"Rimpang's Stories", Kota Sabang_, RHIZOMATIC ARCHIPELAGO
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Inong Balee Fortress

English | Indonesia

Rhizomatic Archipelago “Live in” Notes from Krueng Raya, Aceh.

Inong Balee Fortress, a strategic defense point, because it can look broadly towards the Gulf of Krueng Raya and the gate to the Straits of Malacca. Meanwhile, those from below / the sea could not see the position of this fortress, because it was isolated between the towering cliffs. The fort is also said to be the center of sea logistical support for the Sultanate of Aceh.

The left side is Teluk Krueng Raya. (Photo: Ferial Afiff; accessed from Instagram @alebutoh)
The right side is the gateway to the Malacca Strait. (Photo: Ferial Afiff; accessed from Instagram @alebutoh)

Inong, ‘woman’ and Balee, ‘widow’. Initially I heard the strength of this army during a trip with Lifepatch (2017) exploring SSMXII, who brought me together with his daughter: Lopian Sinambela. She has an army of Inong-inong connected to the Inong Balee army.

Photo: Ferial Afiff
Photo: Ferial Afiff

I had asked several people: was it only balee (‘widow’) who can join Inong Balee‘s army? Considering Boru Lopian was not a widow, and when she died (along with SSMXII), her age was still young.

Some people’s answer was not literal, but still ‘widow’. As in conflict condition, the men look for here and there, until there are only women in the settlement, whether it is children, younger siblings, or the wives. 
Pinch answer. As if, “Ah, there’s no man, here! There is no other way, let’s fight… Us, Sis! “

Photo: Ferial Afiff
Photo: Ferial Afiff

Admiral Keumalahayati (founder of the Inong Balee army), it is said, had accomplished at the royal military academy long before her marriage. So, is it, really, this mother is simply mad because the invaders killed her husband and made the army of thousands of women, is the success story of the widow’s revenge … ?! So, if they acted blindly and do not have a sophisticated war strategy, the troops do not have combat skills, it is  impossible that this mother, along with her army, be respected by many parties …?

Unless she has three dragons.


FERIAL AFFIF adalah seniman fleksibel yang telah aktif berkarya lebih dari 10 tahun. Saat ini ia berdomisili di Yogyakarta. Pola karyanya tak punya batasan maupun gaya tertentu, secara artistik dia kerap beralih-peran sebagai fasilitator/kurator/penulis/peneliti/produser/dsb. Dia senantiasa penasaran. berhubungan dengan orang lain serta kondisi kehidupan yang menyertainya, terutama tema lingkungan/gender/sejarah. Karyanya sempat hadir di berbagai kota di Indonesia dan negara lain seperti: Singapura,Myanmar, Jepang, Korea Selatan, India, Sri Lanka, Madagaskar, Switzerland, dan sebagainya, Ferial sejak 2012 menjadi anggota Lifepatch, sebuah inisiasi warga dalam seni-sains-teknologi. Sejak 2018 bersama Putri Wartawati, Ridwan Rau Rau, dan Yayasan Lingkar Semanggi (Tangerang) menginisiasi Expedition Camp sebuah forum temu dan berbagi per dua tahunan bagi para praktisi performans se-Asia.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Benteng Inong Balee | CEMETI

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