Indonesian folklore of vengeful female ghosts hold symbols of violence against women
Researcher at PSHK and lecturer at Jentera Law School, Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK)
Gita Putri Damayana receives funding fromi Yayasan Studi Hukum dan Kebijakan Indonesia.
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Indonesian moviegoers have had something to talk about these past two weeks. A top box-office movie by director Joko Anwar, Satan’s Slave, has a hair-raising ghost, called “Ibu” or “Mother”, haunting almost 2 million viewers . The millions were scared of “Ibu”, but I have scary data haunting Indonesian women and these ghosts are real.
In the annals of Indonesian folklore, female ghosts take centre stage. The country has kuntilanak , sundel bolong and Si Manis Jembatan Ancol . Most female ghosts in Indonesia were loving mothers or ordinary women before they started haunting the world with dark agendas.
Among the most popular ghosts are kuntilanak and sundel bolong ; their narratives are reproduced in pop culture products, most notably movies.
Kuntilanak was a woman who died at childbirth (or died delivering a stillborn, according to another version). Sundel bolong was a woman who was raped and became pregnant, then died at childbirth.
Kuntilanak is said to have a penchant for haunting women during delivery and stealing newborns, while sundel bolong terrorises men walking alone in the dark of night .
The third one is Si Manis Jembatan Ancol , loosely translated into The Pretty One Haunting Ancol Bridge , referring to Ancol, an area in North Jakarta. Men were said to have raped and killed Si Manis in North Jakarta when she escaped her husband.
A different kind of female ghost, an outlier, is Nyai Roro Kidul , believed to be the ruler of the southern sea of Java, who becomes the mystical wife of each Mataram king.
To know more about the issue of women in Indonesia’s ghost folklore, read Indonesian fictions, Sihir Perempuan (Black Magic Woman) and Kumpulan Budak Setan (Devil’s Slaves Club), by author, scholar and feminist Intan Paramaditha.
‘Kuntilanak’: victim of poor access to healthcare
There’s a thread connecting the female ghosts beyond their gender: most of them are victims.
Of course, no scientific evidence supports the existence of these ghosts. But the background story of each ghost shares similar themes. These women were victims of gender inequality and sexual violence. They also had poor access to healthcare.
Indonesian Health Ministry data show the maternal mortality rate in 2015 reached 305 per 100,000 live births . The average rate in the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 was 127, while the average in developed countries is 12 per 100,000 live births .
The ministry data showed the top two causes of deaths in 2013 were post-partum bleeding (30.3%) and preeclampsia (27.1%) . These deaths could have been avoided had the women had access to proper care.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s data on sexual violence, experienced by both Si Manis and sundel bolong , are also harrowing. The Central Statistics Bureau surveyed 9,000 women respondents in 2016 and reported that one in three Indonesian women aged 15-64 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
In another report, the bureau recorded 1,739 reported rape cases in 2015 , higher than robbery using sharp weapons or firearms, which reached 1,097 in the same year.
But “Ibu”, the woman in the movie set in 1981, would probably have a better fate today compared with her fate then. She was lying helpless for three years without a proper diagnosis. In 2017, at least, she would probably have received a better diagnosis thanks to Indonesia’s universal healthcare, BPJS Kesehatan, implemented since 2014.
Don’t let there be another ‘sundel bolong’
Of course juxtaposing the stories of Indonesian female ghosts with real data is only a way for me to highlight an important issue using folklore and a popular culture product.
But the popular ghosts’ stories reveal the close connections between violence against women and access to healthcare for women in the distant past. As the maternal death rate shows, the state of healthcare for Indonesian women today remains grim.
Perhaps, we would not have the story of kuntilanak haunting young mothers and their newborns had more real live Indonesian women survived child labour and deliver healthy babies.
Si Manis ‘s violent rape and murder story is said to have originated from a true story in Dutch colonial time . Today, the streets of 21st-century Jakarta are not yet safe for women .
Sundel bolong ’s unwanted pregnancy, a result of rape, could have been avoided if she received adequate reproductive healthcare. Indonesia has issued a regulation legalising abortion for rape victims, but its implementation remains elusive .
Harsh punishment for rapists would have also spared sundel bolong from having to haunt those villains on her own. An online survey by women NGOs last year revealed 93% of rapes were not reported . Data from a 2013 masculinity survey by women’s crisis centre Rifka Annisa showed only 21.5% of respondents who admitted to committing sexual violence suffered legal consequences .
High maternal mortality rate, sexual violence: the real ghosts
The plights of these women ghosts, as told by the older generations, serve as a warning about the state of Indonesian women today. The numbers and data should be scary stories for Indonesian women.
