Report from the SEALG Annual Meeting 2018, Leiden

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The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group 2018 took place on 5-7 July 2018 in the Vossius Conference Room at Leiden University Library (UBL) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and was organised by Doris Jedamski and Marije Plomp. Participants from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom attended the meeting this year.


Interior view of the Asian Library, Leiden

Early arrivals met up on Thursday evening, 5 July, for a nice welcome ‘borrel’ and a bite to eat in one of the many lovely Leiden cafés. On Friday morning, 6 July, the SEALG meeting commenced with a welcome address by Doris Jedamski and Marije Plomp.

During the first session the UBL specialist for the digital Special collections, Saskia van Bergen, introduced the ‘Leiden University Library New Digital Library’ and exemplified the many digitization activities of the library which allows also ‘digitization on demand’ services at very reasonable fees. The second speaker, Martijn Storms, curator of the map collection, presented in his paper ‘Maps in the Crowd’ an overview on the impressive collections of more than 81.000 maps of UBL/KITLV/KIT, c. 28.000 of them related to Southeast Asia. Many maps are already accessible online but UBL is seeking ways to put all maps online, supplemented by metadata and user-friendly accessibility modes. A crowd sourcing project led by Martin has been very successful. Both papers were discussed intensively regarding questions of copy rights, digitization problems of pictures, newspapers, music and the like.

After the lunch break Doris Jedamski had prepared a small pop-up exhibition of selected items and manuscripts from the UBL/KITLV collections, among them the very first manuscript in the Leiden library originating from the Malay archipelago, a palm leaf manuscript from Java dated 1597. Marije Plomp opened the afternoon session with her presentation of ‘The Asian Library’, which had officially been opened by Queen Maxima on 14 September 2017. The Asian collections of UBL contain more than 1.000.000 books and journals on about 30 km shelves, more than 200.000 photos and print cards, 20.000 manuscripts and more than 16.000 maps. Marije also explained the UBL Fellowhip Program which allows visits up to four months in the special collections of UBL. After her presentation Marije took us on an impressive tour through the new locations and reading rooms of the Asian Library of UBL.

In the afternoon a guided tour through the world famous Hortus Botanicus of Leiden University followed. In the evening we were served an excellent conference dinner on the terrace of the restaurant Het Prentenkabinet.


View of the Zen Garden at the Botanical Garden in Leiden

The first paper on Saturday morning was presented by Christophe Caudron on the ‘The French Professional Network DocAsie’ . This network brings together 38 French libraries with Asian collections, among them 18 with important Southeast Asian holdings.
The next speaker was Jotika Khur-Yearn who gave a talk on ‘Learning through Cataloguing: Notable Burmese and Shan Manuscripts’, conveying many relevant insights into the problems of cataloguing manuscripts, highlighted by examples of Burmese and Shan manuscripts from the British Library and Northern Illinois University Library.
Then Holger Warnk spoke on ‘Rub Up the Table Till It Shines’: Household Management in a ‘Kitchen’ Malay Phrasebook’. He explored the colonial female sphere of Malay communication in British Malaya through a small booklet entitled ‘Malay for Mems’ by Maye Wood.
Finally Doris Jedamski showed us in her presentation ‘The Silent Witnesses of the Dutch-Indonesian War 1945-49 in the UB Leiden Collections’ how the most varied materials, such as posters, diaries, letters, photos, propaganda flyers or minutes of top secret negotiations together form a collection that not only documents the Dutch-Indonesian war, but which makes it tangible for generations to come.

South East Asia Library Group Meeting

After a short lunch break, we continued with our annual business meeting in the early afternoon. After a short welcome the apologies of Sud Chonchirdsin , Annabel Teh Gallop, Per Hansen, Mikihiro Moriyama, Margaret Nicholson, Stella Schmidt, Virginia Shih, Laura Muldowney, Louise Pichard-Bertaux, San San May, Cao Thi Lieu, Prachark Wattananusit were announced.

