“We Published in Prison” – Unique Material on Newspapers Published by Male Civilian Internees in Wartime Singapore

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By Gautam Hazarika, Singapore

Background – a largely untold story

When Britain surrendered Singapore to Japan on February 15, 1942, besides the 90,000 POWs, 1,3791 civilians were also interned. They were mainly colonial bureaucrats, businessmen, doctors etc, and included 182 women and children. Their numbers rose to 2,822 as recorded on June 3, 19422 and over 3,000 later during the war. Their experience was very different from that of the POWs – the POWs were young and healthy, the civilians were not. The POWs knew they could become prisoners, the civilians did not expect this. The POWs continued to live as before, split into officers and other ranks, while the civilians were thrown together – senior colonial officials and civilians, junior civilians and young merchant seaman closely packed into an overcrowded prison. Many also endured the agony of having wives and children just around the corner, but were segregated and therefore could not meet.

Many of the more numerous POWs published memoirs in the mainstream press, but only a handful of civilians did, many through non-mainstream press and most are out of print (Annexure 1).  Also, historians focussed more on the POWs, perhaps as the focus on the military was more appealing3. Hence very little is known about the civilians.

NEWS! Cartoon from KL 1949 edition, perhaps portraying an editor at work

An amazing archive in Cambridge about this untold story

The male civilians published an almost daily newspaper (310 issues over 18 months) from Feb 1942 to Oct 1943. The newspapers were called Karikal Chronicles, from Karikal Mahal where some were first interned, and Changi Guardian once they all moved there. They also published the Changi Chimes on Sundays for a few months. It is difficult to find a complete run of anything even recent, but The Royal Commonwealth Society has a complete run of these newspapers, as incredible wartime survival. They are available online at Cambridge. The papers are an astonishing record of their daily life and can also be used to imagine the life of the POWs for the many aspects that they shared – lack of food and news, how they entertained themselves etc. They also contain unique historical accounts (Personal Recollections) of the war so far, written by people who did not survive, or did not publish when liberated. There are 26 such recollections, covering the War in Pahang, Kelantan, etc. and various aspects of the War in Singapore. The authors include former residents and other civil servants. There appears to be no book / article on the men’s newspapers and even the Cambridge archive seems little known outside academic circles.

Unique original material in the author’s possession adding more to this untold story

The editors of these papers were mainly Harry Miller and Gus Harold Wade of the Straits Times4. There are references to three volume collections of the newspapers with Mr Miller and the IWM5. The impression is that these were collections of the actual newspapers. However, the collection I acquired in 2022 show that besides publishing the papers, the editors retyped the content (perhaps to ensure their survival) while in Changi prison, in 1942, adding title pages with a summary history, that are not in the original newspapers. This retyped collection by the editors is called “We Published in Prison”. The Changi 1942 editions in my collection only has the Karikal Chronicles and First 100 Changi Guardians, interspersed with the Sunday Changi Chimes as they were issued. This covers the newspapers till August 2, 1942. Whether more newspapers were retyped into such volumes in Changi is not known. As the war progressed, paper became even more scarce and the frequency of publishing reduced. Certainly, after Double Tenth, no such collections could have been made, as even the newspapers were stopped (see below). Also, while they could, how many such editions were made is unknown – at best there would have been a handful, and in fact the one I have acquired may be the only one.

Title page of “We Published in Prison”, 1942

A second edition of “We Published in Prison” was “Retyped Kuala Lumpur March 1949”. This was a 3-volume set covering the entire run of newspapers and included original cartoons and sketches. The 3-volume sets referred to above are probably this 3-volume edition. How many of these were made is not clear. The auction listing says my set probably belonged to one of the publishers. However, the seller of the collection said he had bought it over 40 years ago6, so perhaps in the early 1980s. Since Mr Miller had his set with him when he came to Singapore in 1993, my collection could not have been his. Perhaps Mr Miller’s set was donated to the IWM after his death, or the two sets could be different. Therefore, this 2nd edition had a run of at least 2 copies – Miller’s and mine.

“HUDSON’S BAY” Changi Prison, D.J. Kibby, Aug 42

The collection consists of four books titled “We Published in Prison” (see image below).

  • Book 1 produced in Changi 1942 has the Karikal Chronicles, stating it was the 1st volume of newspapers published. This uses thick official paper with the British crest embossed on top. It is slightly smaller than A4 size and the pages were stapled together, as seen by the three staple holes at the top of each page.  It is bound in burgundy coloured buckram, that must have been added later as both stapling and binding would not have been done together.
  • Book 2 was also produced in Changi 1942. It contains Volume 2 of the newspapers (in continuation with Volume 1 above) and contains the first 50 Changi Guardians. It also has Volume 3, with Nos 51-100. They also contain the Sunday Changi Chimes interspersed date-wise. This book uses thin paper like the old cyclostyles, of varying width and length. It is slightly taller than A4 size, bound in beige board with a dark brown leather strip on the left. There are no staples here and as it encloses two volumes, it was probably bound later.
  • Books 3 and 4 are Volumes 2 and 3 of what is stated as a 3-volume KL edition. As the missing first KL volume exactly coincides with the two books produced in Changi 1942, taken together the collection is a complete set of all the newspapers (barring one issue on which there is an interesting story, see note 7) plus the title pages/ sketch/ map/ cartoons not held in Cambridge. These are uniformly bound in grey buckram and on the inner front covers have the label “Bound by CAXTON PRESS LTD, Printers, Stationers and Book-Binders, Kuala Lumpur”
Four bound volumes of “We Published in Prison” in reasonably good condition

Here is a photograph featuring Mr Miller, Mr Wade, Mr Wilson (co-publisher for just 2 issues), Mr Peet (author of one of 20 books by internees) and Dorothy Miller (Mrs Harry Miller).

Bottom row: Dorothy Miller, George Peet, Middle W.A.Wilson, Top Row Harry Miller and Guy Wade

Double Tenth and the last Changi Guardian

Changi Guardian No 262 came out on Tuesday October 12, 1943. It is very innocuous and the only reference to something going on was to thank the kitchen staff for providing late meals on Sunday (hence October 10) after the end of the sudden, day-long interrogation that was Double Tenth. As is well known, after Operation Jaywick blew up merchant ships in Singapore harbour on September 27, 1943, the Japanese suspected that the civilians were the ringleaders. Their life changed abruptly from October 10, 1943. Besides numerous others in Singapore, 58 of the civilian internees were taken by the Kempetai for interrogation of whom 14 died. Another consequence was that there were no more Changi Guardians. In May 1944, the civilians were moved to the former RAF Camp at Sime Road to make place for returning POWs from the Burma railway. They remained there till the end of the war.