Policymakers should pursue systematic changes, or we will forever see more women sharing the plights of sundel bolong , kuntilanak and Si Manis Jembatan Ancol .
If we don’t improve reproductive health services for women and let impunity reign among sexual violence perpetrators, we will continue the legacy of the female ghosts to our next generation. Not only in movies, but in real life as well.
This article was originally published in Indonesian
- Gender inequality
- Sexual violence
- Reproductive health
- Maternal mortality
- folklore ghosts
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INDONESIAN GHOST KUNTILANAK IN FOLKLORE AND MASS CULTURE
The article deals with mythological creature kuntilanak in the context of her genesis and the contemporary Indonesian mass culture. The popularity of this female ghost makes it necessary to restore the evolution of this image based upon folkloristic, ethnological, linguistic, and cultural evidence. Her scary image roots back into the ancient times and belongs to a circle of similar female ghosts of women died in impure condition. The paper explores the Nusantara ghost-lore genre cerita hantu, the regional variations of kuntilanak and the development of this image from a woman who died in childbirth into the victim of sexual abuse. It’s shown how the original folklore image is exploited in Indonesian mass culture where the old myth is recharged with new connotations. In horror films like “Kuntilanak” (2006) the monster out of control is understood in many ways: as the unconscious symbol of fear and personal trauma, as the unspoken dissatisfaction with current political and ideological situation in the country, including growing Islamization. The mass culture demythologize kuntilanak making her harmless, and for Indonesian feminists “sister” mbak Kunti is a victim of patriarchy, the Other stigmatized by the modern Muslim society. Like many other variations of this hantu she is interpreted as a monster, as a victim and as a final girl from the horror films at the same time. The main idea of this paper is to take kuntilanak out of the framework of folklore and post-folklore studies and to put this image in a wider context to see, what clues it may provide for deeper understanding of Indonesian society nowadays.
Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Kuntilanak is an icon of pop culture well known in several nations in Southeast Asia. While the female vampire is the subject of horror films and novels, people in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, claim that the city was founded by evicting Kuntilanak, who inhabited the confluence of the Kapuas and Landak rivers before the city was built. This article examines narratives on Kuntilanak, comparing it with other spirit perceptions found among Dayak in West Kalimantan. It suggests that the horror of that terrifying ghost is the price people had to pay for conceptualizing nature in accordance with Islamic Malay modernity. Referring to Critical Theory approaches, it is argued that the hostility and horror of Kuntilanak are expressions of a specific mode of enlightenment in the widest sense of the term, that is, an effort to conceptualize nature in order to rule over it. Nature thus emerges in opposition to the civilized, Muslim societies (masyarakat madani) of Malay coastal towns.
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Democracy and Social Transformation, ICON-DEMOST 2021, September 15, 2021, Semarang, Indonesia
As themes, children and violence are broadly presented in popular culture, especially in movies. This paper investigates images of children and violence in post-New Order Indonesian horror movies, focusing on two films: Rumah Kentang (Potato House, 2012) and Badoet (Clown, 2015). Rumah Kentang is a movie about a ghostlike house haunted by the child victim of domestic violence, while Badoet is about a mysterious clown who killed three children and a murder investigation that harms many people, including children. Using Raphaëlle Moine's concept of genre, this paper reveals the textual and contextual aspects of domestic and social violence that threatens children in urban environments. The institution of family and the social urban environment are highlighted in the analysis. This study also shows the weakness of ratiocination as a main problem of the genre, and as such scenes in the Indonesian horror films have difficulty arousing the fear of their audiences, their ultimate goal.
Space and Culture
Kar Yen Leong
The 1965 killings in Indonesia brought about the incarceration, disappearances, and deaths of 500,000 to one million alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party. This article concentrates on several suspected mass graves in Central Java reputed to have supernatural energy emanating from the violent deaths of the individuals buried there. These sites also have gatekeepers or juru kunci bridging the living and the spirits inhabiting these spaces. This research asks, How do these sites, through their juru kunci, elucidate a past which continues to be silenced? I posit that through contact with the souls of the executed, these gatekeepers utilize an ethereal connection to subvert the state's enforced silence. These sites also provide a ritual space transforming these ghosts into ancestors worthy of remembrance. By reclaiming the identities of those murdered, the living and the dead can achieve a kind of localized spiritual reconciliation.
