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API: An Indonesian Journal of the late 1960s–1970s from Albania

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The Library of Southeast Asian Studies at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt recently catalogued two Indonesian leftist journals both entitled “API – Api Pemuda Indonesia” (‘Flames of Indonesian Youth’) which were published in Tirana in Albania from the 1960s onwards. Actually, two different editions of API were issued, one in the Indonesian language, the other in English and/or French, both with differing contents and separate volume counting. Both magazines were closely related to the Indonesian Communist Party and its exiles in Albania.

The 30 September Movement in 1965 marked the end for the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and at the same time saw the tragic decline of Soekarno’s power and influence and the rise of Suharto as the president of Indonesia. The alleged coup and the allegation of PKI’s involvement in it became Suharto’s means of strengthening his position as the commander in chief by ordering the disbandment of PKI, which soon was followed by one of the biggest genocides in modern history[i].

Fig. 1 First issue of API (Indonesian edition) available in Frankfurt: Volume 10, Number 5, May 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]
Fig. 2 First issue of API (English/French edition) available in Frankfurt: Volume 6, Number 1, 1973 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]

Various reports have stated that hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and most of them were PKI members or affiliated with PKI. The fact that its top officials were killed, sentenced or sent to concentration camps all over Indonesia really crippled the PKI, a once enormous power to become pariah in Indonesia for the next few decades even after its disbandment. However, not every member of the PKI would have met the same fate. Some of them were spared from Suharto’s rage, though at the expense of their citizenship. After 1965, there were many Indonesians who were stranded in various countries and unable to return to Indonesia for if they dared, they would have faced great danger and probably death.

One of the Indonesian exile clusters was in Albania (van der Kroef 1973). Little is known about this particular cluster, except some fragmentary notes in the Yearbook of International Communist Affairs and a short online entry in Wikipedia (Indonesian Communist Exiles 2021). However, during the 1970s they were quite active in publishing propaganda materials against Suharto. The Library of Southeast Asian Studies has in its collections 19 regular Indonesian editions and 24 bilingual (English and French) editions of the journal API – Api Pemuda Indonesia which were published by Indonesian exiles living in Tirana. So far no research about Api Pemuda Indonesia seemed to have been conducted. It is not clear whether nobody has written something about it or whether these Indonesian publications simply went unnoticed. Only a handful of libraries in the world listed API in their collections, namely University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Cornell University Library, University of Michigan Library, University of Sydney Library, Monash University Library, Leiden University Library, and the Library of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. Besides the regular editions, the Library of Southeast Asian Studies also keeps some special editions which were published to commemorate some special occasions.

Fig. 3 API (Indonesian edition), Volume 10, Number 11, November 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]
Perbandingan antara Bulap (Busung lapar) dengan Bulog dan Bulldog (“Comparison between Bulap with Bulog and Bulldog”).
BULAP: Busung lapar (Kwashiorkor/Hungry oedema); BULOG: Badan Urusan Logistik (Indonesian Bureau of Logistics, responsible for food distribution and price control). The figure with “Bulap” represents the many Indonesians who lived in poverty. The figure with “Bulog” looks like Suharto wearing the military uniform, but the US and $ signs mean that the Indonesian government was backed by the US government. The dog probably represents those who supported the Indonesian government. For giving their support to the Indonesian government they could get better resources, here represented by the milk can (susu) with a label symbolising the US flag.

According to journalist Martin Aleida who interviewed Chalik Hamid, an ex-Indonesian student in Tirana[ii], API was started by Anwar Dharma, an ex-correspondent of Harian Rakjat (People’s Daily) in Moscow who was kicked out by the Soviet government due to his critical views towards them (Dharma 1966)[iii]. Anwar Dharma then moved to China and was instructed by the Delegation of the Indonesian Communist Party in Beijing to go to Albania to start there a publication in Indonesian and in English[iv]. After his arrival in Tirana, Anwar Dharma also initiated an Indonesian programme for Radio Tirana.

API has a unique design for its cover: There is a header in red colour with the title of the tabloid written in white, on its right is a hand holding a gun, on its left is also a hand but holding a book. It is interesting that the journal has Marxisme – Leninisme – FMTT written on it. FMTT is believed to be an acronym of Fikiran Mao Tje Tung (The thoughts of Mao Tse Tung). Below the journal title there is an address of the publisher, which is given as “Kutia Postare 1, Tirana, Albania”;the reason why the publishers were using a P.O. Box rather than an actual address is unknown. The title pages have two varieties which can be observed: The first is a title page with table of contents (which is more common, see figures 1 and 2), the second is a front page with an illustration or cartoon (see figure 3) which usually highlighted an important issue that was going to be discussed in the content. When the title page consisted of an illustration, the table of content was moved to the last page of the journal. Both of the Indonesian and English/ French issues held in Frankfurt used the same design for the title page, except one special issue on the death of Mao Tse Tung in English/ French, which was printed in black along with a big portrait of Mao (see figure 4).

Fig. 4 Special issue on the death of Mao Tse Tung, September 1977 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]

The table of contents of all available issues in Frankfurt followed more or less the same pattern. It always started with an editorial which often emphasised one topic which was going to be the theme of that particular issue. After this usually follows an official party statement on some topics. The editorial staff was also aware of the importance of good relationships with communist parties in other countries: this explains why in almost every issue there are one or two pages containing congratulatory statements of somebody’s achievements, or sometimes an obituary of a communist dignitary. Furthermore, there are articles about Indonesia whose contents usually criticised Suharto’s administration and compared it with the successes seen in communist countries. Another interesting part of the journal is a section called Komentar Radio Tirana (‘Commentaries of Radio Tirana’) which provided insights about some particular issues which were trending at that time. In March 1967 Radio Tirana started to broadcast in Indonesian twice a day, therefore it seems likely that this section was a highlight of the broadcasting materials of every month. API also had a dedicated humour section called Bukan Kebetulan (‘Not a Coincidence’) which usually contained satire about Indonesia.

