The Jakarta Post
Ancient Javanese script. (Shutterstock/Illustsee)
A modern way to access the cultural heritage of Indonesia has been introduced by the creators of Aksara di Nusantara (ADN), a website from which people can download different fonts for various traditional languages.
Brought together by social media, this community of Indonesians interested in our archipelago’s traditional languages has developed a modern way to share these ancient scripts.
The team behind ADN, which met through a Facebook group in 2015, is made up of people who admired the many different scripts and languages that still exist or once existed in Indonesia. At that time many Facebook groups emerged, specifically discussing each of these scripts.
ADN then took the initiative to create their own Facebook page that displayed a collection of all these scripts and their characters.
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Founded by Aldila Dwiki Himawan and Aditya Bayu Perdana, ADN has increased to a team of 12 administrators from across Indonesia, many of whom have not met in person. After a year, they decided to create the ADN website and expanded it from an archive of their Facebook posts into a site that spread the varieties of fonts that had already been made, but only circulated in limited Facebook groups.
Largely crowdsourced, the ADN website relies on the public to supply it with new fonts for the currently available languages, as well as new languages from around the country. Available scripts include Sundanese, Javanese, Jawi (Arabic script to write Malay, Acehnese, Banjarese and Minangkabau words) and more uncommon ones such as Malesung (traditional letters from the ancient Minahasa tribe in North Sulawesi) and Jangang-Jangang (South Sulawesi’s traditional letters). With more than 70 contributors spread out around the country and 13 different languages, the group’s fans add new characters when the administrators themselves cannot.
The fonts available to download from the site are not limited to those currently in use. There are ancient scripts such as Pallawa and Kawi that were used during the ancient Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Additionally, some available scripts have been used to decorate street signs and for artistic purposes there are also a number of letters used for calligraphy in the Javanese and Sundanese script.
Controversial characters, in terms of their legitimacy, may also be added, if contributors from the region in question request for them to be made available. Nevertheless, when some people submit so-called new characters and label them as "from an ancient language", ADN displays them on the ADN Facebook page to confirm their validity with their followers. Otherwise, administrators ask linguistic experts to weigh in on the matter.
“We have received a lot of downloads and a lot of positive feedback on our website, so we feel very grateful. This means that there are still many people in Indonesia who are actually interested in these characters,” said Arif Budiarto, web developer for the ADN website.
Arif also shared demographics that show who is interested in learning and using these characters. Apparently, the site is most popular among those between the ages of 18 and 34, who make up more than 70 percent of their fans on Instagram and Facebook.
Read also: Finding the indigenous voices
Additionally, the people at Aksara di Nusantara collaborate with other organizations that educate people about the traditional languages of Indonesia. For example, their social media showcased their participation in events, such as reading ancient texts and learning how to write in the Javanese script. The Sundanese script community in West Java also holds Sundanese script literacy exercises.
In general, the characters from each region are only studied by those in the area, but there are also some people who learn many of these traditional languages at once. There are people who visit Yogyakarta, even though they may not be Javanese, as they are interested in participating in the reading and writing training programs.
Overall, the creators behind Aksara di Nusantara remain optimistic that their website is able to introduce people to these traditional scripts and hope users remain interested in learning about these languages. (nic/mut)
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