Adrian Yuen Beng Lee
The pontianak is widely recognised as the most dreaded supernatural being in Malay folklore and mythology. Often described as a fearsome mythical creature with vampire-like qualities, she is said to have fangs, possesses ghost-like traits and can only be subdued using a sharp object which is usually a nail struck to the back of her neck. She is also recognised through her high-pitched shrieks, long flowing hair and a fondness for the blood of children. Despite possessing such fearsome and horrifying characteristics, the pontianak peculiarly remains popular among Malaysians as the horror film genre has always been popular among Malaysian and Asian audiences due to its deep roots in religious and superstitious beliefs. Many Asian nations have shared cultural, historical and social characteristics. Cross cultural influences across borders are common in shaping each other's culture and a number of Malaysian horror films have been influenced by the Noh and Kabuki-influenced 'shunen' (revenge) and 'kaidan' (ghost mystery) stories. While the horror film is in fact a commercial venture, the genre is also filled with socio-cultural and political contestations. As such, these narratives reflect certain socio-cultural and political anxieties of given moments within the location of the film's production. This paper therefore examines the pan-Asian cultural influences in the current wave of Malaysian horror. As the pontianak is also always female, this paper then examines how the employment of female monstrosity articulate male fears around female empowerment and suggests a broader challenge to a sense of normality, cultural and religious beliefs.
Asian Journal of Women's Studies
Malay horror films have made a comeback since the government of Malaysia in 2004 gradually relaxed the ban. Since then, Malaysian cinema has been flooded with horror films, and this causes concern among politicians as they argue that horror films can impede the growth of the mind, as the values perpetuated by horror films are seen to go against the government’s effort to promote scientific and critical thinking among Malaysians. We argue that understanding the current view that consigns this film genre to the feminine side of the binary system, hence, the irrational as opposed to the rational or masculine, is one of the reasons for such concern. Employing Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection in the tradition of feminist psychoanalysis as the theoretical framework, this paper looks at the mother character and her relationship with Saka in a contemporary Malay horror film to reveal the ideological work of such masculine ideology. Saka is a mystical figure that is “invited” into a family and is passed down through the matrilineal line from one generation to the next. We argue that even though Saka is used as an entrapment for female liberatory possibilities, it ironically mirrors the destabilization of masculine dominance. We do this by illustrating how female characters in the genre are typecast and Saka functions as a masculine substitute that reinforces this idea, which ultimately is used to investigate female sexuality; hence, playing the typical role of masculine ideological dominance.
KnE Social Sciences
Currently, film remains the main media for public entertainment. Of the many genres of film in Indonesia, horror is still the most popular. Unfortunately, Indonesian horror films pay little attention to the creative aspects of the story but focus on cinematography, producing repetitive performances which often follow stock templates. The story typically begins with moving to an empty house, getting lost in the forest, and being haunted by female ghosts. Even so, horror films like this are required to encourage critical and creative thinking of observers and film producers. Therefore, this study aims to discuss the disruptive element through repetitive stories in horror films that are able to open up opportunities for the emergence of creative interplay and its relevance to creative education through horror films in Indonesia. This research uses Maruska Svasek’s perspective on transit and transition which will dissect cultural phenomena in Indonesian horror films. In addition, the vi...
The Journal of Letters, 45.1 (Jan-June 2013)
Thomas A . C . Barker
In the decade following the end of the New Order regime in 1998; feature film making in Indonesia returned to both productivity and popularity after a hiatus in the 1990s. Significantly; a third of all films produced over the last decade have been horror films. Almost all of these horror films have deployed the familiar kuntilanak ghost; a grotesque avenging female spirit whose desire for justice propels the film’s narrative. Whilst these horror films have been popular with audiences; critics have dismissed them as cheap; commercial; derivative and simplistic. In this paper I argue that when post-1998 horror films are subjected to greater scrutiny; they reveal an insight into what haunts contemporary Indonesian society. By closely analyzing the narrative structure of these films; a temporal gap is evident between the original violent incident (rape; murder; suicide; generally ‘crimes of passion’) and the reappearance of the ghost. Typically the ghost lies dormant until disturbed by a group of unsuspecting Jakartan youths who then become entangled in her search for justice. In horror films pre-1998; neither this temporal gap existed nor did the mediating role played by youths. By drawing on psychoanalytical film theory that analyses how horror films represent widely held social anxieties; I suggest that the popularity of horror films in post 1998 Indonesia indicates a broadly felt trauma about the unresolved violence of the New Order regime. At the visceral level; these stories of horror provide catharsis for audiences in post 1998 Indonesia through the re-enactment of the violence in the genre of horror. My analysis of these films also reveals a relationship between popular film; contemporary audiences and historical trauma.