Fig. 5 Special issue to commemorate 30 years of communist Albania, [November?] 1974 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]. Of all the issues available in Frankfurt this is the only one with colour printing.
Fig. 6 API (Indonesian edition), Volume 10, Number 12, December 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]

The political ideology of API which was already stated on the title page Marxisme – Leninisme – FMTT is discussed in every issue of API. There is a section called Belajar Marxisme – Leninisme – Fikiran Mao Tje Tung (‘Learning about Marxism – Leninism – Thoughts of Mao’) which usually contains translated works of Marx, Lenin or Mao and sometimes also an analysis of their works. After that, another reappearing feature of every issue is a section which provided short summaries of current news. There are differences between the Indonesian and the English/ French editions though. The Indonesian edition has Berita Tanah Air and Berita Internasional, which consisted of selected news from Indonesia and the international world while the English/French edition only contains local Indonesian news. These current news reported always about negative matters and incidents that happened in Indonesia or non-communist (i.e. “capitalist”) countries, and positive things that occurred in communist states or news about successes in the communist struggles. The last part of the Indonesian language edition is the Kebudayaan (culture) section, where poems, short stories and sometimes essays were published under authors’ pseudonyms in order to guarantee the safety of their family members in Indonesia[v]. In the English/French edition, this culture section is not included and instead contained one or two supplementary articles in French. Another difference between the Indonesian and English/French editions is the mode of publishing: The Indonesian version is published monthly, but the English/French edition bi-monthly. However, their volume counting is not very consistent as there are also several editions from the Indonesian version which was published bi-monthly.

Fig. 7 Special issue to commemorate the communist uprisings in Indonesia in 1926 [November?] 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]

(Article by Prabono Hari Putranto, J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Library of Southeast Asian Studies. This text is an “offspring” of the author’s ongoing research for a master’s thesis in Southeast Asian Studies at J.W.Goethe-University Frankfurt.)

References:

Aleida, Martin (2017): Tanah Air yang Hilang. Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas.

Dharma, Anwar (1966): Soviet Revisionists’ Shameless Collaboration with Indonesia’s Fascist Military Regime Condemned. Beijing Review No. 42, 14 October 1966, 30–32.

Indonesian Communist Exiles in Albania (2021) (accessed 22 February 2021).

Kroef, Justus M. van der (1973): Indonesia. Yearbook of International Communist Affairs 1973, 469–478.

Melvin, Jess (2018): The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder. New York: Routledge.

Yuliantri, Rhoma Dwi Aria (2007): Harian Rakjat: Di Bawah Pukulan dan Sabetan Palu Arit. Seabad Pers Kebangsaan 1907–2007, 699–702. Jakarta: I:Boekoe.


[i]               For a reasonable account of the events of 30 September 1965 and how Suharto and the military seized the opportunity to take control of the government see Melvin’s argument on the build-up events before the alleged coup in September 30 (Melvin 2018: 3–6).

[ii]              Chalik Hamid was a student in Tirana and one of Anwar Dharma’s first contact persons in Tirana, in fact it was him who taught Dharma to speak Albanian (Aleida 2017: 198).

[iii]             Harian Rakjat was the newspaper of the PKI and was founded in 1951 (Yuliantri 2007: 700).

[iv]             I had the opportunity to interview Chalik Hamid on his role in Albania. Hamid mentioned that it is not entirely correct to say that it was an official command from the PKI as the party was already disbanded. The PKI’s remnants in Beijing at that time, even in the publications of API never called themselves as PKI but as Delegasi CC PKI (‘The Delegation of CC PKI’) (Chalik Hamid, personal communication, 12 February 2021).

[v]              Hamid as the head of the Kebudayaan section mentioned that all of the authors and the members of the editorial staff uses monikers (some of the most frequently used names of contributors are ‘Teguh’ , ‘Kuat’ and ‘Parikesit’) in order to provide cover and to protect the safety of their families back in Indonesia (Chalik Hamid, personal communication, 12 March 2021).


New book on “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution”

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A new book that is of special interest to curators, archivists and researchers working with Southeast Asian collections has just been published by National University of Singapore Press, in collaboration with the SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (University of London), with the title “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution” (ISBN 978-981-325-124-3). Edited by Louise Tythacott (Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art, Northumbria University) and Panggah Ardiyansyah (SOAS, University of London), the book contains contributions from Gabrielle Abbe, Jos van Beurden, Socheat Chea, John Clarke, Charlotte Galloway, Chanraksmey Muong, Duyen Nguyen, Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, Melody Rod-ari, Wieske Octaviani Sapardan.

The publisher’s announcement of the new book highlights that “The last 150 years has seen extensive looting and illicit trafficking of Southeast Asia’s cultural heritage. Art objects from the region were distributed to museums and private collections around the world. But in the 21st century, power relations are shifting, a new awareness is growing, and new questions are emerging about the representation and ownership of Southeast Asian cultural material located in the West.

