HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 26, 2012

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Way Not to Go

It was interesting to read recently in the Bali Daily, the local wraparound masthead of the Jakarta Post newspaper, that university students here are protesting over a national government plan to eliminate teaching of the Balinese language from the school curriculum.  It was worrying, too, because such a plan threatens the unique culture of Bali and undermines the diversity that makes Indonesia the vibrant nation it is. The students are worried – understandably and quite naturally – that committing such an act of cultural vandalism would place the future of the language at risk.

An alliance of students from the State Hindu Dharma Institute, Dwijendra and Udayana universities and IKIP PGRI teachers college made this point – in Balinese dress – at a demonstration in Denpasar earlier this month. The Bali Daily reported alliance leader I Nyoman Suka Ardiyasa as saying:

“We fear that one day the Balinese language will be forgotten because students will no longer learn the subject in school, and also an increasing number of people no longer use the language nowadays.”

The critical interface between common sense and painful farce in policy development is often difficult to detect. But it is always vital to detect it and preferable that this beneficence takes place before someone steps in the do-do, rather than afterwards.
Removing Balinese language teaching from the curriculum is in line with the Education and Culture Ministry’s most recent policy on a new teaching curriculum, which proposes to amalgamate several different subjects into one.  Unique local content subjects taught only in schools in specific regions will be integrated into “art and culture” classes.
It would mean that learning the Balinese language – at present this is compulsory in elementary, junior and high schools – would be merged with art and culture, seriously limiting the opportunities for young Balinese to learn their traditional language.
A 1992 Bali law on language, letters and literature clearly stipulates the need to teach, develop and preserve the Balinese language. The 2003 National Education System Law  provides that the curriculums of basic and higher education should contain both art and culture and local content subjects.
According to statistics the number of people who can speak Balinese drops by 1 percent each year on average. As the students say, removing the language’s study from the curriculum will only worsen this invidious decline.

Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, is universally taught throughout the archipelago – from Sabang to Merauke, to borrow the title of President Sukarno’s 1950 speech on Independence Day that year and that of a very good 1995 travelogue by the British writer John Keay – and is naturally the lingua franca.  But the bottom line is that no language should ever be lost, or put at risk of being so. There’s still time for the national authorities to change their mind. They should do so.

See the Light

Speaking of cultural matters, we had a nice little Christmas and New Year message from the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival which was cheering on two counts: it indicated that the festival is now effectively a 12-month operation – there should be no peace for the wicked, or for organisers of important annual events – and it gave news of what the 2013 festival is shaping up to be.

The 2013 festival will be the tenth (regrettably referred to by the festival scribbler as the 10-Year Anniversary: perhaps the UWRF should run a workshop on tautology avoidance) and this is of course an important milestone. The theme of the 2013 festival (from Oct. 2-6 – put it in your diaries) is Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang: Through Darkness to Light. This honours Kartini – Raden Ayu Kartini (1879-1904) – who is one of Indonesia’s designated national heroes. Since 1964, she has her own national day each year, on April 21.

Kartini’s concerns were not only in the area of the emancipation of women, but also other problems of her society. Kartini saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was only a part of a wider movement.

She married the Regency Chief of Rembang (who already had three wives) against her wishes but to appease her ailing father; her new husband allowed her to establish a school for women in the Rembang Regency Office. Kartini’s only child, a boy, was born in September 1904 and she died of post-natal complications four days later, aged 25.

Inspired by her example the Dutch Van Deventer family established the R.A. Kartini Foundation which later built “Kartini’s Schools” for women in Semarang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other places.

The UWRF says the 2013 theme will “open the floor” – we thought it was rayap that did that but never mind – to many global issues concerning women, education, gender equity, children and the human condition. The sub theme addresses heroes in society: in the banal and ungrammatical language of these times, “people who have, or are, making a difference.”

The festival’s Indonesian programme has already begun receiving works from Indonesian writers from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi vying to become one of the 15 designated emerging Indonesian writers to be sponsored participants in the 2013 event. In 2012, a total of 279 writers submitted their works to the selection committee.

One interesting and sensible provision of the selection process is an independent curatorial board – its members are appointed for one year only to avoid favouritism and bring in new blood.

Something else that might interest many is a competition to design a poster illustrating the 2013 theme. The winner, whose work will be seen on posters everywhere promoting the festival, and during the festival itself, will also receive more than Rp20 million in travel and prizes. Submissions close on Feb. 7 and details are available on the UWRF website.

A Bradman Knock

Veteran Australian journalist and notable Friend of Hector, Bob Howarth – Bob and Hector’s helper go back a long way in the media world – celebrated 50 years in journalism recently. He was fortunate to be able to do so at Gibson Saraji’s fine Gorgonzola restaurant and bar on Jl Raya Uluwatu, Bukit Jimbaran. Saraji is a great host and his menu is on the upside of great.

Howarth, who started as a cadet journalist on the Brisbane Courier-Mail on Dec. 8, 1962 and went on to run newspapers in Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, has been in Bali for three months working with the Institute for Peace and Democracy at Udayana University’s Jimbaran campus. He’s  had to go away for a spell – something about Christmas on his beloved Moreton Island in Queensland, it seems – but is due back in February to do some more work with institute executive director I Ketut Putra Erawan, who is a very engaging academic indeed.

The Gorgonzola party, on Dec. 8, was made notable by the presence of several of Howarth’s Indonesian “granddaughters” – sweet (and formidably intelligent) young things he taught at Padjadjaran University in Bandung. It was a fun night.

Also there for the celebrations was Brit author Tim Hannigan, whose new book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java has caused a few riparian ripples in the otherwise fairly placid waters of British imperial hagiography. He’d been in Bali to do book launches at Biku in Kerobokan (thanks for the excellent afternoon tea, Asri – and we’ll be back to try that new locally made apple cider) and at Janet DeNeefe’s Bar Luna Lit Club in Ubud.

We know of no plans in this regard, but Hannigan would be a prize catch for this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Over to you, Janet.

Wedding Belles

We were honoured to receive an invitation to attend the nuptials arranged at a house just up the road for some connections of our redoubtable pembantu. We missed the tooth-filing – always such fun – but were compensated for this by the opportunity to view the activities of several beautifully and traditionally attired young Balinese women flitting about taking pictures on their iPads and sundry other items of cutting-edge technology.

Not for Prophet

In our Christmas message in the Diary published on Dec. 12 we recalled that Jesus is important to Muslims. We wrote that he was the third most important of Islam’s prophets. This was an error: we should have written fifth.

The point we were making is that while Muslims do not believe Jesus (Isa) was the son of God, he is revered as the 24th of Islam’s 25 prophets: Muhammad was the last. It is one of a number of interesting and powerful links between two of the great religions of The Book.

There is no formal hierarchy of prophets in Islam, but as the Holy Qur’an records, there are five who are most important as “prophets with resolution.” Here’s the relevant verse (33.7): “And remember We took from the prophets their covenant: As (We did) from thee (Muhammad): from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary: We took from them a solemn covenant.”

Hear Hear, Kitty

Facebook sometimes gives you a giggle, especially when friends post little primers on how they think life should be lived. We got one such recently, which advised that real men love cats. Our immediate thought was, well yes, unless they’re New Zealanders, probably. But we scratched that as thoroughly unworthy.

Nonetheless, the advice is correct. Cats are wonderful animals and much smarter than humans. And anyway, these days it’s all about Meow! Meow! Meow!

Cheers

A Happy New Year to all and every good wish for 2013.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).