Using Technology to Preserve Indonesia’s Literary History
In the fight to preserve literature and culture there always seems be more hurdles than helping hands.
And while that pithy maxim may ring true in the ears of some, it hasn’t stopped Lontar, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Jakarta, from spending the last quarter of a century fighting to preserve Indonesia’s rich literary tradition and artistic achievements.
Recognized internationally for taking on a Sisyphus-like endeavor, Lontar has spent the last 25 years translating hundreds of the country’s most celebrated authors.
But if the foundation’s relentless pursuit of cultural preservation is to continue another 25 years, volunteers have to be willing to step forward and spend some time under the boulder.
“Cultural preservation is so important,” Kestity Pringgoharjono, the executive director of Lontar, said recently at the foundation’s office, located on a quiet side-street in Pejompongan, Central Jakarta.
“Indonesia has a rich culture, which is at risk of being forgotten. It’s therefore critical that we document as much as we can to preserve this rich culture. Literature is one means of doing that. In part, it’s also the confidence to show to a broader audience Indonesia’s rich culture. So little of Indonesian literature has been translated and I am proud to be part of an organization which has for the past 25 years [worked] on making Indonesia’s literature accessible to everybody.”
While Lontar is currently looking for professional translators and editors willing to volunteer to pore over projects at a highly reduced pay rate, the foundation is also in search of literature-lovers looking to help get the word out about Indonesian writers through Wikipedia, which over the years has gone from being an object of ridicule to a sought-after source of reliable information.
Tonya Torres, a volunteer with the foundation, explained that Lontar was putting together a volunteer team for its Digital Library project.
As part of the project, the foundation is recruiting volunteers to help write biographies of Indonesian writers, poets and playwrights for Wikipedia. Lontar will provide prospective volunteers with a two-hour training session, access to research materials and support on how to properly write and contribute articles to Wikipedia in both Indonesian and English.
The training will cover the basic requirements for writing articles in Wikipedia, creating citations and references and linking to related articles on the site. After the training session, volunteers can work either at the Lontar office in Pejompongan or online from home.
Meanwhile, in an effort to bolster Lontar’s cultural preservation projects, the Indonesian Heritage Society is launching a series of film screenings showcasing the best of Indonesian cinema — with English subtitles.
The first screening, which takes place on Saturday in Studio 2 at XXI Cinema, Epicentrum Walk, Kuningan, features “Sang Penari,” (“The Dancer”). Released in November last year, “The Dancer” opened to critical acclaim before going on to receive nine Citra Award nominations and winning four. It also won the Best Picture category at the 2011 Indonesian Film Festival and has been chosen to represent Indonesia in the Foreign Film category at the 2013 Academy Awards.
Set against a backdrop of political uncertainty and the massacre that unfolded in 1965, “The Dancer,” based on Ahmad Tohari’s trilogy “Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk,” chronicles the love story of two villagers in Central Java during one of the country’s most unspeakable times.
Volunteer organizers for the charity screening will focus on selling tickets to raise funds as well as raise awareness for the Lontar Foundation. In addition to the ticket sales, there will be a raffle with prizes from proud supporters like Aman Resorts, BIN House, Jenggala, Martha Tilaar and the InterContinental MidPlaza Hotel.
Tania Bridges-Abidin, the public relations co-chair of the Indonesian Heritage Society, said that locals and expatriates were united by events like these because of their shared desire to make a positive difference.
“Volunteers take pride in giving their time and knowledge to help promote and preserve the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia,” Tania said.
Count Me In prides itself on profiling a range of volunteer opportunities, from the physical, such as reinforcing dwindling shorelines by planting mangroves and laying cement foundations for houses with Habitat for Humanity, to the cerebral, such as the cultural preservation campaign led by Lontar.
The Lontar Foundation
Jl. Danau Laut Tawar No. 53
Pejompongan, Central Jakarta
Tel. 021 574 6880
Fax: 021 572 0353