This book is a timely consideration of object restitution and related issues across Southeast Asia, bringing together different viewpoints including from museum professionals and scholars in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – as well as Europe, North America and Australia. The objects themselves are at the centre of most narratives – from Khmer art to the Mandalay regalia (repatriated in 1964), Ban Chiang archaeological material and the paintings of Raden Saleh. Legal, cultural, political and diplomatic issues involved in the restitution process are considered in many of the chapters; others look at the ways object restitution is integral to evolving narratives of national identity. The book’s editors conclude that restitution processes can transform narratives of loss into opportunities for gain in building knowledge and reconstructing relationships across national borders.” (Source: NUS Press)

The book contains eleven chapters on the following topics:

1. Introduction: Collecting and Returning Southeast Asia’s Past
Part I: Artefact Ownership
2. The Selling of Khmer Artefacts during the Colonial Era: Questioning the Perception of Khmer Heritage through a Study of Traded Khmer Art Pieces (1920s–1940s)
3. The Looting of Koh Ker and the Return of the Prasat Chen Statues
4. Who Owns Ban Chiang? The Discovery, Collection and Repatriation of Ban Chiang Artefacts
Part II: Object Biographies and Colonial Legacies
5. On the Road Back to Mandalay: The Burmese Regalia – Seizure, Display and Return to Myanmar in 1964
6. Bridging the Missing Gaps: The Politics of Display at the Dong Duong Buddhist Art Gallery
7. Restitution and National Heritage: (Art) Historical Trajectories of Raden Saleh’s Paintings
8. Returns by the Netherlands to Indonesia in the 2010s and the 1970s
Part III: Museums, Restitution, and Cultural Identities
9. The Return of Cultural Property and National Identity in Postcolonial Indonesia
10. Plaibat: Reclaiming Heritage, Social Media, and Modern Nationalism
11. Myanmar, Museums, and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage

The publication is available directly from NUS Press or can be pre-ordered from major book-sellers.

Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Frankfurt: Cataloguing of books in Javanese script completed

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From July to November 2020 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt was able to complete the cataloguing of its collection of Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese books in Javanese script.

Illustration 1: Lelara Influenza. 52 pp., Weltevreden: Balé Poestaka, 1920. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 57.

Several titles of this collection were previously included in the online catalogue during the retro-conversion of material in the outdated Dutch spelling system for Javanese which sometimes was given on the back covers. Most of the catalogue records were incomplete and did not mention page numbers, illustrations or series data which are normally part of the cataloguing. The transcription of titles and/or title metadata in Javanese Hanacaraka script was carried out by student assistant Prabono Hari Putranto, who is a native speaker of Javanese and able to read the script. Altogether more than 90 volumes are now completely catalogued in modern Romanized Javanese spelling.

Illustration 2: Purwaning Dumados: Genesis in Javanese. 173 pp., Singapore: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1913. Printed in Yokohama, Japan by Fukuin Printing Company. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 31.5

Most of the titles in this collection were acquired in 1963 by Prof. Otto Karow (1913–1992) with funding from the Volkswagen Foundation for the library. Karow visited several antiquarian booksellers in the Netherlands such as Gé Nabrink (Amsterdam), C.P.J. van der Peet (Amsterdam) and Brill (Leiden) and bought Javanese books in Hanacaraka script in addition to plenty of titles in Indonesian/Malay, Javanese in Latin characters, Sundanese, Batak or Madurese.1 Unfortunately, the inventory book of the 1960s does not mention the precise bookshops where Karow found these books, but only gives Dutch guilders as prices. However, during the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s many former Dutch or Indonesian colonial officials and scholars gave up their private libraries which were of no interest for Dutch public collections, as e.g. the KITLV Library, since most of these books were already held in their collection; thus, instead they were sold by antiquarian booksellers.2

Illustration 3: L.F. van Gent: Carita Peperangan ing Aceh. 142 pp., Weltevreden: Commissie voor de Volkslectuur – Balé Poestaka, 1921 [Balé Poestaka, No. 265]. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 22.6

The majority of the books in Javanese script in the Frankfurt collection date from c. 1875 to 1935. Only a handful of books in Javanese letters published in Indonesia after independence had been acquired since the 1980s by the Library of Southeast Asian Studies. This explains why most of the collection contains books and booklets which were published nearly exclusively by Dutch publishers, both governmental (e.g. Commissie voor de Volkslectuur or Landsdrukkerij) and non-governmental (e.g. Ogilvie & Co. or Albert Rusche). Only very few publications by Indonesian publishers were found in the collection.

Illustration 4: Karta Subrata: Punika Serat Piwulang: Wawaton Bab Agami Islam, Saking Wulangipun Ngulama Dhateng Anak Muridipun, Mijil Saking Suraosipun Kitab (Jauhar Tauhid) Tuwin Sanes Sanesipun. 66 pp., Semarang: G.C.T. van Dorp & Co., 1918. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 43.

The collection includes 25 titles published by the governmental printing house Landsdrukkerij in Batavia and 19 titles by Balé Poestaka (Ind. Balai Pustaka) resp. Commissie voor de Volkslectuur (Ill. 3). 17 of the Balé Poestaka titles were published before 1925 and belong to a group of publications which Waruno Mahdi (2006: 85) has referred to as only “cursory” mentioned, if studied at all.3 More than ten books were released in the Netherlands by well-known publishing companies like E. J. Brill in Leiden, Johannes Müller in Amsterdam or Martinus Nijhoff in The Hague. Independent Dutch publishers located in Java include, among others, Ogilvie & Co. (Batavia, 6 titles), Albert Rusche (Surakarta, 2 titles), G. Kolff & Co. (Batavia, 1 title), H. A. Benjamins (Batavia/Semarang, 2 titles) or van Dorp & Co. (Semarang, 4 titles)