Researching the Civilians and the newspapers – giving their story a fresh look

  1. The biggest source are the newspapers themselves, approximately over one thousand A4 typewritten pages. Topics like food (or the lack of it), overcrowding, sports, Changi University, plays and concerts, the lack of war and family news, Personal Recollections, the editors and/or the publishing process could fill a research article or book chapter each.
  2. For further research, Mr Peng Han Lim’s article on primary sources on Civilian internees in Singapore is a key starting point. Besides published books, it includes partial lists of unpublished diaries, oral histories in Singapore and the UK. There are additional sources in the Singapore National Archive (online) and at the IWM and other UK institutions.
  3. So far, I have come across only twenty books by the internees (ANNEXURE 1). Just three were published soon after the war, a fourth in 1969, a fifth in 1979 and 15 more thereafter, the last in 2009. Perhaps they did not want to dwell on the past and many were published after their death, edited by relatives. Each of the books fortunately tells us a different part of the story – Kitching’s diary was written while in the camp and he died of cancer, so what is published is exactly what he wrote at that time. Peet’s memoirs written while at Sime Road has an analysis of the internees situation and basically says the Japanese treated them quite fairly. Thompson’s book gives us details of the Feb 17, 1942 march from the Padang, the organisation of the camps. Another difference in the books is the point of view – Hayter and McNamara tell the story as priests, Mary Thomas as a nurse from the UK not steeped in the colonial way of life, Sheila Allan as a rare Eurasian internee, Ann Dally as a doctor, Rudy Mosbergen and Thomas Ryan as teenagers, Ethel Mulvaney as a person who suffered mental ill-health, Freddy Bloom is of interest as the publisher of POW-WOW, the women’s newspaper.
  4. Books by historians Dr Archer3, Joseph Kennedy and an article on POW-WOW, the newspaper of the women’s camp8, contain various additional references.
  5. The newspapers name over 100 people – author and historian Jonanthan Moffat has a vast archive of biographical information on most of the internees, so these named people can be profiled and studied. Besides this, there are online references (for example Straits Times) to many of these persons, including interviews, significant news, obituaries etc.
  6. Mapping a) the original camps at Joo Chiat Police Stations/ Women in two houses in Katong/ Karikal Mahal and the adjacent Roman Catholic Convent1, and b) Analysis of the three maps mentioned by Mr Peng Han Lim and the fourth map and a courtyard sketch in my collection to draw a composite picture of Changi.
  7. A few internees are still alive – if they are willing and able, an attempt could be made to meet them.

Author’s note: I am a just a collector interested in the historical context of my collection, not a professional historian or researcher. I would welcome any guidance, introductions and references to other sources to assist in doing my research better, so the civilians’ story can be told afresh and with new sources.


1 Changi Guardian No 71, June 3, 1942

2 Ibid.

    3 Why less on civilians: The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941-1945 by Bernice Archer, p.8

    4 Gus and not Guy Wade: Archer p.105, Dateline Singapore :  150 years of The Straits Times by C.M.Turnbull, p.72, identify the co-publisher as Guy Wade. The author/ historian Jonathan Moffat provided me with a Red Cross card that not only confirmed he was Gus, but that there was a Guy Wade, but he was someone else (when Gus’s family was queried about another Guy Wade, they confirmed this Guy Wade was not their Gus) https://gallery.its.unimelb.edu.au/imu/imu.php?request=multimedia&irn=82089

    5 References to a 3-volume set of these newspapers – Straits Times 1993 article (ref. 8 below), Dateline Singapore:  150 years of The Straits Times by C.M. Turnbull, p. 121 note 6, email from Dr Bernice Archer October 2, 2022

    6 Auction Seller email dated 27 January, 2023

    7 The Karikal Chronicles were published in Feb-March 1942 and the retypes in my collection were made just a few weeks/months later in 1942. My collection ends at Karikal No 13, however there are references to 14 Karikal Chronicles in Dateline Singapore. Since my collection was retyped a few weeks later in 1942 by the editors, surely they could not have left the 14th out? Also, Karikal 13 was published on March 5, 1942 and they all moved to Changi on March 6 morning, so would not have had time to issue one that day. Hence, I thought there were only 13 issues. However, the Cambridge archive showed that there was a 14th. What happened was this – Karikal 13 came out on March 5 (probably in the morning). Later that day they were told they were moving to Changi the next morning, so later that day they brought out a short half page newspaper with instructions for the move to Changi. Handwritten on top is “Special Edition” and Karikal Chronicles 14”. Why it was left out in the “We Published in Prison” remains a mystery.

    8 New perspectives on the Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore, 1941-1945 / edited by Akashi Yoji and Yoshimura Mako, 2008; The civilian women’s internment camp in Singapore: the world of POW WOW by Michiko Nakahara.

    ANNEXURE 1 – Books by Civilian Internees – divided into those by men/women as done by Mr Peng Han Lim, with some additions by Gautam Hazarika

    Books by men interned

    1. EP HODKIN: If this Could Be Farewell. Freemantle Arts Centre Press, 2003
    2. GEORGE PEET: Within Changis Walls. Marshall Cavendish International Asia, 2001
    3. THOMAS KITCHING: Life and Death in Changi. Bretchin Tales Shop Ltd, 1998; republished Landmark Books Pte Ltd, 2018
    4. ANTHONY McNAMARA: I was in prison. Self-published, 1994
    5. G.E.D. LEWIN: Out East in the Malay Peninsula. Penerbit Fajar Bakti, Malaysia, 1991; Oxford, 1992
    6. JOHN HAYTER: Priest in Prison. Churchman, 1989; Thornhil, 1991; Graham Brash Pte Ltd, 1991
    7. TYLER THOMPSON: Freedom in Internment Under Japanese Rule in Singapore 1942-1945. Kelford Press Pte Ltd (Singapore), 1990?
    8. T.P.M. LEWIS: Changi, the lost years : a Malayan diary, 1941-1945. Malaysian Historical Society, 1989
    9. VAN CUYLENBERG: Singapore: through sunshine and shadow. Heineman Asia, 1982
    10. EJH CORNER: The Marquis, a tale of Syonan-to. Heineman Asia, 1981
    11. TAN SRI DATO MUBIN SHEPPARD: Taman budiman:  memoirs of an unorthodox civil servant. Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), 1979
    12. C.C. BROWN: Mural ditties and Sime Road soliloquies; illustrated by R.W.E. Harper. Singapore: Kelly and Walsh, [1948]
    13. HOBART B. AMSTUTZ: Prison camp ministries :  the personal narrative of Hobart B. Amstutz, 17 February 1942 to 7 September, 1945. Singapore :  Wesley Manse,  1945

