Letters which bear witness to political violence long unacknowledged.


A collaboration between Stage of Wawan Sofwan, Sandra Fiona Long and Ria Soemardjo. 

From 1965-67 Ibu Helen lived in Jakarta with her Indonesian husband, a trade unionist, and their two young children while a violent political purge unfolded in Indonesia. Ibu Helen wrote letters home to her family in Gippsland, first full of enthusiasm for the political ideals inspiring many people with hope, then slowly becoming more guarded as friends and family ‘disappeared’ and danger enveloped her family. Surat-Suratnya takes over La Mama HQ’s theatre and rehearsal hub with two performances inspired by these letters:

Our Last Dinner Was Sayur Lodeh:  A young mother prepares the final meal for her family in Jakarta before they flee to the safety of Australia. A monologue adapted by Wawan Sofwan and performed by Ellen Marning.

Between the Letters: An intimate installation performance, created and performed by Ibu Helen’s daughter, singer and artist Ria Soemardjo, navigating the intergenerational impact of the loss of homeland experienced by her father as a political exile living in Victoria.

This work will appeal to anyone interested in politics and history, bearing witness to a still untold story where millions are estimated to have been massacred in the ‘communist’ purges.

“It is a beautiful dream. It is a nightmare. It is funny, it is hope, it is despair, it is a warning. It is art.” ★★★★★

– Whatdidshethink on Hades Fading (Hades Memudar) 2020

Content Warning: Disappearance, political violence

Written by Wawan Sofwan and Ratna Ayu Budiarti, based on the letters and interviews of Ibu Helen.

Director: Wawan Sofwan

Actor: Ellen Marning

Performer/Creator: Ria Soemardjo

Composer: Kurnia Eka Fajar

Designer: Yudith Christianto

Lighting Designer/Technical Manager: Cole McKenna

Project manager/Stage manager: Nirvana Vania

Dramaturg/Translator/Producer: Sandra Fiona Long

Image by Darren Gill

Access Information:

Visual rating 50%: Events are partly subtitled or include dialogue, background music and/or sounds, so d/Deaf and hard of hearing audiences can have some engagement with the event.

75% Aural rating Symbol

Aural Rating 75%: Mainly sound-based, with visuals only incidental to the work, so blind or low vision audiences can have close to the full experience of the event.