Illustration 5: Prawira Hamijaya: Serat Wedha Agama: Anyariyosaken King Kawonteranipun Sarengating Para Kanjeng Nabi Sasaya Pipiridan Saking Kitab Bayan Udayan lan Kitab Kisasul Anbiya. 20 pp., Surakarta: Kantor Pangecapan NV. Budi Utomo, 1918. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 19.7

Only a few books by local Indonesian publishers or printing houses found their way in the collection: Boedi Oetomo (Surakarta, 2 titles) (ill. 5), Radja Poestaka (Surakarta, 1 title), Boekhandel Tan Khoen Swie (Kediri, 1 title) or Deng Tjun Gwan (Magelang, 1 title). Two publications of the Dutch East Indies Theosophical Society are also present in the collection. The existence of these two titles is significant, as their inventory number is close to the inventory number to the Javanese manuscript of the Jayalengkara story in Frankfurt. This manuscript has been described in detail by Wieringa (2008) and was copied in 1914–15 at the court of Yogyakarta for the Dutch orientalist and theosophist Dirk van Hinloopen Labberton (1874–1961). Taking into account the date of his death and the existence of a few other titles authored/edited by van Hinloopen Labberton with similar inventory numbers in the Frankfurt collection, it might be well possible that Karow was able to acquire not only this manuscript, but also several other books in the Javanese language from the Nachlass of van Hinloopen Labberton, including many of those in Hanacaraka script. Another hint towards van Hinloopen Labberton is the stamp of the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences (Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen) in several books, to which he had close relations during his stay in the Dutch East Indies from 1914–1922.

Illustration 6: Adolf Friedrich von de Wall: Serat Lalampahanipun Robinson Kruso. [Kajawekaken Dhateng Mas Ngabei Reksatenaya] 192 pp., Batawi [Batavia]: Ogilvie & Co., 1891. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 21.8

Considering the colonial governmental background of more than half of the titles in Javanese script it is not surprising that the contents of many books and booklets reflect Dutch colonial interests. They include books on educational or moral matters, religion (ill. 4), Javanese historical chronicles as well as texts glorifying Dutch colonial wars (ill. 3), first efforts in modern Javanese literature (e.g. by authors like Yasawidagda, Puja Arja or Padmosusastro), translations of texts into Javanese considered to be suitable as schoolbooks such as A.F. von de Wall’s Hikayat Robinson Crusoe (ill. 6) or Abdullah Munsyi’s Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah (ill. 7) or booklets on hygiene and tropical and general medicine (ill. 1). In its contents the governmental Javanese books “showed a distinctly conservative or traditionalist profile with editions mostly in Javanese script” (Mahdi 2006: 89), in remarkable contrast to their publications in Malay or Sundanese.4 Only very few Bible translations or tracts of the various mission societies have made their way into the collection (ill. 2)

Illustration 7: Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munsyi: Cariyosipun Ngabdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsi saking Singapura Layar Dhateng Kelantan. 258 pp., Batavia: Ogilvie & Co., 1883. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 9.

Endnotes:

[1]              Information on Karow and his acquisition trips to Paris, London and the Netherlands was kindly provided by Prof. Ulrich Kratz, who was a student assistant in the Southeast Asian Studies Library in the 1960s (Ulrich Kratz, personal communication, 29 December 2020).

[2]              For example, some books of the collection in Frankfurt show the ex libris of Raden Soedono Nimpoeno (1889–1977), a Javanese Christian from Surakarta who worked as language teacher at the Amsterdamse Middelbare Technische School until 1935 and was an author of Malay and Javanese textbooks between the late 1920s to c. 1950 (Poeze 2014: 231). Two others belonged to Godard Arend Johannes Hazeu (1876–1929), a high-ranking Dutch colonial official in the East Indies.

[3]              Besides the Javanese titles in Hanacaraka script Karow was able to buy books in Javanese in Latin letters, Malay/Indonesian, Madurese and Sundanese. The publications of Balai Pustaka before 1930 reflect its general publication policy as the majority is written in Javanese language (Mahdi 2006: 89): Of 33 Balai Pustaka books and booklets located in Frankfurt 21 are in Javanese (Hanacaraka and Latin script), 8 are in Sundanese and only 4 either in Indonesian/Malay or Madurese.

[4]           This “conservative” attitude may perhaps also explain the existence of two brochures of the Javanese organization Boedi Oetomo in the collection. Its members were predominantly form the Javanese aristocratic (priyayi) group, whose efforts in the organization were directed towards a “reinvention of (Old) Java” (Bertrand 2005: 511–543).

[5]              Proudfoot (1993: 146) gives as editor of this edition Paulus Penninga (1863–1944), who lived in Pasuruan in East Java for some time in the 1890s and was able to speak Javanese and Madurese fluently. After c. 1900 he spent some time in Singapore and was active as an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society (Genealogieonline 2020).

[6]              Lambertus Franciscus van Gent (1876–1961?) was a major of infantry in the Dutch Colonial Army, but later also seems to have active in the Dutch Topographic Service in the Netherlands East Indies. He had contacts to scholars like C. Snouck Hurgronje and edited several books and treatises between c. 1907–1925 in Dutch, Malay and Javanese, listed in WorldCat. His Malay and Javanese books were mostly published at the governmental publishing house Balai Pustaka. This book on the brutal Aceh War contains several illustrations of Dutch generals, high-ranking officers, but also of Indonesian soldiers fighting for the Dutch colonial army, most of those shown in the illustrations being Javanese.

[7]              This small brochure of the Javanese organization Boedi Oetomo refers to Javanese Anbiya texts (books on the Prophets (Pigeaud 1967: 129–131).