    Books by women/girls interned

    1. MARY THOMAS: In the Shadow of the Rising Sun. Singapore Marshall Cavendish, 2009
    2. RUDY MOSBERGEN: In the Grip of a Crisis: The Experiences of a Teenager during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, 1942-45. Singapore Seng City, 2007
    3. SHEILA ALLAN: Diary of a Girl in Changi. Simon and Schuster (Australia), 1994 (a rare account of a Eurasian internee)
    4. LAVINIA WARNER and JOHN SANDILANDS: Women beyond the wire :  a story of prisoners of the Japanese, 1942-1945. Michael Joseph, 1982
    5. FREDDY BLOOM: Dear Philip. Bodley Head, 1980 (in addition to a book on her husband, a POW: Destined Meeting by Leslie Bell, published by Odhams Press ,1958)
    6. ANN DALLY: Cicely: The Story of a Doctor. Published Gollancz, 1968
    7. IRIS PARFITT: Jailbird Jottings. Kuala Lumpur, 1947

    Books on women/children by others

    1. THOMAS RYAN: A Child Prisoner of War – An account by his son Christopher. Hakawati Press (Scotland), 2021
    2. SUZANNE EVANS: Taste of Longing, The Ethel Mulvany and her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Between the Lines, 2020
    3. No Longer Silent, World-Wide Memories of the Children of World War II. Pictorial Histories Publication Co., 1995

    Recently completed ‘Endangered Archives Programme’ projects in Southeast Asia

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    Since 2004, the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) has helped to preserve cultural heritage and to make it available globally to as wide an audience as possible. To achieve this, grants are provided to digitise and document archives that are at risk of loss or decay, and which are located in countries where resources and opportunities to preserve such material are lacking or limited. ‘Archives’ refers to materials in written, pictorial or audio formats, including manuscripts, rare printed books, documents, newspapers, periodicals, photographs and sound recordings. The material can date from any time before the middle of the twentieth century, though archives that cross over to some extent into the second half of the twentieth century may be accepted if the majority of the material is earlier. One of the key principles is that the original material remains in the country in which it is located. EAP projects create digital material in a format that facilitates long-term preservation, and at least two copies of these are stored: a primary copy that remains at an appropriate repository in the country of origin, and a secondary copy held at the British Library and made available freely on the EAP website. Thanks to generous funding from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, EAP has provided grants to several hundred projects in over ninety countries worldwide, in more than a hundred languages and scripts. In this blog post, we introduce six recently completed EAP projects in Southeast Asian countries that provide access to manuscripts and archival materials relevant to research in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

    Identifying and Digitising Eastern Salient Manuscripts of Java (EAP1334)

    The project identified and digitised 97 Eastern Salient manuscripts of Java, in 24 collections located in Banyuwangi, Jember, Bondowoso, Situbondo, and Lumajang. They are written in Arabic, Perso-Arabic, Carakan, and Javanese scripts. Data on the contents, subjects, custodial history and original location of the manuscripts were recorded. In many cases, also biographical data of the manuscripts collectors or owners were added to the item descriptions. The contents of these manuscripts cover aspects of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), religion, history, culture, metaphysics, etc. Due to the vulnerability of the manuscripts, they were digitised by being photographed on location. This project was carried out by Mrs Wiwin Indiarti in collaboration with Universitas PGRI Banyuwangi and Library of Universitas PGRI Banyuwangi. For this pilot project, a grant of £12,795 was awarded in 2021. The digitised manuscripts and a short promotional film can be accessed on the EAP1334 project page.

    EAP1334 Digitisation training, November 2021

    Personal Manuscripts on the Periphery of Javanese Literature: A Survey and Digitisation of Private Collections from the Javanese North Coast, its Sundanese Hinterlands and the Fringes of Court (EAP1268)

    In this project 399 items in 22 collections were digitised. These materials highlight the periphery of Javanese and Sundanese literature and provide insights into the more personal sides of Javanese and Sundanese writing. They cover tales written by scribes residing near shrines, administrative handbooks, notebooks and recipe books scribbled by commoners and works produced by courtiers on their own behalf without apparent patronage from nobles or sovereigns. Their vernacular provenance increases their obscurity and simultaneously limits their preservation due to a lack of patrons. This project was carried out by Mr Simon Carlos Kemper in cooperation with University Gadjah Mada and MAIS archival systems Indonesia. For this pilot project, a grant of £15,057 was awarded in 2019. The digitised manuscripts can be accessed on the EAP1268 project page.

    Survey, Preservation and Digitisation of Palm-leaf Manuscripts (lontar) in Private Collections of Bali and Lombok. (EAP1241)

    The main outcome of this project has been the digitisation and cataloguing of about 100 lontar manuscripts of the private collection of Balinese man of letters Ida Dewa Gede Catra, which until 2021 were stored in the premises of the Museum Pustaka Lontar Dukuh Penaban (Karangasem, East Bali, Indonesia). The project has also surveyed nine private collections of manuscripts in Bali and five collections in Lombok, gathering information about the extent, history, and state of the material, and putting into effect basic conservation interventions on the manuscripts. 29 manuscripts from the Balinese collections and seven manuscripts from the collections in Lombok were digitised and catalogued. A significant achievement of the project has been in the domain of knowledge-transfer, through the training of a team in Bali that is now able to work independently on the identification, preservation, cataloguing, digitisation and permanent digital storage and retrieval of palm-leaf lontar manuscripts. Equally importantly, this project has contributed to raise the awareness among the owners of manuscripts as well as the general population in Bali and Lombok about the importance of this fragile heritage that forms an important part of the literary and cultural life of Bali and Lombok, and about the need to not only preserve it, but also make it more accessible to interested parties both locally, nationally, and worldwide. This project was carried out by Dr Andrea Acri together with the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), PSL University and National Library of Indonesia. For this pilot project, a grant of £14,000 was awarded in 2019. The digitised manuscripts can be accessed on the EAP1241 project page.

