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Jakarta Post

Floating library spreads joy of reading in eastern Indonesia

Mon, March 23, 2020   /   10:50 am
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    Children participate in a competition to pull a padewakang traditional boat at a pier on Pantar Island in East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Children and adults concentrate as they listen during a storytelling event in Sandominggo of Larantuka, East Flores regency, East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Children read a pop-up book during a literacy event in Waiwuring, East Flores. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Sailing under the flag of Pustaka Bergerak Indonesia (Library in Motion), the Armada Pustaka Mandar program’s padekawang floating library sails on the Flores Sea. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Children use rowboats to attend an Armada Pustaka Mandar reading session on Pantar Island. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Two boys show the new books they received from an Armada Pustaka Mandar oral book review session at Waiwuring, East Flores. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    A boy lays atop a pile of fishing nets as he reads a book at Mali Beach on Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Children find a hand shade for reading their books at Mali Beach on Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Children perch in a tree to read at Mali Beach on Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

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    Muhammad Ridwan Alimuddi (second right), the founder of the Armada Pustaka Mandar program, watches as children select books from a mat on Pantar Island in East Nusa Tenggara. JP/ Yusuf Wahil

Yusuf Wahil

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]