[8]           Javanese translation of the well-known Malay adaptation Hikajat Robinson Crusoe by von de Wall, from a Dutch version of the story, perhaps originating from Joachim Heinrich Campe’s German book Robinson der Jüngere (Proudfoot 1997). According to the title page the Javanese translator Reksatenaya was a school teacher in Brebes, located at the western north coast of the present province of Central Java and finished his translation in 1876.

References:
Bertrand, Romain (2005): État colonial, noblesse et nationalisme à Java: la tradition parfait. Paris: Éditions Karthala.
Genealogieonline [accessed 28 December 2020].
Mahdi, Waruno (2006): The Beginnings and Reorganization of the Commissie voor de Volkslectuur (1908–1920). In: Insular Southeast Asia: Linguistic and Cultural Studies in Honour of Bernd Nothofer (eds. Fritz Schulze & Holger Warnk), 85-110. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Pigeaud, Theodore G. Th. (1967): Literature of Java: Catalogue Raisonné of Javanese Manuscripts in the Library of the University of Leiden and Other Public Collections in the Netherlands. Volume 1: Synopsis of Javanese Literature 900–1900 A.D. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Poeze, Harry A. (2014): Di Negeri Penjajah: Orang Indonesia di Negeri Belanda 1600–1950. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.
Proudfoot, Ian (1993): Early Malay Printed Books. Kuala Lumpur: Academy of Malay Studies. Proudfoot, Ian (1997): Robinson Crusoe in Indonesia. In: The Asia-Pacific Magazine No. 6–7, 44–48.
Wieringa, Edwin (2008): Eine Handschrift der javanischen Panji Jayalengkara-Angrèni-Erzählung in Frankfurt/Main. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 158, 371–378.

(by Holger Warnk, J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Library of Southeast Asian Studies)

New issue of SEALG Newsletter published

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter has been published recently and can now be downloaded from our group’s homepage at http://www.sealg.org/pdf/newsletter2020.pdf. Please feel free to circulate the link to anyone you think may be interested in reading the newsletter, which is an open-access publication freely available to anyone.

Contents of the newsletter include:

  • Researchers’ archives on the ODSAS platform: examples from Vietnam and Burma by Louise Pichard-Bertaux 
  • The Malay Studies Library, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Awang Azman Awang Pawi and Haslan Bin Tamjehi
  • Celebrating 50 years of excellence: Southeast Asia scholarship and stewardship at Berkeley, 1970-2020 by Virginia Shih 
  • The Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project by Annabel Teh Gallop 
  • Place names and descriptions of local landscapes recorded in the colophons of Shan Buddhist manuscripts by Jotika Khur-Yearn 
  • Textile book covers in the Shan manuscript tradition by Jana Igunma

Previous issues of the Newsletter that were published in electronic format are also available on the SEALG homepage.

(Jana Igunma)

The Lao Recitation YouTube channel of the National Library of Laos

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The Lao Recitation YouTube channel of the National Library of Laos recently went online, containing over 100 hours of traditional recitation and interviews with reciters. All recordings will also be available in the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts, where some are readings of manuscripts and can be listened to while viewing images of the texts. This will greatly assist in the study of the texts and in learning to read the more complex scripts which are restricted to manuscript use and typically unreadable without training. The channel is also an excellent learning resource for Lao monks and novices who are training in the recitation of texts. More recordings will be added over the coming months. The project was kindly supported by the German Embassy, Vientiane. The project team comprised David Wharton, Bounchan Phanthavong, Bouasy Sypaseuth, and Nouphath Keosaphang.

Image of a Lao palm-leaf manuscript on the cover page of the Lao Recitation YouTube channel. With permission of David Wharton, National Library of Laos.

Among the high-quality recitations is the complete ‘Lam Phavet‘ by Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang from Ban Pak Thang, Vientiane Capital. This Lao version of the Vessantara Jataka is the most popular of the Buddha’s Birth Tales (Jataka) not only in Laos, but across mainland Southeast Asia. The recitation in a variety of styles is in seventeen parts, and lasts over 11 hours. Separate sections of this same recitation are found under ‘Thet Mahasat‘ given by various monks in Luang Prabang: Sathu Nyai One Keo Kitthiphatho from Vat Pa Pha O, Sathu Chanthalinh Chinnathammo from Vat Phou Khouai, Sathu Bouavanh Pounyasalo from Vat Senesoukaham, Sathu Bouaphanh Phanthasalo from Vat Ban Sing, and Pha Sombath Sampanno from Vat Siphutthabat Thipphalam.

Another popular Buddhist text that can be found on the channel is ‘Nemilat‘, the Lao version of the Nemi Jataka, which is one of the Last Ten Birth Tales of the Buddha. It is well-known for its graphic descriptions of the Buddhist heavens and hells. Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang from Ban Pak Thang, Vientiane, recites this text in Vientiane style, and the duration of the ten parts of this text is about three hours.

Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang also presents a recitation in Vientiane style of the famous story ‘Sang Sinsai‘, a versified epic of the Lao of national significance which is also a much loved theme for theatre and dance performances. The recitation of fifteen parts has a duration of over six hours.

Kampha Kai Kaeo‘ is the title of another popular story in which the role of the hero, an orphaned boy, is similar to a Bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be. This text in fifteen parts is recited by Achan Nouphath Keosaphang from Ban Sidamduan, Vientiane. This recitation from a manuscript in the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts in hoi kaeo hoi kong style lasts over 3 hours.