    EAP1241 Inspecting manuscripts in Karangasem

    Survey of Lao Manuscripts in Vientiane and two neighbouring provinces (EAP1319)

    The project surveyed the manuscript holdings of 166 temples within Vientiane using data from previous surveys as a baseline to investigate changes. As anticipated based on prior isolated inspections, the project confirmed that significant manuscript losses had taken place over the past 20-35 years (depending upon the date of the previous surveys). The overall findings show that out of total of 21,383 manuscripts based on previous survey records, only 12,457 remain in 2022, i.e. the number of manuscripts lost is 9,179 or 42.93% of the expected total. The overarching reason for this very significant loss are lack of care, compounded by termites, rain damage, fire, etc. This project highlighted the need to reconsider existing policies and practices for manuscript preservation in Laos. In addition to a detailed comparison of previous records with current holdings, the project also built on the basic manuscript catalogue data to include information at the repository level, conservation data, records of microfilming or digitisation, contact details of resource persons for the production and use of manuscripts, a photographic record of conditions before and after preservation work, and causes of manuscript loss. The resulting database provides the foundation for a comprehensive ‘national database of Lao manuscript cultures’ to be used as a tool for future preservation, digitisation, and research efforts. A sample of 28 manuscripts from four locations were digitised during the survey project, with dates from 1770 to 1973. This project was carried out by Dr David Wharton in collaboration with the National Library of Laos. For this major project, a grant of £55,070 was awarded in 2021. The surveys and 28 digitised manuscripts can be accessed on the EAP1319 project page.

    EAP1319 Manuscript survey in Vat That Khao temple, Vientiane, Laos

    Digital Library of the Lanten Textual Heritage – Phase II (EAP1126)

    This project continued the digital preservation of manuscripts of the Lanten ethnic group in North Laos that began in a previous EAP project (EAP791). The follow-up project identified a larger number of manuscripts than the ones initially listed to be preserved; it also discovered seriously threatening conditions. The targeted manuscripts contain the information enabling shamans and priests to engage Daoist Deities in the rituals that ensure the continuity of the Lanten society’s socio-cosmological order. The depletion of this corpus following the political and economic turmoil after the Indochina War and the establishment of the centralised socialist Lao State have been affecting the social foundations of this society. This project, which was carried out by Dr Helene Basu in cooperation with Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and the National Library of Laos, catalogued and digitised 1352 manuscripts in 44 collections. For this phase-II project, a grant of £27,500 was awarded in 2018, and the digitised manuscripts are accessible via EAP1126 project page.

    EAP1126 Manuscript owner in Luang Namtha, Laos

    Recalling a Translocal Past: Digitising Thai-Mon palm-leaf manuscripts (EAP1123)

    The Mon people of Thailand and Burma were regional cultural and religious intermediaries and supported a palm leaf manuscript tradition into the 1920s. Although there are important collections of such manuscripts in Thailand, no official Thai body has ever digitised these manuscripts. Among them are texts unknown in Burma, which are key to understanding recent history and the Mon role in intellectual history. The collections have been exposed to various hazards, like vermin and flooding. Disinterest has also led to damage and loss. Today, young Thai people with Mon ancestry are interested in their heritage and the need to preserve these collections became urgent. Over the course of two months (January to March 2019), the research team gathered the names of some 28 Mon temples/collections in and around Bangkok. This was done by word of mouth from the initial temples visited and through conversations with local experts. Of the 28 temples, a total of 25 were visited; the remaining three were far away from Bangkok in places like Chiang Mai, some 400 miles north. Six temples did not have, or no longer had, Mon-language manuscripts. A survey was produced and 48 manuscripts in six collections were digitised. This project was carried out by Dr Patrick McCormick in collaboration with SEA Junction (Southeast Asia Junction) and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre. For this pilot project, a grant of £11,463 was awarded in 2018. The catalogued records and digitised manuscripts can be accessed on the EAP1123 project page. A major follow-up project “Recalling a trans-local past: digitising Mon palm-leaf manuscripts of Thailand. Part 2 (EAP1432)” is currently underway.

    The Endangered Archives Programme continues to offer approximately 30 grants each year to enable researchers to identify and preserve culturally important archives through digitisation. Applications open usually in September every year. The website also offers free access to useful resources and guides to assist with applications and the methodology of successfully carrying out digitisation projects. An immersive yet informative video (14 min) on the important work carried out in projects of the Endangered Archives Programme is available on the EAP blog.

    Online access to historical newspapers from Southeast Asia

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    In the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, much of Southeast Asia was under Western colonial dominance. Most of the region was divided among the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and American powers, supplanted by a brief period of Japanese influence following the outbreak of World War II in Europe and the Pacific. The post-war era witnessed a series of revolutions as local leaders looked to regain independence from colonial powers. Decolonisation efforts and movements spread throughout the region, leaving the newly independent states in charge of their own political, economic, and social pathways for the first time in decades.

    The Southeast Asian Newspapers, an Open Access collection supported by the Center for Research Libraries and its member institutions, chronicles the changes that took place throughout the region during this period, and the challenges of early statehood. Covering several countries from the region, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and featuring multiple languages such as Dutch, English, French, Javanese, Khmer, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese, the Southeast Asian Newspapers collection incorporates a wealth of coverage and perspectives on major regional and global events of the late nineteenth and twetieth centuries.

    To date, altogether 129 newspaper titles with a total of 67,762 issues dating from between 1839 to 1976 have been included: 57 from the Philippines, 37 from Vietnam, 24 from Indonesia, 5 from Thailand, 3 from Malaysia, 1 from Cambodia and 1 from Myanmar. Among the earliest printed newspapers in the collection are Tranh đ̂áu, a newspaper in Vietnamese language published in Saigon (33 issues from between 1839 to 1938, with gaps), and Nangsư̄ čhotmāihēt (หนังสือจดหมายเหตุ – Bangkok Recorder), a Thai newspaper published in Bangkok (11 issues from 1844 to 1845).

    The online collection provides free access to the fully digitised issues of the newspapers (altogether 463,246 pages). Search functions by newspaper title, free word search, date and map help locate information easily. One additional feature is “On this date in history”, which presents randomly selected articles from various newspapers published in different countries on the date in history of the visit of this collection.

