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Verena Meyer at the Sanubari Nuris Bali International Webinar

On Saturday, May 4, Dr. Verena Meyer delivered opening remarks at the International Webinar 'Santri, Literacy, and Indonesia', organized by the Bali Santri Literacy Community (Sanubari) Nurul Ikhlas Islamic Boarding School in Jembrana, Bali, Indonesia.

Sanubari Nuris Bali International Webinar

The webinar was the highlight and closing event of the first Bali Santri Literacy Festival held by Sanubari Nuris. It was hosted by Efri Arsyad Rizal, Founder of Sanubari Nuris and MA student at the University of Birmingham, UK. Other speakers included KH. Fathur Rahim (Director of the Nurul Ikhlas Islamic Boarding School), Fadhli Lukman and M. Akmaluddin (Lecturers at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University Yogyakarta), Dito Alif Pratama (Founder of Santri Mengglobal) and M. Taufiq Maulana (Founder of Aswaja Dewata).

In her speech, Dr. Meyer strongly affirmed that literacy in indigenous Indonesian languages and scripts is very important for students, especially future researchers. Classical and modern manuscripts in languages such as Javanese, Bugis, Malay, Minang, Balinese are an Indonesian cultural treasure. She reminded the participants, the majority of whom were Islamic students (santri), of the importance of Indonesia's Islamic heritage, mentioning Islam in Bali as an example. Even though Islam is a minority, it has its own intellectual and material heritage while also receiving and creatively interpreting global Islamic traditions from other regions. This shows that writers in the past participated in a global movement but remained local, taking on questions of global import, while writing using local scripts and languages. For Balinese students, it is not enough to just read and recognise these texts. They also need to understand why, in this multi-lingual environment, Balinese chose to use specific languages for specific texts, whereby the medium itself can be the message.

Dr. Meyer told a well-known story about the creation of the Javanese alphabet as an example of Indonesian writers self-consciously making use of an indigenous script. According to the story, the Javanese script was created by Aji Soko, who had two servants who disagreed about the meaning of one of his orders and ended up killing each other. Because of this incident, Aji Soko invented the Javanese script, a script he considered so clear and unambiguous that misunderstandings and disputes would never happen again. The Javanese alphabet itself was to commemorate these events. The names of the letters recited together tell the story in skeletal form: “Honocoroko: there were servants. Dotosowolo: they were in an argument. Podojoyonyo: they had the same level of strength. Mogobotongo: both servants ended up dead.”

At the end of her speech, Dr. Meyer expressed hope that young Indonesian students and researchers would explore the ways in which Indonesia can teach us that literacies are not singular but plural. After mastering different literacies and their meanings, they will be able to teach it to other people throughout the world and explain what these literacies tell us not only about the past, but also about the present.

Sanubari Nuris Bali International Webinar (in Indonesian)

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