- Purchase/rental options available:
Few primary sources other than Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje tell us about the traveling bard Abdul Karim, popularly known as Dôkarim, who composed the Hikayat Prang Gômpeuni (Song of the Dutch War). Composed orally in Acehnese verse, the Hikayat borrows generously from the themes and narratives of the famous epic poems that preceded it while also recounting specific details of warrior bravery, political negotiations, and community devastation brought by the war. The Hikayat Prang Gômpeuni was not only a work in progress with Dôkarim adding new verses as the war unfolded, it was also a performance piece tailored to meet the expectations of every patron that commissioned Dôkarim’s recitals. Among Dôkarim’s patrons were Snouck Hurgronje himself, who commissioned the only complete transcription of the Hikayat and the Acehnese war hero Teuku Umar, who later went on to execute Dôkarim before the war’s end for his supposed defection to the Dutch. This article shows how the ambiguous figure of Dôkarim in Aceh’s 19th century serves as a productive metaphor and cautionary tale for Aceh’s culture producers in the 21st. The Tikar Pandan Community in particular has leveraged the figure of Dôkarim and elevated his partial legacy to the status of a myth, assuming his poetic license to claim a space for building new tales that espouse a critical wariness toward all figures of authority.