    (This post contains information from the website of the Southeast Asian Newspapers collection)

    Two early 19th-century Malay documents

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    Among the most important source of information on the workings of traditional Malay states are decrees and commands issued at various levels of the administration.  Unfortunately, compared to the thousands of Malay diplomatic and royal epistles found in archives today, very few official Malay documents are known to survive.  It is because of the rarity of such documents that two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau, Melaka have recently been published (with full transliterations and English translations), even though these are not known from original manuscripts, but only from transcriptions made by C.O. Blagden in 1894 or shortly thereafter. 

    C.O. Blagden, the first lecturer in Malay at SOAS, University of London.  Source: Wikipedia.

    Charles Otto Blagden (1864-1949) served in the civil service in the Straits Settlements from 1888 until 1897, when he returned to England.  When the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was founded at London University in 1916, Blagden was appointed as the first Lecturer in Malay in 1917, and stayed at SOAS until his retirement in 1935.  Held in SOAS Library today are several volumes of manuscript notebooks by Blagden containing copies of Malay texts, and notes on Malay matters.  In one of these volumes (MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-33r) are copies of two early 19th-century Malay documents, described by Blagden as follows:

    Two chops belonging to the Penghulu of Chabau

    These two chops were copied at the house of Penghulu Sulong Arin of Chabau, to whose ancestors they had been granted by the Dato’ Temenggong of Muar who at that period claimed and in fact exercised jurisdiction in a part of what is now Malacca Territory.  It will be noticed that the chops make no reference to any duties except that of keeping up the worship of the Mosque.

    Today, Cabau is a small village in the state of Melaka, situated on the upper reaches of the Kesang river. In  the early 18th century, the valley between the Kesang and Muar rivers was granted by Sultan Abdul Jalil Syah of Johor (r. 1699-1717) to a Johor noble, whose heirs bore the title of Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar.  The two documents from Cabau discussed here date from 1820 and 1821/2, and were issued by the then Temenggungs of Muar to the Pengulu (headman) of Cabau, commanding him to ensure that communal prayers (sembahyang berjemaah) were held regularly (on Fridays and feast days), and stating the fines to be imposed for non-compliance. 

    The two documents, written in Malay in Jawi script, have been copied very carefully by Blagden, who noted that he had preserved all anomalies in spelling that he encountered, and who also presented Romanised versions.  The first document is a copy of a sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, dated 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), instructing the Pengulu to uphold communal prayers.  The Temenggung warns that transgressors will be regarded as having perpetrated treason against God and the Prophet, while aristocrats (segala raja-raja Islam) are specifically warned that if they do not join in the communal prayers, then religious officials will not hold prayers on their death, or at the nuptials of their kin, or at births or family events.  The second document, which was clearly in poor condition when Blagden saw it, with losses of text, is a sealed commission (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Alna, Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with similar contents. 

    On the right-hand page, a Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of the sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), with Blagden’s Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-32r
    Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of a document (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with a copy of the seal, and with a Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 32v-33r

    Despite not being original manuscripts, the careful copies made by Blagden of two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau are able to yield considerable information on aspects of daily life in the region under the jurisdiction of the Temenggung of Muar.  These documents show that the enforcement of Islamic law was regarded as a core responsibility of the royal Malay courts and their provincial representatives, yet also serve to highlight areas of concern, such as a lax attitude to communal prayers in Muar-Kesang.  The Cabau documents thus play a valuable role in confirming the centrality of the regulating of Islamic practice in traditional Malay governance on the west coast of the peninsula, in a period just before the era of high colonialism.


    Annabel Teh Gallop, Two early 19th-century Malay documents from CabauPendeta, 2021, 12 (1): 22-34.

    M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014. 

    R.O. Winstedt, The Temenggongs of Muar.  Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1932, 10.1 (113): 30-31.

    By Annabel Teh Gallop (British Library, London). Contact annabel.gallopATbl.uk

    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.)


    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).

    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.

    Southeast Asia in historical photographs: Vietnam

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    The National Overseas Archives in Aix-en-Provence (ANOM) have opened up to the public an ever growing online database called Base Ulysse, thereby making a variety of digitised materials from the Archives and their library available for research. Begun in 2002, this database currently makes available well over 45,000 individual photographs, albums, postcards, posters, drawings and maps.

    These materials document on one side the history of the French colonial empire in general, but on the other side they are a rich source for the study of the cultures, traditions and everyday life in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in historical perspective. The materials mainly originate from public records (state secretariats and departments that managed French colonial territories from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth century, general government offices, etc.) and private archives, but also from donations, purchases, and bequests.

    The digital collection contains over 3000 photographs from Vietnam which include 1935 images related to Tonkin, 886 images related to Cochin-China, 615 images related to Annam, and 463 images categorized under Vietnam. Most of these images are photographs from the first half of the twentieth century, but the oldest images date back to the 1880s. Interestingly, they do not only document the French colonial influence in Vietnam, but also Vietnamese traditions, ceremonies and everyday life. In addition, the cultures of ethnic minorities and religious communities in Vietnam are depicted in these photographs. The Cao Dai religion, Buddhism and Islam and their rituals are well presented in this collection, as well as the cultural traditions of the Thai ethnic groups in north Vietnam, the Cham in south Vietnam and the Chinese in Saigon, Hanoi and other large cities. Some of the images document how these photographs were taken by French colonial officers and photographers.

    Some examples that illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the collection of photographs from Vietnam are presented below. All images were sourced from the Base Ulysse.