The minutes from our annual meeting 2017 in Oxford as well as the financial report that had been compiled by our treasurer Margaret Nicholson were presented and unanimously accepted by the present members. The election of the SEALG Committee came next. Doris Jedamski as chair and Holger Warnk as vice-chair were re-elected. Jotika Khur-Yearn had announced his resignation as SEALG secretary; Marije Plomp was elected as new SEALG secretary.

Doris Jedamski reported on the book project of SEALG and the many problems emerging during this effort to combine papers from the SEALG panel at the EUROSEAS Conference in Oxford (2017) with papers from the ASEASUK Conference in 2016 in one book publication. The group then discussed the SEALG Newsletter for 2018. It was agreed that the 50th Anniversary of SEALG should be celebrated by a special newsletter. Due to the great work load (see below) it was agreed by everybody that Jana should receive as much assistance and help as possible. For the special newsletter it was agreed to contact former members of SEALG in search for personal notes, memories and other contributions.
As to the SEALG blog, Jana sent out a very clear SOS: If she does not receive some contributions soon, the blog might appear ‘dead’ to the outside world! We are hence looking forward to interesting contributions, research notes, announcements etc. to be posted on the SEALG blog!
As one last point before the concluding round of institutional news, the new EU regulations on personal data were mentioned as one urgent issue to be addressed by SEALG soon, as it touches upon, among other, its use of its mailing list.


Members of SEALG during the AGM on 7 July 2018

Holger Warnk reported for the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Frankfurt that more than 40.000 items (among them more than 1.000 journals) had been catalogued. The ongoing cataloguing also includes the entries of the former social science collection of the KIT on Southeast Asia and the first 500 titles of the collection of Ulrich Kratz of Malaysian, Indonesian and Bruneian literature. Furthermore, the library received the Indonesian collection of the late Leonhard Pohl, a former Olympic bronze medal winner in athletics in 1956 and TV editorial journalist. The collection included shadow puppets, Indonesian daggers (keris), batik stamps (cap batik), betel knives, Wayang Golek puppets and two (Javanese?) palm leaf manuscripts.

Carina Enestarre and Mia Nilsson from Lund University informed us that in January 2019 the Library of the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies will organizationally be moved to The Joint Faculties for Humanities and Theology. They will still stay in their new premises, which they moved into in December 2016, when some of the older material (about 7.000 books mainly in Chinese) was moved to the HT Faculties. Both the Centre of East and South-East Asian Studies and the Asia Library will still be focusing on interdisciplinary, contemporary East and South-East Asia. They will also start listing their unique collection of Kampuchea documents.

Claudia Götze-Sam, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, mentioned as one major point of attention in her library the next application for the Specialized Information Services, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DfG), which has to be submitted shortly. Furthermore, more intensified contacts with the academic community, also outside of Berlin, are desired and will be worked on. The inter-librarian loan services and the database Cross Asia will be extended and enhanced. Good news from the Staatsbibliothek Berlin was that a special budget could be secured for replacing titles that were lost during World War II, for restoring books (particularly from the years 1933 onwards, as those had been printed on fragile paper), and for purchasing images from and on Southeast Asia. However, lack of sufficient staff remains a constant problem.

Jana Igunma provided a summary of the activities of British Library, covering digitization projects that are carried out continually and which are all externally funded. Jana is also lead curator of a major exhibition on Buddhism at the British Library (Oct. 2019 to Feb 2020), with assistance by San San May. Jana is also editor of the exhibition book and a special issue of Arts of Asia that focuses on Buddhist manuscript art. Finally Jana announced the publication of her new book co-authored with San San May with the title ‘Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia’, published by the British Library in May 2018. She presented a copy to Leiden University Libraries as a gift.

Christophe Caudron gave his report on the library of Aix-en-Provence, again emphasizing the good work of the French network DocAsie. There are, however, difficulties caused by a shortage in personnel and lack of space for the extensive collections. Digitization projects linked to relevant material on Southeast Asia and the Pacific could be carried out, for instance, of material pertaining to the Bernaud family who had specific relations with Burma.

