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Monday May 1st 2017

In Memory of Karna Yudibrata (1936-2014)

Literature | Friday, January 3rd, 2014 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawé Setiawan

I didn’t go to Teacher Training College (IKIP) of Bandung. My college at the end of the 1980s was Padjadjaran University (Unpad), which was then located at around Dipatiukur Street. I was not as fortunate as my fellow generation who studied at the so-called ‘Bumi Siliwangi’ Campus and was instructed by, among others, Professor Karna Yudibrata. Since I lived in Negla, not far from the IKIP’s campus, however, I had often seen the figure of Pak Karna at around his house. At that time, in addition to Pak Karna, in and around the campus lived some prominent figures: Yus Rusyana, Wahyu Wibisana, R.S. Hardjapamekas, Popo Iskandar, etc. Although at the time I didn’t know them personally, I was happy of being physically near to them, as if I was attracted by a strange magnetic field, as if I found an unusual learning sphere. As a journalism student, I found in them a sort of role model of men of letters.

I once visited the house of Pak Karna in the compound of IKIP’s campus. It was my friend Hikmat Gumelar, the most ‘enduring student’ of Unpad’s Sundanese Department and the most vigorous activist of Unpad’s Art, Literature, Theatre, and Film Arena (GSSTF), who asked me to join him in the visit. He said that prominent poet Sapardi Djoko Damono was at Pak Karna’s house. Come on! Let’s visit him for an interview, man! That’s the same old Hikmat’s way of meeting interesting people. Now I forget what caused the poet to stay at IKIP campus. To be sure, that’s the first time I met with Pak Karna. In my impression, he was very friendly with low voice and teacher-like performance or something like that. As a not so well dressed student, I myself felt a little bit nervous in front of this man.

I’ve personally known him since he’d been retired. His house was later moved to Sariwangi residence, in Bandung’s district of Parongpong. I had often heard of him from the late composer Nano S. Several times I listened to his speeches, especially at UPI (present time of Bandung’s IKIP). I’d also been assisting Pak Karna and colleagues Hardjapamekas Award board of juries in presenting the awards to Sundanese teachers—one of several Rancagé Cultural Foundation’s programmes. It was him that chaired the board. His last writing I’ve ever received directly from himself is a a personal recollection of the late Sobri Hardjapamekas, which he had delivered at a Rancagé’s forum in Bandung.

To the best of my knowledge, Pak Karna wrote poems, short stories, and a novel in Sundanese, as well as Sundanese textbooks. His short stories anthology entitled Kanyaah Kolot ‘Parents’ Love’ appeared in 1985. From the collection, a story entitled ‘Buah Limus Murag ku Angin’ (Fallen Limus Fruits) was then theatricalized by playwright Asep Surpriatna. His textbook entitled Bagbagan Makéna Basa Sunda ‘Sundanese Usage Guidance’ (co-author with Agus Suriamiharja and Iskandarwassid, 1990) is still worth reading. He also directed a theatre entitled ‘Lutung Kasarung’ based on a Sundanese folklore, and actively managed Indonesian arts mission abroad. He was vice rector of Bandung’s IKIP and then director of Indonesian Dance Academy (ASTI) of Bandung. He also managed the Institute Sundanese Language and Literature (LBSS) and the Association of Sundanese Writers (PP-SS).

Just a couple of days ago, when my family and I were in Sumedang, I got a text message from author Chyé Rétty Isnéndés : ‘Kang, Pa. Karna parantos ngantunkeun dinten ieu kinten percussion genep (Kang, Pa Karna has passed away today at around six o’clock).’ I was so sorry. Just a few days earlier, my wife had reminded me that Pa Karna was seriously ill. We didn’t have time to visit him. In Prabu Geusan Ulun Museum, far from Sariwangi, what I could do was just praying: O, The Most Good God, may you welcome this good teacher at your good abode!

Wilujeng angkat, Pa. Neda sih hapuntenna réhing abdi sakulawarga teu kabujeng ngiring jajap ka kalanggengan. Even though ‘vita brevis’, people say ‘ars longa’, Pak.***

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