    Tonkin Hanoi street view 1897-98

    Street view in Hanoi, Tonkin, c.1897-8

    Tonkin Vietnamese woman 1884-85

    Studio photograph of a Vietnamese woman in traditional costume, Tonkin, c.1884-5

    Tonkin group of dancers 1892-96

    A group of Vietnamese dancers, Tonkin, c.1892-96

    Tonkin orchestra 1884-85

    Traditional Vietnamese orchestra, Tonkin, c.1884-5

    Tonkin Buddhist nun and novice 1919-26

    Buddhist nun and novice, Tonkin, c.1919-26

    Tonkin land surveyors 1884-85

    Land surveyors with traditional measuring instruments, Tonkin, c.1884-5

    Tonkin Hanoi two young Chinese men 1894-85

    Studio photograph of two young Chinese men, Hanoi, Tonkin, 1884-5

    Tonkin Thai ethnic group 1895-99

    Members of the Thai ethnic group, Tonkin, c.1895-9

    Annam royal ceremony at royal palace in Hue 1919-26

    Ceremony at the royal palace, Hue, Annam, c.1919-26

    Annam mandarin 1884-85

    Studio photograph of a Mandarin, Annam, c.1884-5

    Annam colonial photography taking photos of Moi ethnic group at Djiring by Rene Tetart 1919-26

    Colonial photographer taking pictures of ethnic minority men at work, Annam, c.1919-26

    Cochinchina maritime fishery at Cau Gio 1921-35

    Maritime fishery near Cau Gio, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

    Cochinchina Cham fishermen in the Mekong Delta 1921-35

    Cham fishermen in the Mekong Delta, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

    Cochinchina traditional art school at Lai Thieu 1919-26

    Traditional art school at Lai Thieu, Cochin-China, c.1919-26

    Cochinchina theatre stage at the pagoda of Hocmon 1921-35

    Theatre stage at the pagoda in Hoc Mon, Saigon, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

    Cochinchina Beng Angsa Khmer Buddhist pagoda 1930-54

    Khmer Buddhist temple Soctrang at Beng Angsa, Cochin-China, c.1930-54

    Cochinchina Buddhist monks on alms round 1921-35

    Buddhist monks and novices on alms round, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

    Cochinchina Mosque at Threa with worshippers 1930-54

    Mosque at Threa with teachers and students, Cochin-China, c.1930-54



    Marhaen: An Indonesian Journal from 1980s West Berlin

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    In 2011 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt acquired the library of the Stiftung Asienhaus (“Foundation Asia House”, then located in Essen, now in Cologne), an association of several German NGOs working on Asia. Among the many uncatalogued materials of this collection we recently found three volumes of a small Indonesian-language leftist journal named Marhaen: Analisa & Berita Bulanan.

    Marhaen - Ill 1-page-001 (1)

    Marhaen volume 1, front cover

    This journal was published in West Berlin and does not have any reference to a particular publisher, thus, it must have been published by the editorial staff themselves. As editors are listed Christin Litan, Sammy Litan, Mohamad Isa and Agus Darmadji. In Frankfurt, the volumes 1-3 of this monthly journal are available. As in volume 3 a fourth volume is announced, one can assume that several further issues have been published  (Waruno Mahdi, personal communication, 11.01.2019). However, there is only one further holding of this journal known to me: The German Berlin-based human rights group Watch Indonesia! keeps the first volumes of Marhaen in their collections (Alex Flor, personal communication, 21.01.2019; Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

    There is no publication date found in all existing volumes, but as its contents contain citations from contemporary political magazines (such as Far Eastern Economic Review or Indonesie: Feiten en Meningen) from early 1985 it seems fair to estimate the date of appearance from 1985 onwards.

    Marhaen - Ill 2-page-001

    Marhaen volume 3, front cover

    The last existing issue known to me is volume 6 from 1986, unfortunately not available in the Frankfurt collections (Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

    The text is completely written in Indonesian, the available issues consist of 10 pages (vols. 1-2) or 14 pages (vol. 3). Later issues became more voluminous, e.g volume 6 consists of 48 pages. They are among the last breaths of the pre-computer era, as they were type-written. The volumes contain some illustrations like photo-copied photographs or critical cartoons. As the volumes are small it is not surprising the articles and essays are usually very short and often bear the character of an annotation or footnote, in particular in the section “Berita & Ulasan” (“News & Commentaries”).

    Not much is known about the editors except for the late Mohamad Isa (1922-2008). He became cultural attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Prague in 1964 and was removed from this position in 1966. Mohamad Isa could not return to Indonesia after General Soeharto took over power in 1965. In 1967 he therefore moved to East Berlin to escape the harassments of the new representatives of the Indonesian so-called New Order-regime as there was no Indonesian embassy in the German Democratic Republic until 1976. He then worked until 1981 as lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University, until he was replaced by a former Indonesian student from Moscow and lost his work permit as well as his residence permit for the German Democratic Republic for political reasons. After his application for asylum was rejected in the Netherlands he and his family moved to West Berlin. Mohamad Isa’s daughter Reni became lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1989 (Keller 2014). The other editors are not known. For a good overview of Indonesian (student) activities in Berlin including their publications (but not Marhaen!) from the 1950s until today see Hasyim (2014). Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja thought that they might be of the same generation as Mohamad Isa (personal communication, 04.04.2019).

    The title Marhaen indicates the closeness to the Sukarno-style form of socialism Marhaenisme, which the first President of Indonesia Sukarno labeled after a Sundanese peasant named Marhaen whom he had allegedly met in the 1920s (Sukarno 1970: 157, for deeper analysis of Sukarno’s form of socialism see Mintz (1965) and Mortimer (1974)). Thus, it is not very surprising that most of its contents and articles are highly critical towards the dictatorial regime of his successor Soeharto.

    Marhaen - Ill 3-page-001 (2)

    Example of a type-written page from volume 3 of Marhaen

    For example, there is an article on the Roman emperor Caligula, seemingly unfavourably indicating a comparison to the former Indonesian dictator. Another essay is entitled “Betina yang Paling Kaya di Dunia” (“The Richest Woman in the World”), but the Indonesian term betina for ‘femaleness’ is used for animals only and here refers to Soeharto’s wife Siti Hartinah (called ‘Ibu Tien’), widely known for her greediness (Schulze 2015: 164). Other articles discuss contemporary developments in Indonesia such as “1985: Jakarta Bebas dari Becak” (“1985: Jakarta is Trishaw-Free”) or “ABRI lawan ABRI” (“ABRI Fights ABRI”, ABRI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian National Armed Forces). Further essays e.g. are entitled “Moral dan Anti-Moral” (“Moral and Anti-Moral”), “Rasisme terhadap Cina” (“Racism towards the Chinese”), “Suharto di atas Punggung Macan” (“Suharto on the Back of the Tigers”) or “Teori-teori Kaum Penindas” (“Theories of the Suppressors”).

    The existing issues of the journal “Marhaen” in Frankfurt are available under the shelf mark “ZS 1082” and can be ordered to be viewed in the reading room at Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg.


    Hasyim, Syafiq (2014): Challeging a Home Country: A Preliminary Account of Indonesian Student Activism in Berlin. In: ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7 (2), 183-198.

