Veteran Balinese literary figures Nyoman Tusthi Eddy and Nengah Tinggen have been presented with the 2009 Rancage Literary Awards for their great contributions in preserving and developing literary works written in the Balinese language.
Initiated by veteran writer Ajip Rosidi, the Rancage awards was first given to writers, poets and novelists who produced literary pieces in the Sundanese language. From l997, the awards were extended to include individuals who produced literary works in their mother languages, including Javanese and Balinese.
Nyoman Tusthi Eddy accepted the award for his extraordinary poetry anthology Somah (Husband and Wife).
In the Javanese language category, the awards went to Atas S. Danusubroto for his work Trah, and also to Sunarko Budiman.
The award for the Sundanese language category went to Etty R.S. with her work Serat Paninengan (The Letter of Memory).
"We have been giving the awards to prominent figures in the national literary scene, and I was so grateful that we have abundant media coverage," Rosidi said during the recent ceremony.
However, he expressed disappointed with the lack of attention from both central and regional governments in keeping local languages alive.
"Local literature is not regarded as promising business for many publishing companies," said Rosidi, chairman of the Rancage Foundation. For the Balinese literary world, the awards mean great appreciation of local wisdom.
Darma Putra, one of the jurors, said the development of Balinese literature was quite promising now in terms of quality and quantity.
"We are going through a slight improvement. In previous years, there were only a few books written in the Balinese language," he said, adding that in 2007, there were only four books published, increasing to nine in 2008.
Award winner Tusthi Eddy is a writer and a teacher living in Karang Asem regency in eastern Bali. In his prizewinning anthology Somah, Eddy picks up different themes outside the mainstream local ones of culture and nature. He writes about various topics, including shops, markets, telephones, movie stars, hospitals and other trivial things rarely exposed in mainstream Balinese literature.
"These subjects have become a strong magnet in his work. All of the topics are daily activities transforming the old and sophisticated Balinese literature into a more down-to-earth and easy-to read pieces," Darma Putra explained.
The other award winner, Nengah Tinggen, has been meticulously arranging a book on Balinese letters since l971. He has published around 40 titles on Balinese language and literature. Tinggen's works are now used at schools and universities. He lectures at the Teacher's College and at the Hindu Institute in Singaraja, northern Bali.
Both Tusthi and Tinggen are considered pioneers in the Balinese literary map. They have encouraged younger artists to follow their paths.
"It is encouraging to know that a lot of women writers from Bali have actively produced literary pieces with different perspectives," Darma Putra said. - JP/Luh De Suriyani