Apart from Buddhist texts and folk stories there are also recitations of traditional ritual texts known as ‘Kham Su Khuan‘ (“calling the life essence”). The idea of khuan – the life essences of persons, animals, plants or objects – is a central element in Lao pre-Buddhist belief, and Su Khuan rituals are carried out on numerous occasions like weddings, well-wishing to new mothers (one month after giving birth) and of children, to support treatment of illness, blessing of a new house, well-wishing to new novice monks, blessing of rice, cows, buffalos etc. Following an introductory talk by Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang, there are several recitations of ‘Kham Su Khuan’ in thamnong hai thammada style, lasting about two hours.

More recordings will be added shortly, including a complete reading of the epic poem Champa Si Ton by Achan Phouvong Soukchalern (Chan Kop) from a palm-leaf manuscript at the National Library of Laos, lasting over 25 hours. Several Lao-language video interviews with reciters will also provide additional context to the collection.

(Report by David Wharton and Jana Igunma)

Recitation at Boun Phavet festival, Vat That Luang, Luang Prabang, October 2020. With permission of David Wharton, National Library of Laos.

Asia – Pacific: Research Routes

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Exhibition on Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Maison Asie-Pacifique in Marseille, December 9 to 19, 2019 – Now Virtual

Organized by the Maison Asie-Pacifique in Marseille, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research), the exhibition “Asia – Pacific: Research Routes” pays tribute to the research work carried out from India to Easter Island by members of the Institut de recherches asiatiques (IrAsia) laboratories and Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO), and highlights the very specific and complementary skills of all research assistance professions at Maison Asie-Pacifique. By reflecting on themes developed by the IrAsia laboratories with regard to the different regions of Asia and the Pacific – history, anthropology, the study and translation of Asian literatures, etc. – the exhibition offers a closer look at the activities of the Maison Asie-Pacifique. Resulting from this collaborative endeavor involving the pooling of knowledge and know-how of all participants, the exhibition invites you to travel (virtually), to explore and to learn about the work of others.

The contribution of the head librarian of the Asia library at the Maison Asie-Pacifique consisted in the collective development of the exhibition, in supporting researchers on Asia according to their research areas, in the production of the various thematic posters (choice of themes, proofreading and corrections) as well as a summary of thematic bibliographies.

Posters concerning South East Asia in the exhibition:

  • The Irrawaddy, birthplace and fulcrum of Burma [L’Irrawaddy, berceau et pivot de la Birmanie]
  • City and literature in Thailand [Ville et littérature en Thaïlande]
  • Pencak and Silat: Malayo-Indonesian martial arts [Pencak et Silat : les arts martiaux malayo-indonésiens]
  • Transmission of shamanic knowledge among the Lebbo’ of East Kalimantan, Indonesia [Transmission du savoir chamanique chez les Lebbo’ de Kalimantan Est, Indonésie]
  • The petroglyphs of Sapa, Lào province, Vietnam [Les pétroglyphes de Sapa, province de Lào, Viêt Nam]
  • Ethnic tourism on Chinese borders [Tourisme ethnique aux frontières chinoises]
  • Cosmopolitanism: migration dynamics in Southeast Asia [Cosmopolitisme : dynamiques migratoires en Asie du Sud-Est]
  • Migration in Southeast Asia: growth and feminization [Les migrations en Asie du Sud-Est : essor et féminisation]
  • Vietnam, land of migrants [Le Vietnam, terre de migrants]

Southeast Asia is not the only region represented in this exhibition. Altogether 51 posters (with text in French language) expose a variety of exciting themes from across Asia. While the physical exhibition was open for only a short period in December 2019, it can now be viewed online to make it accessible to a wider audience, especially at a time when travelling is very restricted due to the corona virus pandemic.

(Report by Christophe Caudron, Maison Asie-Pacifique, Marseille)

Website of the virtual exhibition Asia – Pacific: Research Routes

New Thematic Portal online: The Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

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With over 100,000 volumes, the Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is the most extensive collection of its kind in Germany and one of the most important Southeast Asia collections worldwide. The collection includes publications from all eleven Southeast Asian countries. In addition to a wide range of western language literature on these countries, extensive holdings of original-language literature and more than 2,000 Southeast Asian manuscripts are particularly noteworthy. 

The new thematic portal on the Southeast Asia collection provides an overview of the collection and allows an initial search of the collection, particularly of its modern part. Users are invited to search the online catalogue of the Staatsbibliothek and to explore further services of the “Specialised Information Service Asia” (FID Asia) and its portal CrossAsia

(Reported by Claudia Götze-Sam, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)

Conference Announcement: EuroSEAS 2021

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The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) will hold its 11th conference at the Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic from 7-10 September 2021.

EuroSEAS invites scholars and PhD students from all academic disciplines with an interest in Southeast Asia to submit panels that explore relevant research topics from an interdisciplinary perspective as well as discuss theoretical and methodological aspects of research generated in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

Proposals are also invited for a limited number of roundtable discussions about recent developments in Southeast Asia; for a limited number of laboratories that would develop cross-disciplinary collaboration; and for screenings with academic discussion of documentaries or artistic movies on various topics from Southeast Asia.

Due to a limit on the number of participants (aprox. 400) during the 2021 EuroSEAS conference in Olomouc, the organizing committee will favour (but not limit its selection to) panels, roundtables and laboratories on language, literature, performing arts, postcolonial studies, and archaeology/material culture – fields that were underrepresented in previous conferences.

EuroSEAS and the Organising Committee will have to follow international, national and local regulations related to Covid19. In case a physical conference is not possible, the board would do its best to facilitate and organize an on-line EuroSEAS conference or series of activities.

Find out more detailed information from the EuroSEAS conference website.

