 and Nonton Cap Go Meh in 2012.