The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has put South Sulawesi’s ancient literary epic La Galigo on the Memory of the World (MOW) list, making it the second document from Indonesia after Negarakertagama in 2008 to earn the acknowledgement.
UNESCO Indonesia national commission head Arif Rahman handed over the MOW certificate to South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo on Thursday evening in the province’s capital of Makassar. The governor will then submit it with the National Archives Board.
The director of Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (KITLV)/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Roger Tol, said Friday that it took three years for the manuscript to secure the acknowledgment.
According to Tol, there are 12 volumes of the La Galigo manuscript kept in the Leiden University’s library in the Netherlands, two of which were submitted to UNESCO, and another volume is kept in the La Galigo museum in Makassar.
The submitted volumes tell many ancient stories, including about the origins of humans in South Sulawesi, and have often become a primary reference for research on the Bugis people – the major ethnicity in the province. Another volume, comprising 217 pages, tells a story about the journey of Sawerigading and his son La Galigo to Sinrijawa.
Tol said that La Galigo was the longest prose in the world, as well as one of the most beautiful.
“But not too many people are interested in the manuscript because it is quite difficult to understand the script – making it even more important to be preserved,” he said before an audience at an international seminar on La Galigo at the University of Makassar.
He wished that the people of South Sulawesi, particularly those of Bugis descent, were willing to preserve the manuscript and collect the remaining volumes, which were thought to be kept by individuals. Tol predicted that the existing volumes kept in the Netherlands made up only one-third of the full manuscript.
Film Censorship Board chairman Muchlis Paeni welcomed the acknowledgment, saying that there should be extended research on many aspects contained in the manuscript, including gender issues, architecture, philosophy, navigation and rituals.
University of Indonesia cultural expert Achadiati Ikram said that of approximately some 700 languages that have ever existed in Indonesia, only less than 20 were still spoken and only 13 scripts still existed, including the Lontaraq script used in the La Galigo manuscript. (swd)