Marije Plomp reported on the official opening of the Leiden Asia Library on 14 September 2017 and the week surrounding that date. A yearly ‘Asia Day’ in September will be introduced as an annual commemoration with special activities and lectures on the Leiden collections. The Asia Library activities can now be followed via Facebook and Instagram. As to English-language acquisitions, Marije is currently exploring the possibility to acquire books via the Library of Congress. Linking back to Claudia’s report, Marije announced that, very likely, material from UBL will be included in the Cross Asia database in 2018/2019.

Doris Jedamski informed us about an ongoing digitization project of c. 70 Malay manuscripts, including some of the top items in the collection. They will be available online soon. Furthermore all Malay manuscripts records have been completed or enriched and can be found in the online catalogue. The digitization of posters and images is still carried on. The accessibility and visibility of the newly built ephemera collection still causes some problems though. Doris has also initiated and is currently preparing a special exhibition focusing on the three top items from the UBL/KITLV collections that have been registered as UNESCO World Heritage: the Buginese epos La Galigo, the diary of the Indonesian national hero Prince Diponegoro, and the collections of Panji manuscripts (in the UB building; May to September 2019). Furthermore initial plans are made (together with Dick van der Meij) to raise funds for digitizing the palm leaf manuscript collection held at the UB Leiden.

Jotika Khur-Yearn from SOAS Library in London mentioned reduced funds for printed materials and an increased budget for e-books and digital material. Currently SOAS Library is carrying out extensive re-shelving, while also tracing and deselecting duplicates at the same time. A Philippine group sponsors SOAS Library digitization projects of books and archival material. Furthermore, Jotika has been involved in two exhibitions, respectively on the 19th century Scottish photographer John Thomson and on the Burma Campaign Memorial Library at SOAS.


50th Anniversary cake for SEALG

After a long and intensive discussion, various options were listed for a future SEALG meeting (Berlin, Lund, Marseille) but none for 2019. Doris agreed to explore the possibility of holding next year’s SEALG meeting once again in Leiden.
Last but not least SEALG founding member Rahadi Karni shared with us his memories of the founding year of the Southeast Asia Library Group in 1969. His contribution formed the bridge from the formal meeting to the very informal little SEALG birthday celebration – an ‘after-glow’ with a slide show and a special 50 years SEALG anniversary cake.

Doris Jedamski and Holger Warnk


View of Leiden city centre



Buddhism Illuminated – A new book on manuscript art from Southeast Asia

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I would like to draw your attention to a new book with the title Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia which is a fully illustrated guide to Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscript art based on the British Library collections. Many years of research and digitisation have resulted in this major publication that goes far beyond Buddhist manuscript illustration. The book consists of six chapters covering all aspects of Buddhist manuscript art in mainland Southeast Asia. A brief overview of the contents is below:

  • Introduction: The British Library collections – Some aspects of Buddhism in SEA – The Burmese manuscript tradition – Manuscript production in Khmer and Tai cultures
  • Buddha: The Enlightened One – The names of 28 Buddhas – Previous Lives of the Buddha – The Life of Gotama Buddha – The future Buddha
  • Dhamma: The Righteous Way – The Tipitaka and commentaries – Kammavaca ordination texts
  • Sangha: The Monastic Community – Ordination in Theravada Buddhism – Interaction between the Sangha and the lay community
  • Kamma: Cause and Effect – The thirty-one planes of existence – The sixteen sacred lands of Buddhism
  • Punna: Making Merit in Everyday Life – Royal donations – Death and afterlife – Pagodas and monasteries – The Buddha’s footprints – Monasteries during Buddha’s long ministry – Communal festivals

Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia includes over 200 coloured photographs of Buddhist manuscript art from the British Library’s collection, relating each manuscript to Theravada tradition and beliefs, and introducing the historical, artistic, and religious contexts of their production. It is the first book in English to showcase the beauty and variety of Buddhist manuscripts in Southeast Asia and reproduces many works that have never before been photographed.