Proceedings of the ICECRS
Language Literacy: Journal of Linguistics, Literature, and Language Teaching
Muhammad Ali Pawiro
The Si Beru Dayang folklore is one of the cultural heritages in North Sumatra, and it belongs to Karonese society. Such folklore is believed to entertain the Karonese who still retell it to young generation according to its function since it contains local wisdom. This research is aimed at discussing women’s images seen from the perspective of cultural aspects. Qualitative descriptive methods and interviews were used in this research. The data collection was obtained from recording and from informants’ oral responses when they were invited during interviews; data was discussed from the domains of sociology of literature and from cultural aspects. The sociology of literature was focused on a number of concepts of women’s images in the folklore. The results show that women are portrayed as anak beru (wife taker/daughter), ndehara (wife), and sirukatnakan (rice dipper) as symbols of origin of rice in Karo land, and as women in the merdang traditional ritual.
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Southeast asia's vengeful man-eating spirit is a feminist icon.
Cover art for 'Ponti', by Sharlene Teo.
A still from 1958 film 'Sumpah Pontianak.'
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Kuntilanak Ghost Figure 3D model
Kuntilanak ghost figure.
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The Origin of the Kuntilanak Ghost For some Indonesian people, the ghost of the Kuntilanak is believed to come from a woman who failed to give birth and her baby had not yet come out or a woman who died while pregnant. Kuntilanak is also a ghost of people's beliefs in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The name of the Kuntilanak ghost itself comes from the word puntianak which stands for a dead woman who gave birth. Meanwhile, the capital city of West Kalimantan province is also called Pontianak. That said, in the past when Sultan Abdurrahman Alkadrie founded the Pontianak Sultanate, he was always harassed by the ghost of this Kuntilanak. However, because of his supernatural powers, he managed to defeat the Kuntilanak ghost by firing a cannon. The Kuntilanak ghost is depicted in the form of a woman in a robe, wearing a white cloth, and has long flowing hair and always covers her scary face. These ghosts often inhabit places that are quiet and rarely touched by humans and places where people often die unnaturally. Kuntilanak is also often described as a creepy woman who likes to chuckle and likes to disturb people in the village or road users.
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Film / Kuntilanak
When she comes, you will be gone forever. Inscription on the mirror.
Kuntilanak is an Indonesian Horror Movie directed by Rizal Mantovani, and written by Alim Sudio. It's a remake of Rizal Mantonavi's 2006 film of the same name .
Aunt Donna (Nena Rosier) has decided to go to California for a trip to visit a friend's relatives, and has left her six adoptive children, Dinda (Sandrinna M. Skornicki), Ambar (Ciara Nadine Brosman), Kresna (Andryan Bima), Miko (Ali Fikry), Panji (Adlu Fahrezi), and Lydia (Aurelie Moeremans) in the care of Lydia, the oldest of them. While she's out, Lydia has tasked her boyfriend Glenn (Fero Walandouw) with finding a new mirror for Donna to replace the cracked one she currently has in her room.
Glenn is the host of a ghost hunting show, and his latest episode has him investigating a house where a young boy named Anjas (Naufal Ho) was supposedly captured by an evil spirit called a " Kuntilanak ". While filming, he discovers a mirror among the objects discarded by Anjas' father (Aqi Singgih) and decides it would make the perfect replacement. So, he decides to bring it back to Donna's house.
However, soon after it's brought in, the kids start hearing voices calling out to them, and seeing some pretty freaky things. Could Glenn have accidentally brought the Kuntilanak into their home?
The movie was released on June 15th, 2018.
Kuntilanak contains examples of:
- Antagonist Title : Kuntilanak.
- Cat Scare : When Glenn and his crew hear a noise inside the Lukman house, they slowly go up to investigate, and are scared by a black cat jumping down the stairs.
- Death of a Child : Anjas' dad, Mr. Lukman, spent four weeks dealing with his son's kidnapping. He finally finds him, dead, buried in the woods after the Kuntilanak has been dealt with.
- The End... Or Is It? : After the credits start rolling, it cuts to a shot of the Kuntilanak's mirror sitting in a flea market. Then the head on top of it looks at the viewer.
- Evil Laugh : A high-pitched "Eeh hee hee hee hee hee!", courtesy of the Kuntilanak.
- Happily Adopted : It's shown that Donna is trying her best to be a Good Parent to her adoptive children, and they do like living with her.
- Mirror Monster : The Kuntilanak's lair is inside of a mirror.
- Missing Mom : Anjan and his dad were dealing with the loss of Anjan's mother from a vehicular accident.
- Monochromatic Eyes : Sometimes, characters' eyes will go solid white, which is usually a sign of a haunting by the Kuntilanak.