    Keller, Anett (2014): Ziviler Ungehorsam als Lebensprinzip. In: Südostasien 30 (4), 34-36.

    Mintz, Jeanne S. (1965): Mohammed, Marx and Marhaen: The Roots of Indonesian Socialism. London: Pall Mall Press.

    Mortimer, Rex (1974): Indonesian Communism under Sukarno: Ideology and Politics 1959-1965. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Schulze, Fritz (2015): Kleine Geschichte Indonesiens: Von den Inselkönigreichen zum modernen Großstaat. München: C.H. Beck.

    Sukarno (1970 [1957]): Marhaen, a Symbol of the Power of the Indonesian People. In: Indonesian Political Thinking 1945-1965 (Herbert Feith, Lance Castles, eds.), 154-160. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


    by Holger Warnk

    J.W.Goethe-Universität, Library of Southeast Asian Studies

    (Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Alex Flor, Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja and Waruno Mahdi for their help and for providing much background information.)

    Tjenderawasih: A 1950’s Indonesian Children’s Journal in the Library of Southeast Asian Studies in Frankfurt

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    Indonesian cultural journals have played a great role in the production of modern Indonesian literature and in the Indonesian publishing scene in general (Kratz 1994). As many authors did not have the financial means to have their works printed in book form, authors of short stories and poetry had only the choice to get published in journals and newspapers. Ulrich Kratz has demonstrated the great importance of journals for the production of modern Indonesian literature in his monumental bibliography of nearly 900 pages. It is not surprising therefore that those cultural journals of nation-wide importance like Horison, Zenith, Mimbar Indonesia, Basis, Pujangga Baru or Medan Sastera, to mention only a few, are comparatively well available in European libraries and collections. Local periodicals like Pawon (Surakarta), Puisi (Magelang), Catatan Kebudayaan (Denpasar) or Genta Budaya (Padang) which often appeared for only a few years are far less represented. Cultural journals for children and young readers are nearly totally absent in Western collections.
    The Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main acquired in 2011 the collection of books of Prof. Ulrich Kratz, formerly professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Ulrich Kratz was a regular visitor of the Malay world since the early 1970s and acquired many rare titles published locally. His main research interests were literature and culture, so his library consisted of more than 9,000 titles from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, mainly in Indonesian/Malay.
    Among the many periodicals in the collection of Ulrich Kratz is an incomplete set of the first two volumes of the Indonesian childrens’ journal Tjenderawasih: Madjalah Bulanan Anak-Anak (‘Bird of Paradise: Monthly Magazine for Children’), which so far is not listed in the World Cat and thus being unique.

    Illustration 1: Front cover of the first volume that was released in September 1951

    Its first volume was released in September 1951, and the last available issue is volume 2, Number 7, published in June 1953 (illustration 2). All issues were published by Ganaco, a well-known publishing house in Bandung from the 1950s to the late 1970s. It is not known when the journal ceased its publication.

    Illustration 2: Front cover of volume 2 number 1 of Tjenderawasih

    The journal describes itself on its back page as a “magazine for our children based on education” (madjalah anak² kita jang berazaskan pendidikan) managed by “experts of education” (ahli² pendidik). Therefore its contents were considered suitable for all classes in Indonesian elementary schools and were adapted to their courses of instruction. What, then, are the contents of Tjenderawasih? We find in it short stories und poetry, inspirational songs, games and riddles, cartoons and illustrations, Hari Raya wishes, reports (e.g. on a soap box derby in Jakarta in 1952) or educational texts on geography (e.g. the Great Chinese Wall, see illustration 3 below) or history (e.g. on Robert Baden Powell and the Boy Scouts movement).

    Illustration 3: Tjenderawasih volume 2, number 2, p. 9: Tembok Tiongkok (‘The Great Chinese Wall’)

    Short stories, reports, songs and cartoons reflect very well the nationalist spirit of Indonesia in the early 1950s when the country still suffered from the traumata of the Japanese occupation in the Second World War and four years of the Indonesian Revolution 1945-1949. The hilarious cartoon shown below is a good example: Indonesian national schools had to teach the new national language Bahasa Indonesia to native speakers of Javanese, Sundanese, Batak and hundreds of other languages.

    Illustration 4: Tjenderawasih volume 2, number 7, p. 23: Politik – Politur

    The new language, still being unfamiliar to many, led to funny creations when it came to the formation of new words. Several short stories were written for entertaining its young readership by presenting exotic and adventurous tales like the story of the American Indian girl Mega Putih and the red bear (illustration 5) or the Eskimo boy Ikwa (illustration 6).

    Illustration 5: Tjenderawasi volume 2, number 7: p. 5: Mega Putih dan beruang merah (‘Mega Putih and the red bear’)

    Illustration 6: Tjenderawasi volume 2, number 2: p. 13: Ikwa Anak Eskimo (‘Ikwa, the Eskimo boy’)

    Only occasionally the articles were signed with an author’s name or an indication of the author, e.g. like “Ibu Tjenderawasih”, most likely the editor S. Rukiah herself. The rest remained anonymous.
    The editorial staff of Tjenderawasih consisted of several members, by far the most well-known was S. Rukiah (1927-1996). She was one of the most prolific female authors of Indonesian prose literature of the 1950s, her most well-known novel Kedjatuhan dan hati (‘The fall and the heart’) received much acclaimed critics (Rukiah 1950). In 1951 she moved to Bandung to become editor of Tjenderawasih (Rukiah 2011), although the journal’s editiorials were listed only beginning with volume 2, number 2 in December 1952 mentioning her as editor. Later she became member of the communist influenced cultural organization LEKRA and stopped writing after the mass killings of 1965.

    As “pedagocial adviser” (penasehat paedagogi) served Sikun Pribadi, who wrote his PhD at Ohio State University in the United States in 1960 and later became professor of educational science at the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia in Bandung. A permanent member of the editorial staff was Daeng Sutigna (1908-1984), a well-known performer and teacher of Indonesian Angklung music. Sutigna ran courses on Angklung for the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture from 1950 onwards. Further permament members were: 1. A. H. Harahap, author of several reading books for elementary schools together with Oejeng Soewargana, the publisher of Ganaco. Furthermore Harahap wrote a few general introductions on Indonesian geography, e.g. on the island of Madura (Safiudin & Harahap 1956). Haharap was active as author until well into the 1970s, nearly all his works were published by Ganaco; 2. Karnedi, an artist who founded in 1948 the art studio Jiwa Mukti with the well-known painter Barli Sasmitawinata (1921-2007) and Sartono (Mulyadi 2008: 279); 3. E. S. Muljokusumo, a civil servant in the Indonesian Ministry of the Seas and Fishing, who wrote several articles on natural phenomena like the sun, stars, the Indonesian seas and the like; 4. Sudigdo, maybe identical with Muljokusumo; 5. Ibu Suparti, and finally 6. Nn. Rukmini Sudirdjo. On these last three persons no further information was available.