The book is available from British Library Press and University of Washington Press, as well as all major book sellers and online suppliers (ISBN 9780712352062).

A free review copy can currently be requested from Newbooks Asia.

Read a short article revealing some more details about the book on the British Library’s website, and a short promotional film (part 1) can be viewed online.

blog01 front cover full

SEALG Annual Meeting 2018

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This year’s  annual meeting of SEALG will take place in Leiden on Friday 6 July and Saturday 7 July in collaboration with the Asian Library Leiden. Early-comers who arrive on Thursday will have the opportunity to enjoy a “gezellige borrel” in the evening of Thursday 5 July.

As in previous years, we would like to have the presentation of selected papers on library and archive related issues on Friday, followed by the Annual General Meeting on Saturday. Therefore, SEALG invites proposals for papers on any theme relating to collections, archives and the library work as well as recent developments in the field of South East Asian Studies.

A paper presentation should not exceed 30 minutes (including time for questions/discussion). Paper abstracts should be no more than 200 words and must include a title, author’s name and affiliation, as well as contact details.

Please submit your paper proposal including an abstract to Doris Jedamski or to Holger Warnk not later than by 31 May 2018.

We encourage submissions from library and archive staff as well as from scholars and graduate students. Publication of a paper will be possible in the SEALG Newsletter which is online at www.sealg.org.

It would facilitate our planning enormously if you could let us know by email if you are planning to attend, and if you are planning to stay for the whole length of the Annual Meeting or only for one of the two days. A more detailed programme will be circulated soon.

Everyone will be most welcome and participation will not be restricted to library or archive staff.

Leiden has an interesting range of museums and other attractions to explore. An overview with links to various sites can be found on https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/more-destinations/leiden/architecture-in-leiden.htm
http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/leyden-nl-zh-lei.htm. And of course, the new Asian Library itself is worth a visit, too.

The Southeast Asia Library Group is very much looking forward to meeting you in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Doris Jedamski (Chairperson of SEALG)


Interior of the Asian Library in Leiden. Photo by: Vysotsky/Wikipedia  cc Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International




Ghosts and Hells – An exhibition on the Underworld in Asian art at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

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On 10 April 2018 a new exhibition that focuses on perceptions and artistic expressions of the underworld in Asian art will open at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. Various art forms including literature, film, visual arts, performing arts, design, manuscript art have been chosen to showcase ideas of the underworld – hells, ghosts, spirits, horror and fantastic creatures – in the context of Asian cultures and imaginations.

The curator, Julien Rousseau, Head of the Asia Heritage Collections at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, sought advice from various museum and library curators across Europe while curating this very promising exhibition.

The museum’s announcement of the exhibition includes the following interesting outlook: “Ghosts and Hells – the underworld in Asian art explores their omnipresence not only in objects and documents but also in the performing arts, cinema and comics in an attempt to better understand how they work. After all, whilst Buddhism has played its part in the formation of this imagination – implying that souls are in waiting between two reincarnations –, it is indeed on the fringes of religion, in popular and secular art, that the representation of ghosts has truly come into its own.

A number of events have been organised around the exhibition, too. Apart from guided and narrated tours, there will be film screenings, talks with Julien Rousseau and guest speakers, a weekend-long festival “Enfers et fantômes d’Asie” and much more.

The exhibition will close on 18 July 2018. More detailed information and the programme of events can be found on the museum’s exhibition website.


Exhibition poster

New issue of SEALG Newsletter published

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter has now been published and is available freely on our homepage www.sealg.org.

It includes articles on Thai royal editions of the Buddhist scriptures by Larry Ashmun, two previous exhibitions in Mandalay and Rangoon by San San May, special collections at the Southeast Asia Studies Library in Frankfurt/Main by Holger Warnk, and on the preservation of endangered archives (and manuscripts) in Southeast Asia by Jana Igunma and Jody Butterworth.

Previous issues of the electronic newsletter which covers all aspects of Southeast Asian librarianship, curation, collection, custodianship and research can be accessed on http://www.sealg.org/newsletters.html.

