Arnold Ap (July 1, 1946 on Numfor Island – April 26, 1984 in Jayapura) was a West Papuan cultural leader, anthropologist and musician. Arnold was the leader of the group Mambesak, and Curator of the Cenderawasih University Museum. He also broadcast Papuan culture on his weekly radio show. He was educated at mission schools on Biak Island, where his father was a school teacher. He studied geography at the Teacher Training School of UNCEN University in Abepura from 1967 to 1973. As a student, he organized a demonstration against the so called Act of Free Choice of 1969. He was sent to prison at Ifar Gunung. After his release, he began collecting traditional Papuan songs. After graduating, he became Curator at the University Museum. In 1974, he was married to Corry Bukorpioper, a nurse. In 1978, he formed the music group Mambesak. He performed in 1980 in Jakarta at the Cultural Festival with the Asmat Totem Pole Dance. He had a popular radio program, Pelangi Budaya Irian Jaya (The Rainbow of Irian Jaya Culture), with Papuan songs, stories, poems and interviews. His prominent study and performance of Papuan culture and music was seen by many as a challenge to the efforts of the Indonesian government against Papuan nationalism and identity. At the time of Ap's death, strong attempts were being made to unify Indonesian peoples under a more Javanese culture.
In November 1983, he was arrested by the Indonesian military special forces Kopassus and imprisoned and tortured for suspected sympathies with the Free Papua Movement, although no charges were laid. In April 1984, he was killed by a gunshot to his back. Official accounts claim he was trying to escape. Many supporters believe Ap was executed by Kopassus. Another musician, Eddie Mofu, was also killed.
Music is still a potent source of cultural resistance in West Papua. Arnold Ap and Mambesak are still popular in West Papua, and their works are seen as symbols of Papuan identity. Since the 1990s, however, the Indonesian government has cautiously allowed safe expressions of indigenous cultural forms. According to Danilyn Rutherford, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago, access to limited cultural expressivity facilitates images of tolerance and "unity in diversity," the official national motto.
- Rutherford, Danilyn. 2001. "Remembering Sam Kapissa," Inside Indonesia, Jul-Sep 2001. http://www.insideindonesia.org/edit67/sam2.htm
- Hubatka, Frank. 2012. Arnold Ap's Vision (no date, no place, self published).
- Rutherford, Danilyn. 2002. Raiding the Land of the Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Vickers, Adrian. 2005. A History of Modern Indonesia. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 180; Rutherford, Danilyn. 2002. Raiding the Land of the Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 212-3; cf. Rayfiel, Alex 2004. "Singing for life," Inside Indonesia, Apr-Jun 2004. http://www.insideindonesia.org/edit78/p07-8_rayfield.html
- Vlasblom, Dirk. 2004. 'Papoea. een Geschiedenis.' Amsterdam: pp 569-574, 623
- Hubatka, Frank (ed.). 2012. 'Arnold Ap's Vision.' (self published)
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