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Heritage comics on display at Jakarta cultural center

Masajeng Rahmiasri
Masajeng Rahmiasri

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, December 9, 2016 | 01:22 pm
Heritage comics on display at Jakarta cultural center

Among the items on display at the Cergam Medan exhibition are collections of comics from Medan, North Sumatra, which date back to 1955-1965 and enjoyed their prime in 1961-1963. (JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)

Comic enthusiasts can marvel at Indonesia’s comic heritage during the Cergam Medan exhibition held at the Bentara Budaya Jakarta cultural center in Palmerah, Central Jakarta, until Dec. 18.

“[We want to show] how something often regarded as rubbish can be of equal standing with other forms of art,” organizer Iwan Gunawan said during the opening ceremony on Thursday night.

Among the items on display are collections of comics from Medan, North Sumatra, which date back to 1955-1965 and enjoyed their prime in 1961-1963.

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The comics differ from current ones due to characteristics like black and white pictures with detailed drawings on each panel, well-structured writing and derivation from local values and folklore, according to collector Henry Ismono.(JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)

Collector Henry Ismono said the comics differed from current ones due to characteristics like black and white pictures with detailed drawings on each panel, well-structured writing and derivation from local values and folklore. “The term cergam [stories with images] is used because it is a comic book that contains local values and the nation’s character,” Henry added.

Meanwhile, writer, poet and scriptwriter Seno Gumira Ajidarma said Cergam Medan provided more than just aesthetic value. “I think Medan comics, which started independently as a feature in local newspapers, ruled the country's comic industry at the time, even in Java."

Henry backed the statement by noting that even at the time, the comics were distributed through bookstores, marking a supply chain method, and how many publication houses flourished during Cergam Medan’s prime.

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Comic pages are displayed at the Cergam Medan exhibition. (JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)

With regard to the continuation of Cergam Medan in the present, Henry admitted that he had not been able to find an example. The collector of 205 Cergam Medan comics cited growth and demand for new content as the reasons why the comic, though rich in traditional value, had not continued to thrive.

Several celebrated comic artists' biographies and works, such as Taguan Hardjo, Zam Nuldyn, B. Djas, Bahzar and M. Ali, can be viewed in the exhibition, which are only available in Indonesian.

The event's initiator, Cergam Forum, is a group of local arts communities that began mapping out Medan comics in February.

In addition to the exhibition, visitors can also shop at a bazaar and participate in discussions. (kes)

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