Luang Prabang Film Festival 2017: REDHA wins Audience Choice Award

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The Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) concluded its eighth annual event last week in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Laos, with the Audience Choice Award going to the Malaysian film, Redha.

The Audience Choice Award was decided by a 5-star online rating system, for which viewers could submit their rating of a film following its screening. This year’s winner, Redha, follows the story of Alina and Razlan, who discover that their only son is autistic and must confront the harsh realities of raising a child disabled by a condition they hardly know about. The film was directed by Tunku Mona Riza, who attended the festival for her screening and participated in a Q&A with the audience as well as a public discussion on Muslim Voices in Southeast Asia.

The festival, which has the mission of celebrating Southeast Asian cinema, ran from Friday, 8 December to Wednesday, 13 December. In addition to screening 32 feature films and four programs of short films, LPFF put on four public discussions and several performances.

Official selections are made by experts and critics from across Southeast Asia referred to as “Motion Picture Ambassadors,” and represent a carefully chosen collection of what they believe to be the finest contemporary films from their respective countries. By identifying great curators with inside understanding of their community’s film scene, LPFF is able to produce a unique program that ensures in the inclusion of the strongest voices from across Southeast Asia.

Not only is LPFF a celebration of the finest Southeast Asian cinema, it has become well known as a unique forum for regional film professionals to network internationally and to exchange diverse ideas and experiences. In LPFF’s commitment to accessibility, all screenings and activities of the festival were free and open to the public.

LPFF’s four programs of short films included: a selection from the 2017 Vientianale Short Film Competition that showcased budding talent in Laos; Thai shorts to complement the festival’s SPOTLIGHT country (see below); the top films from a Youth and Agroecology Short Film Competition held by LPFF and the Agroecology Learning alliance in Southeast Asia; and recent award winners on Viddsee, an online video platform featuring short films from across Asia.

There were also several major public discussions this year for visitors of the festival, including the aforementioned discussion on Muslim voices in Southeast Asia, featuring Harlif Mohamad and Nurain Peeraya, the Bruneian directors of Rina 2; Sheron Dayoc, the Filipino director of Women of the Weeping River; Tunku Mona Riza, the Malaysian director of Redha; and Kong Rithdee, LPFF’s Motion Picture Ambassador for Thailand and writer of The Island Funeral.

Rithdee also hosted this year’s SPOTLIGHT on Thailand, with a full day of programming devoted to screenings and discussion of the issues facing Thai filmmakers today. Delegates from the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane were in attendance and several Thai filmmakers participated, including Anocha Suwichakornpong (By the Time it Gets Dark), Sompot Chidgasornpongse (Railway Sleepers), Boonsong Nakphoo (Wandering), Laddawan Rattanadilokchai (The Couple), Sakchai Deenan (The upcoming Memories of New Years), and Sanchai Chotirosseranee (Thai Film Archive, representing Santi-Vina).
Also occurring during the festival was the second iteration of the LPFF Talent Lab for Southeast Asian filmmakers, led by the Tribeca Film Institute® (TFI), with 10 participating film projects from 6 ASEAN nations. The Lab, which focused on grant writing and project pitching and was extended to two days this year, included a pitching workshop led by Bryce Norbitz and Molly O’Keefe from TFI. Following the workshop was a pitch forum with feedback from a jury comprised of filmmaking professionals from around the world, including Jeremy Sim of Singapore-based media investment firm Aurora Media Holdings; Kenneth Lipper, the Oscar-winning American producer; Victor William of ROKKI, AirAsia’s in-flight entertainment provider; and Ho Hock Doong and Siti Helaliana Chumiran, both from the Malaysian distribution company, Astro.