    Cartoons were included in the journal on an unregular basis. The magazine was printed partly in colour, but photos and many of the cartoons appeared in black and white. The cartoons were signed with acronyms like “Tosa” for the Si Amin-series (see e.g illustration 7) or “Dana” (Illustration 4). No further information on these cartoonists could be obtained so far. All their cartoons – as well as many other contents in the magazine – show a certain moral or ethics, in particular to strengthen the national spirit among its young readers.

    Illustration 7: Tjenderawasi volume 1, number 8, p. 17: Si Amin beladjar merokok (‘Amin learns to smoke’)

    A few lines from the anonymous poem Madju dja….lan (‘Way of progress’, volume 1, number 10, 1952, p.3) will illustrate this:

    Drap, drap, drap !
    Terdengar kaki menderap.
    Itulah barisan Sekolah Rakjat
    Harapan bangsa, penuh semangat

    Beladjar disekolah sungguh-sungguh.
    Bekerdja dirumah sungguh-sungguh.
    Berbaris dilapangan madju dja…lan !
    Itulah anak kemerdekaan …

    Drap, drap, drap !
    Rhythmic steps can be heard
    These are the lines of the People’s School
    Hope of the nation, full of spirit.

    [They] learn hard in the school.
    [They] work hard at home.
    [They] line on the square for the way of progress!
    These are the children of independence…

    Further examples are e.g. a photo series on the celebrations of the national Kartini Day on 21 April 1952 or a report on General Abdul Haris Nasution, the hero of the revolution and one out of only three of Indonesia’s five star generals.

    The magazine was published by the Bandung-based publishing house Ganaco, which was active from 1950 onwards until the death of the publisher in 1979. In the 1950s they also had branches in Jakarta and Amsterdam. Its publisher was Oejeng Soewargana (1917-1979; other spellings of his name are Uyeng Suwargana, Oejeng S. Gana, Ujeng S. Wargana or Ujeng Suwargana), a quite well-known figure in the field of education and prolific author of school books and reading books, often co-authored with A. H. Harahap or Amin Singgih (Ensiklopedia 2004, Jilid 15: 170). It is quite interesting to note that Soewargana kept close relations to several high-ranking members of the Indonesian armed forces such as Abdul Haris Nasution and wrote several books on the incidents of 1965, rather from the Orde Baru perspective (Harry Poeze, personal communication), while S. Rukiah as editor of Tjenderawasih was standing on the leftist side.

    Ganaco also published in other languages than Indonesian. In the 1950s they produced an English-language magazine Window on the World (see the advertisement in Safiudin & Harahap 1955). In the same period many titles of modern Sundanese literature and on Sundanese language learning came out, but introductory books on member states of the non-aligned movement (e.g. Burma or Saudi-Arabia) were also published.
    Tjenderawasih contains no commercial advertisements except those from the publishing house Ganaco itself, although they announced prices for them. Prices ran from 500,- Rupiah (c. 43,- US$) per page, 275,- Rupiah (c. 24 US$) for a half page to 150,- Rupiah (c. 13,- US $) for a quarter page. A yearly subscription of the journal costed 22,50 Rupiah (5,90 US$ in 1951, 1,97 US$ in 1953). Due to its contents and the relatively high subscription rates for Indonesia in the early 1950s the circulation of the magazine was probably limited to young middle and upper class readers of the major urban centres of Java like Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya or Yogyakarta.

    Ensiklopedi (2004): Ensiklopedi nasional Indonesia. Jakarta: PT. Delta Pamungkas.
    Kratz, Ulrich (1988): A bibliography of Indonesian literature in journals – Bibliografi karya sastra Indonesia dalam majalah. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press.
    Kratz, Ulrich (1994): La place des revues dans la production littéraire. In: Henri Chambert-Loir (ed.), La littérature indonésienne: une introduction [Cahier d’Archipel 22], pp. 151-158. Paris: Association Archipel.
    Mulyadi, Efix [ed.] (2008): The journey of Indonesian painting: the Bentara Budaya Collection. Jakarta: KPG.
    Rukiah, S. (1950): Kedjatuhan dan hati. Djakarta: Pudjangga Baru, Special Issue Nov.-Dec. 1950.
    Rukiah, S. (2011): The fall and the heart. Jakarta: Lontar Foundation.
    Safiudin & Harahap, A. H. (1955): Madura: pulau kerapan [Seri kenallah tanah airmu]. Bandung: Ganaco.
    https://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daeng_Soetigna [accessed 30 September 2017].

    Article by Holger Warnk (Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main)

    Symposium “Reframing the Archive: The Reuse of Film and Photographic Images in Postcolonial Southeast Asia”

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    1 June 2017, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

    This symposium will explore the ways in which colonial and postcolonial film and photographic archives have been rearticulated within a range of Southeast Asian political and aesthetic contexts. How have artists and filmmakers sought to subvert existing power relations through the use of colonial images? To what extent have archival materials and technologies allowed for an investigation into the emancipatory potential of the lens? How have these techniques been utilised by diasporic populations? Though preference will be given to submissions which focus on Southeast Asia, papers that draw comparisons with other postcolonial contexts are also welcome.

    The symposium will be accompanied by screenings of two feature-length films by Cambodian filmmakers and a series of short films by emerging filmmakers from Southeast Asia. This programme, we believe, will provide a further opportunity to address the themes raised by the symposium.

    The conference and screening programme are organised by Dr Joanna Wolfarth, Dr Fiona Allen, and Annie Jael Kwan independent curator, The Asia Projector.

    To submit a paper, please send paper titles, abstracts of c. 500 words and a 2-page CV to reframingthearchive@gmail.com

    The deadline for abstracts is 31st January 2017.

    For more detailed information, please view the symposium homepage.



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