The Palacký University Information Centre, known as the Armoury, in Olomouc.
Photograph by Michal Maňas. CC BY 4.0

Open-access resources on palm leaf conservation

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In the past decade we have seen an increasing number of projects to preserve and to digitize palm leaf manuscripts, especially in countries that historically have a strong palm leaf manuscript tradition. Hand in hand with digitization go registration and cataloguing of the manuscripts, as well as conservation treatment to restore damaged palm leaves and to preserve the original physical manuscripts for future generations alongside the digital images. The conservation of palm leaves is becoming increasingly important as large numbers of palm leaf manuscripts have been discovered in Buddhist temples and private collections in South and Southeast Asia. But also in library and museum collections in the West palm leaf manuscripts that need urgent conservation treatment have come to light. Whereas most library and museum conservators will have access to specialist and academic publications on the conservation of palm leaves, people who work with palm leaf manuscripts and those with a general interest in this material will find open-access resources on this topic useful.

Burmese Buddhist cosmology incised on palm leaves, 19th century.
British Library, Or 15283

A decade ago we published in our very own SEALG Newsletter an article with “Workshop Notes on the Conservation and Stabilization of Palm Leaf Manuscripts” by David Jacobs (SEALG Newsletter 2010). The former British Library conservator describes in the first part how palm leaf manuscripts are made. He then discusses preservation and conservation problems before presenting his experiences with British Library conservation treatments of palm leaves in more detail.

P. Perumal, former conservator at Sarasvti Mahal Library, Thanjavur, discusses in a blog on “Preventive conservation of palm leaf manuscripts” (2013) various factors that contribute to the deterioration of palm leaves. The article highlights the importance and methods of preventive conservation, including indigenous methods of pest management.

An informative short documentary film “Preserving Khmer Manuscript” (2014) was produced in connection with a project of the EFEO-FEMC for the preservation of Khmer manuscripts in Cambodia. It is estimated that only about 2% of the Cambodian literature heritage survived the destruction in the 1970s. The film (in Khmer language with English subtitles) looks at how Khmer palm leaf manuscripts were rediscovered, catalogued, scanned and restored.

The Preservation Lab reports about the examination, preservation and finding a suitable boxing solution for a “Nineteenth Century Buddhist Religious Treatise” (2016) from Burma. In this specific case, a physical surrogate was created for educational purposes to reduce the frequency of handling of the original manuscript. Both the manuscript and the surrogate were then stored in separate custom-made boxes.

An article published by the John Rylands Library looks at “Preserving Palm Leaf – A Sacred Manuscript Tradition” (August 2020) by highlighting some examples from their palm leaf manuscript collection and how they were created. Suggestions for the preservation of these precious manuscripts include storage in a climate controlled environment in acid-free enclosures, respecting the signs of wear, dirt and staining from oil and candles as evidence of their historical use, and minimal intervention to make manuscripts safe for handling, exhibition, digitisation and research while preserving their intangible value as sacred Buddhist objects.

The British Library’s conservation team reported about an interesting experiment to use leaf-casting for the conservation of heavily damaged palm leaves. The article “Magic in Conservation – using leaf-casting on paper and palm leaves” (October 2017) by Iwona Jurkiewicz describes in detail how the method of leaf-casting, which is mostly used in paper conservation, was applied successfully to repair a fragile Tamil manuscript.

Julia Poirier, Book and Paper Conservator at the Chester Beatty Library, writes in her article “Delaminating and fraying fibres: developing an advanced treatment approach for the conservation of a 12th century palm leaf manuscript” (March 2020) about the conservation work carried out on a very rare and fragile Buddhist palm leaf manuscript in Sanskrit language from West Bengal. Of particular interest is her description of a newly developed method to treat delamination of palm leaves.

Doriscat13
Fragment of the Buginese La Galigo epos on scrolled palm leaf (late 19th or early 20th century) . The strokes of palm leaves are sewn together to form one long stroke. Cod.Or. 5475. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Particularly challenging is the conservation of rolled palm leaf manuscripts because even opening them without damage can be very difficult. The article “Conservation and digitisation of rolled palm leaf manuscripts in Nepal” (2005) by Naoko Takagi, Yoriko Chudo and Reiko Maeda provides details of the conservation, digitisation and safe storage in custom-made archival boxes of 400 rolled palm leaf manuscripts with clay seals housed at the Asa Archives in Kathmandu.

An article in the International Academic Forum’s Journal of Literature and Librarianship on the “Sustainable Preservation of Lanna Palm Leaf Manuscripts Based on Community Participation” (July 2020) written by Piyapat Jarusawat highlights a problem that many temple libraries in Buddhist countries face: the large numbers of palm leaf bundles in these collections, often thousands or even tens of thousands, require a different approach towards conservation which does not rely on a small team of manuscript conservation professionals. The author examines the traditional method of involving Buddhist lay communities in the preservation and conservation of manuscripts.

A talk by Ignatius Payyappilly on “Palm-leaf Manuscripts: The Legacy of Traditional Preservation and Conservation” given at Hamburg University (recorded August 2018) presents traditional methods of palm leaf preservation, including adequate storage, cleaning and oiling, repairing damaged palm leaves, use of natural insect repellents, fungicides and protective cloths and manuscript boxes.

The conservation of birch bark presents similar challenges as that of palm leaf. British Library conservator Elisabeth Randell explains in her article “The Mahārnava, Conservation of a 19th Century Birch Bark Manuscript“(May 2020) how a fragile birch bark manuscript from Kashmir was treated, focusing on how delaminated layers of bark, large tears and cracks were repaired.