After deliberation, the jury selected the Lao-Filipino collaboration Raising a Beast to attend the TFI Network market, which will take place in New York City at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival®. There, TFI will arrange meetings for the filmmakers with editors, distributors, and financiers. TFI will then mentor the Raising a Beast team through the completion of the project. Written and directed by Xaisongkham Induangchanty (Laos) and produced by Abigail Lazaro (Philippines), Raising a Beast tells the story of two Hmong siblings, Ying and Neng, who are blessed with beautiful voices and dream of moving to the city to become singers one day. When their father refuses to sell the family’s prized bull to help pay for Neng’s education in the city, Ying becomes a bull trainer to cover her brother’s expenses.

Another big winner at the Talent Lab was the Filipino project Cat Island, pitched by Siege Ledesma (director, writer) and Ang Alemberg (producer). Jeremy Sim and Aurora Media Holdings selected the project to receive its Aurora Producing Award of $10,000. Cat Island follows Catherine, who after dedicating almost two decades of her life to the care of her asthmatic, albeit feisty and cat-loving mother, finds herself alone and purposeless when her mother dies. On the eve of her 40th birthday, the ghost of Catherine’s mother returns to ask for Catherine’s help in completing her “unfinished business”: have her remains cremated and scattered over Cat Island, Japan. With a renewed sense of purpose, Catherine travels to Japan to complete her mission on the rural island.

A new addition to the festival’s program this year was a documentary production workshop organized by the US Mission to ASEAN and the American Film Showcase. Renowned Filipino-American filmmaker Ramona Diaz (Imelda, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey) and Patrick Shen (Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality, The Philosopher Kings) led a five-day workshop with 14 participants from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. At the end of the workshop, four short documentaries made in small groups by the participants throughout the week were presented following a screening of Diaz’s most recent film, Motherland.

LPFF offered five live evening performances on its main stage before headline screenings at its Night Venue, the Handicraft Market at the main intersection in town, including concerts from popular Lao singers Touly and Ola Black Eyes. These performances are an opportunity to nurture young talent, and offer a platform for these performers to showcase their talents to an international audience.

22 of this edition’s 32 feature films had directors, producers, writers, or actors in attendance, all of whom participated in Q&A sessions after the screenings of their films. Between screenings, filmmakers and other industry professionals mingled in the Beerlao Director’s Lounge on the top floor of Indigo House, where they could enjoy complimentary Beerlao Gold and take in the view of the Night Venue.

On display was an exhibition of photographs from Myanmar from the lauded Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, accompanied by an exhibition walk-through by the initiative’s founder, Philip Jablon. As a reprise to his trip there over five years ago, Jablon spent February and March of last year researching and photographing movie theaters in Myanmar, a nation experiencing an overall rebirth of cinema-going.

Once again, the festival was proudly supported by its biggest sponsor, the Lao Brewery Company with three of their brands coming in at the Platinum Level: Beerlao, Pepsi, and Tigerhead.

Other generous supporters of the 2017 festival were the US Embassy Vientiane, the Asia Foundation, the Bennack-Polan Foundation, Chillax Productions, Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Laos, Exo Travel, Sofitel Luang Prabang, the Nam Theun 2 Power Company, Princeton in Asia, the Royal Thai Embassy Vientiane, Indochina Productions, the Delegation of the European Union to Lao PDR, DK Lao, Theun-Hinboun Power Company, NP Service & Design, Final Draft, and the Asia-Europe Foundation.

For more information on the festival, visit lpfilmfest.org or stay up to date at facebook.com/lpfilmfest.

(reported by Gabriel Kuperman / Founder & Director of LPFF)

Luang Prabang Film Festival 2017 poster

NELITI – bilingual online database of Indonesian research materials

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NELITI (from the Indonesian word ‘meneliti’, ‘to research’) is a bilingual online database of Indonesian research materials that offers access to 1055 online academic journals and 515 libraries. Most of the journals and institutions are in Indonesia, but the site also includes a small number of international publications and links to institutions in Australia, Canada, China and Europe.

Much of the content of the research materials is in Indonesian, but many Indonesian journals now include abstracts of articles in English, and so keyword searches can be made in either Indonesian or English. Through the listing of Libraries, it is also possible to see all the research materials published by a particular institution. This is a valuable resource offering access to materials which are difficult to find outside Indonesia.

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