DREAMSEA Saves 4.000 Manuscript Pages in Indramayu

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Dreamsea.co – Indramayu is a region where manuscripts are still found in large numbers while it also has an abundance of intangible culture. The manuscripts in the region still play a vital role in many cultural activities the Indramayu people engage in. However, because they are still widely used but often ill treated, these manuscripts also run the danger of becoming damaged and their condition is indeed often rather bad.

It is for this reason that DREAMSEA (Digital Repository of Endangered and Affected Manuscripts in Southeast Asia) took up a mission to safeguard the manuscripts owned by the Indramayu people which started on Thursday, 18 2021 to digitize these manuscripts. The mission focused on the Village of Cikedung Lor, Sub district Cikedung, in the Regency of Indramayu in West Java.

Ki Tarka Sutarahardja, one of the manuscript owners had the following to say “Some of these manuscripts come from the performers of the shadow play (wayang kulit) and the local wooden rod puppet (wayang cepak) theatre and in the past they were widely used and handed down from one generation to the next. Because society no longer seems to be interested in these art forms, the manuscripts are no longer taken care of and they deteriorate, according to Mr. Tarka who is a member of the Nusantara Manuscript Association (MANASSA). “We fear that the demise of these manuscripts also continues to erode these traditional artistic theatrical performances”, he asserted.

Rahmatia, the Indramayu DREAMSEA representative stressed that the mission was a tangible expression of the programme’s commitment to preserve the owners’ manuscript collections that are now endangered. “In this mission, we focus on privately-owned collections. Therefore we did not exclude the possibility that more manuscript would be added to the number we initially envisaged to digitize.” She added that, indeed, on the very day the the mission landed in the region, DREAMSEA’s digitising team had already been given eight more manuscripts that the owners themselves brought to the venue where the manuscripts were being digitised. “We felt we were being helped a lot because many manuscript owners were very open to us and they actively assisted us to make our digitisation efforts easier,” Rahma said. 

The mission was executed in a period of ten days from 18 to 27 March 2021. It’s target was the preservation of no less than 4000 manuscript pages with a variety of contents. “The manuscripts contain stories of the prophets, Panji stories, almanacs and they are written in Javanese and in pegon which is a form of Arabic script adapted to the requirements of the Javanese language”, Maulani, DREAMSEA’s data converter said while he was overseeing the mission. “The manuscript use a variety of materials. Some are written on European or pre-lined cheap paper while others are written on palm leaf, especially those used for the wooden rod puppet theatre”, he continued. “Besides this, there is also archival material written on palm leaf owned by the Pamayahan Village in Indramayu of which the physical condition is already quite poor. They are important as they offer us a window on the situation in Indramayu in the nineteenth century”, according to this young philologist who just graduated at the University of Indonesia.

Ilham Nurwansah, DREAMSEA’s assistant data converter, very much appreciates the manuscript owners who were involved in the digitization mission. “We express our highest appreciation to all the manuscript owners who offered us the possibility to preserve the contents of their manuscripts by digitizing them. We expect that this activity can be a bridge to open up Indramayu’s local wisdom, especially that which is contained in manuscripts,” he added while he was monitoring the digitizing process.

One of the manuscript owners from the Village of Pamayahan, Abdul Hakim, said “I count myself very lucky that there are people who want to preserve the manuscript collections in our village and to study them”. Some of these manuscripts contain village notes and they were handed down to us from generation to generation from the old village heads to the later ones. When we look at the dates they contain, this tradition has been present for hundreds of years. In any case, these manuscripts are the witnesses of our village’s history that should not be forgotten, also not by the younger and following generations, especially those in our village,” he hoped.

Old manuscript from the Village of Pamayahan, Indramayu dated 1832 AD. Source: DREAMSEA documentation.

The DREAMSEA programme was initiated by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) of the Islamic State University Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta, Indonesia and the Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), Hamburg University, Germany and it is fully funded by the Arcadia Foundation in England. The aim of the programme is to preserve manuscripts in Southeast Asia and to offer open access to the digitized images as well as to offer as much information as possible on these manuscripts so that they can be accessed by anyone for scholarly advancement.

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