- One-Word Title : Kuntilanak, naturally.
- Shout-Out : If you look closely at Anjan's shelf in the prologue, you'll see a " Master Shifu " figure.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl : The Kuntilanak.
- Trail of Blood : Mr. Lukman finds one leading into the mirror after his son is kidnapped by the Kuntilanak.
- Undead Child : Anjas, after the Kuntilanak kidnaps him.
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Kuntilanak: Ghost Narratives and Malay Modernity in Pontianak, Indonesia.
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- APA style: Kuntilanak: Ghost Narratives and Malay Modernity in Pontianak, Indonesia.. (n.d.) >The Free Library. (2014). Retrieved Nov 11 2023 from https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Kuntilanak%3a+Ghost+Narratives+and+Malay+Modernity+in+Pontianak%2c...-a0631810200
Video call kuntilanak creepy horror ghost prank for Android
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A free program for Android, by Entertaiments Mars.
We present a fun application that lets you simulate video calls and chat with the spooky ghosts. You can prank your friends and family, and make them think that you are communicating with the spirits of the underworld.
What are the benefits of this application?
Prank your friends or family and see their reaction. Make them believe that you are in contact with the spirits of the underworld, and see how scared they become.
How can I use this application?
Open the application and select the type of ghost you want to talk to. The first thing you need to do is select a time. You can choose between the next day, this week, next year, and the next decade. After that, you need to select a country. There are four countries that are available: Indonesia, America, Europe, and Asia. Choose the country you want to prank. You can also select a time and a number.
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Suara Hantu Kuntilanak Ketawa
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Antropolog Jerman Teliti Sejarah Kuntilanak, Ini Hasil Penelitiannya
Sejarah kuntilanak terungkap. Hantu perempuan di Indonesia yang menyeramkan itu selama ini telah diteliti oleh seorang antropolog asal Jerman bernama Timo Duile.
Hasil penelitian itu dipublikasikan dalam Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia pada 2020. Judulnya "Kuntilanak: Ghost Narratives and Malay Modernity in Pontianak, Indonesia".
Dari hasil penelitian yang dilakukannya Timo menuturkan bahwa kuntilanak tidak hanya menjadi ikon budaya di Indonesia saja. Kuntilanak juga dikenal di sejumlah negara di Asia Tenggara.
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Beberapa negara yang mengenal kuntilanak yakni Malaysia, Singapura, Brunei Darussalam, serta bagian selatan Filipina dan Thailand.
Di negara Malaysia dan Singapura, kuntilanak disebut Pontianak, perempuan berciri-ciri seperti vampir yang tertarik dengan darah dan berbahaya bagi wanita melahirkan.
Sebagai mayat hidup, dia mengancam yang hidup karena dia tidak dapat menemukan kedamaian. Dia memakai pakaian putih dan konon dia biasanya tinggal di bawah pohon atau di hutan.
Kuntilanak Berkaitan dengan Kota Pontianak
Studi yang dilakukan Timo itu menggunakan pendekatan objek seputar manusia dan roh, terutama dalam sudut pandang orang-orang di Pontianak, Kalimantan Barat.
Dalam studinya disebutkan bahwa orang-orang Pontianak mengklaim kotanya didirikan dengan menggusur kuntilanak sebelum kota Pontianak dibangun.
Orang-orang Pontianak menyebutkan bahwa dahulu kuntilanak mendiami pertemuan sungai Kapuas dan Sungai Landak yang masih rawa-rawa dan hutan lebat.
Kuntilanak selalu dikaitkan dengan pohon. Baca alasannya di halaman selanjutnya.
5 Tempat yang Terkenal Angker di Subang
Studi: membantu orang sangat bermanfaat untuk ketahanan diri, tikus ternyata berimajinasi layaknya manusia, ini bukti studinya, benarkah patung sphinx awalnya terbentuk karena angin bukan manusia ini kata studi, duh, langit pontianak gelap diselimuti kabut asap, bekas tambang batu bara di sawahlunto jadi media pendidikan-penelitian.
Pontianak: The Vampiric Ghost of Southeast Asia
The pontianak, or kuntilanak, has long been a staple of Malay horror. In addition to serving as an allegory for the tension between traditional and modern cultural and spiritual practices, these monsters gave name to a real city. In this episode, you’ll learn how Islamic trade routes, animism, and the role of women in Southeast Asia contribute to stories of this notorious ghost.
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Dick Winters: "Hang Tough"
Ali in Washington
The Real McCoy
The Mayo Clinic
D-Day: The Price of Freedom
Lucy Worsley Investigates
Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom
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