Reading the Lontars: Endangered Literary Practices of Lombok, Eastern Indonesia
The Sasaks of Lombok island, eastern Indonesia, have a literary tradition of writing manuscripts on palm leaves (lontar) in a manner similar to that of the Balinese (Rubinstein 2000), and historically, the Javanese. Lombok today remains only one of three places in Indonesia (along with Bali and Riau) where reading lontar (called in Sasak, pepaosan) continues to be practised, however even there the number of people who are able to read and interpret the texts is rapidly diminishing. In this paper, I outline the nature of the Sasak lontar materials (see also Marrison 2000), how reading is taught, the nature of reading performances, and the role of this literary genre within contemporary Sasak culture. I will support the paper with multimedia illustrations (video, images and sound) drawn from fieldwork on Lombok, and studies I have carried out with one of the few younger specialists who is able to perform lontar reading.