Back in the 17th century, seafarers from Sulawesi used padekawang to sail all the way to Australia. The traditional boat, which has one or two masts and uses tanja sails, is finding new life in a literacy program based in South Sulawesi.
The Armada Pustaka Mandar program, part of the Pustaka Bergerak Indonesia (Library in Motion) campaign, recently launched padekawang as a floating library to spread the joy of reading to children in the eastern part of Indonesia.
After sailing hundreds of kilometers from Makassar, South Sulawesi, the padekawang library finally made land in December 2019 at Larantuka in East Flores, East Nusa Tenggara.
Children swarmed the boat as the program held a reading event onshore.
Armada Pustaka Mandar founder Mahammad Ridwan Alimuddin, who also runs the Nusa Pustaka motorcycle mobile library on land, also used the occasion to tell the children the story of his journey across the seas.
“Who wants to come up and tell us about the book you just read?” Ridwan asked the children after he finished his story.
Dozens of hands shot up into the air. The children took turns telling their friends and the program volunteers about the book they had just finished reading.
Some spoke with confidence, some spoke shyly in faint voices, while others were distracted as they excitedly tore off the plastic wrapping from the new books. However, they were all beaming as they took part in the activity.
“You can open the new books, but don’t forget to throw away the plastic in the trash bin, OK?” said Ridwan.
Magdalena Oa Eda Tukan from the Simpasio Institute, which is supporting the floating library along with the East Flores Archival and Sociocultural Studies Agency, said that the program promoted literacy while preserving Sulawesi’s seafaring traditions.
“Besides motivating the children [to develop their reading habit], the event has also reminded us that our ancestors were sailors. It is now our job to continue the program,” she said.
Before Larantuka, the padekawang floating library called at dozens of ports in Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara and Maluku. Ridwan said the floating library needed Rp 3 million to Rp 4 million (US$197 to $262) to embark on a one-week journey. [yps]