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Fighting illiteracy through sketching

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, April 9, 2018  /  08:28 am
Fighting illiteracy through sketching

Gift of reading: A Lemari Bukubuku (Books Cupboard) illustrator receives donated books from visitors. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Andreza Putri was thrilled to receive a free sketched portrait during a charity event on Saturday afternoon at a cafe in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. 

She learned of the event from a friend who told her that a group of illustrators was collecting books to be donated for children in need, especially those living in rural and remote areas in Indonesia. The illustrators sketch the portraits of donors for free in return for their kindness. 

Andreza did not think twice and donated six books, including story book Roro Jonggrang and coloring book Dinosaurus: Pintar Membaca dan Menulis(Dinosaur: Smart in Reading and Writing). 

“I hope these books will benefit children and there will be more events like this in the future,” the 29-year-old said.

During the event, held by Lemari Bukubuku (Books Cupboard), 20 illustrators drew portraits of donors. The group was collecting donated books for students of Kawona state elementary school in Bondo Boghila village, Loura district, Sumba Barat Daya regency in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). 

Built with woven bamboo panels and zinc metal roofing, Kawona school does not have a library facility. For many students at the school, reading is still a struggle and children’s books are a luxury. 

“Someone informed me of this school. I then contacted its teachers and asked them to make a video so we could understand its real condition,” Lemari Bukubuku co-founder and artist Tampan Destawan said.

Destawan and artist Rumi Siddharta founded the community in December 2013. Back then, a traveler informed Destawan of SDN Growong elementary school’s library in Magelang, Central Java, which needed children’s books.

“I was asked whether I had children’s books. I answered I had three only,” he recalled.   

While sketching at Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta during Car Free Day one Sunday morning, Destawan had the idea of asking people to pay for sketches with books instead of money.

“We managed to get four cardboard boxes of books,” he said, adding that six volunteer illustrators helped him at the time.    

In a short time, the group has expanded outside its home city, thanks to word of mouth. 

Beginning in Jakarta and Bandung, Lemari Bukubuku has since appeared in Yogyakarta and Semarang in Central Java, Bali and Bogor in West Java with at least 130 volunteer illustrators across the six cities. Some of the group members are also members of other communities, such as Komikin Ajah, Kedubes Bekasi, #SketsaPulangKerja and Morning Drawing. 

“This is a movement!” Destawan said with enthusiasm.   

Since 2013, Lemari Bukubuku has distributed donated books to over 30 schools, reading parks, juvenile penitentiaries and orphanages in various cities, from Palembang in South Sumatra to Sukabumi, West Java and Papua. 

To raise additional funds and collect more donated books for Kawona school, the community held the 2nd Lemari Bukubuku Festival at the National Library of Indonesia on March 3 and 4, during which workshops, an exhibition and art performances were held. Prior to the event, the group had managed to collect 120 kilograms of donated books for a to-be-built library in Kei Island in Maluku last year.    

“Lemari Bukubuku wants to spread literacy and access to books for children and encourage them to read,” Destawan said.

Lemari Bukubuku accepts new and used books, which can be novels, picture story books, encyclopedias, comic books, dictionaries and coloring books. However, because the readers are children, the novels and comic books that are donated must not have erotic or violent content. 

Each donor receives a sketch in return for their charity. Lemari Bukubuku illustrators also have different drawing styles, from realistic or abstract portraits to cartoon caricatures, something many donors are unaware of.  

However, the group does not always have large numbers of donors. 

“Last month, we had only one visitor with one cardboard box of books,” he recalled, adding that he never counted the exact number of books the community received. 

At present, Destawan has used his own money to send the donated books. He is aware of the free book-delivery service provided by state postal firm PT Pos Indonesia, however, when he tried to use it, his request was rejected because the targeted school addresses were not yet registered in the firm’s database.   

Lemari Bukubuku’s monthly charity is broadcast on its Instagram account,@lemaribukubuku. Those interested in receiving donated books can email the community with a proposal.