For a more in-depth study of palm leaf conservation “A Selective Review of Scholarly Communications on Palm Leaf Manuscripts” (2016) by Jyotshna Sahoo is particularly useful. It encompasses a selective range of researches on palm leaf manuscripts published in academic journals, conference proceedings, commemorated volumes, reports of different projects and case studies that have appeared during a period coverage starting from 1947 to 2013. The literature reviewed is organized into five related themes: Antiquities, types and nature of manuscripts – Process of seasoning and writing over manuscripts – Factors of deterioration, preservation and conservation – Cataloguing, metadata standards and subject access to Manuscripts – Digitization of manuscripts.

Last but not least the Palm Leaf Wiki offers a “Bibliography on palm leaf preservation and conservation” which lists publications up to the year 2014.

Community participation in the preservation of palm leaf manuscripts (wrapping manuscripts with protective cloth) at Wat Sungmen in Phrae, Thailand, 2020. Photo credit: Wat Sungmen Manuscript Temple

 

International Conference on Thai-Tai Language and Culture, 20 July 2020

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The 2020 Chulalongkorn Asian Heritage Forum invites to an international online conference on the theme Thai-Tai Language and Culture in commemoration of Prof. Dr. Khun Banchob Bandhumedha on her 100th Birthday Anniversary.

Thai-Tai conference 20-07-2020

The conference has three parallel panel sessions which will be streamed live online via the panel session links below. Each session starts at 13:45 Bangkok local time and ends at 16:15 Bangkok local time. The time schedule for the presentations is as follows:

PARALLEL SESSION I (Presentations will be given in Thai):
Thai Language and Culture. 
Moderator: Prapaipun Phingchim

13.45-14.15
The Journey of the “Conjunction” in Thai Language
Debi Jaratjarungkiat (Chulalongkorn University)

14.15-14.45
The Thai Notion of Self-construal and Some Linguistic Evidence
Natthaporn Panpothong, Siriporn Phakdeephasook (Chulalongkorn University)

15.15-15.45
The Grammaticalisational Relationship Between Comitatives and Instrumentals in Thai: A Diachronic Typological Perspective
Vipas Pothipath (Chulalongkorn University)

15.45-16.15
Distinctions in the Linguistic Encoding of Caused Separation in Thai
Nitipong Pichetpan (University of Sydney and Thammasat University)

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PARALLEL SESSION II (Presentations will be given in Thai):
Thai-Tai Folklore
Moderator: Arthid Sheravanichkul

13.45-14.15
The Telling of Tai Folktales by Professor Dr. Khun Banchob Bandhumedha in Satri San
Poramin Jaruworn (Chulalongkorn University)

14.15-14.45
The Tai Women: Representations in Myths and Rituals of Tai People in Central Mekong Basin Communities
Pathom Hongsuwan (Mahasarakham University)

15.15-15.45
The Route to Heaven: Cosmology and World Narratives of Tai Dam from Funeral Manuscripts
Pichet Saiphan (Thammasat University)

15.45-16.15
“Roots of the Tai” in “Thailand’s Songkran Tradition”: Tai Cultural Inheritance and Creativity in Thai Society
Aphilak Kasempholkoon (Mahidol University)

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PARALLEL SESSION III (Presentations will be given in English):
Tai Languages
Moderator: Nattanun Chanchaochai

13.45-14.15
Constituent Order in Tai Khamti: New Data from Myanmar
Rikker Dockum (Swarthmore College)

14.15-14.45
Lanna Tai of the 16th Century as Attested from Chinese Source
Shinnakrit Tangsiriwattanakul (Chulalongkorn University)

15.15-15.45
Proto-Shan, Old Shan and the Making of Ahom Writing System
Pittayawat Pittayaporn (Chulalongkorn University)

15.45-16.15
Analysing Phonological Variation in Tai Khuen
Wyn Owen (Payap University)

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Dr. Banchob Bandhumedha was a female academic who devoted all her life to the research and teaching of Thai language in and outside of Thailand. Born on April 9th, 1920 in Tambon Baan Moh, Amphur PhraNakorn, Pra Nakorn province, she was the seventh of eleven children. She passed away on 21st March 1992 at the age of 72.

She graduated with a Master’s of Arts degree from Chulalongkorn University in 1944, and later received a scholarship from the Indian government to pursue a PhD degree in philology from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India. Dr. Banchob followed in the footsteps of her father who was also a teacher. She spent her whole life teaching, researching, and writing books to share her knowledge. Her teaching career began at Satri Wat Rakhang School, after which she went on to teach at Amnuay Silpa School, Secondary Teacher Training School, and Chandrakasem Teacher College. Her last teaching job was as a part-time teacher in the Department of the Thai Language, Ramkhamhaeng University, teaching Thai and foreign languages in the Thai language program. Dr. Banchob received an honorary doctorate degree in Thai language from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, an honorary doctor of philosophy degree in Thai language from Ramkhamhaeng University, a Golden Prakeaw Award from Chulalongkorn University for promulgating knowledge of the Thai language in 1986, and the Outstanding Researcher Award in Philosophy from the National Research Council of Thailand in 1987.

Dr. Banchob had a keen interest in the study of Thai dialects and foreign influences in Thai language. She wrote three textbooks on Thai language namely “Laksana Phasa Thai”, “Pali and Sanskrit languages in the Thai language” and “Foreign languages in the Thai language”, which is considered one of the finest Thai language textbooks. Her research and analysis of Thai language in relation to Tai languages in and outside Thailand, as well as other foreign languages, has been praised as being accurate, based on credible evidence and beneficial to the Thai language studies.

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