Island governor decrees use of Balinese script in government and public spaces like airport

An example of traditional Balinese script on lontar Bali, an engrave palm leaf manuscript. Photo: Tropenmuseum via Wikimedia Commons

The new Bali Province governor has made it clear that his administration intends to bring Bali back to its cultural roots.

Bali Governor Wayan Koster is decreeing the use of the traditional Balinese script in government and public areas.

The announcement comes a couple of weeks after Koster’s deputy, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, said he’d like to regulate how tourists are entering the island’s thousands of sacred temples.

In accordance with Governor Decree no. 80/2018, Balinese script will be written alongside Latin writing in government office signage and on public facilities. Koster is slated to inaugurate the Balinese script usage at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport on Friday evening.

Other buildings that will get a Balinese-script makeover include the governor’s office in Denpasar, the DPRD (regional council), Bali Mandara General Hospital, and signposts at Simpang Dewa Ruci in Kuta.

“We will centralize it with one big one at Ngurah Rai Airport,” Bali Post quoted Koster as saying.

The governor added that new signage will be officially up at 7pm, because lights illuminating the signs will switch on at that time.

“The aim is to preserve our cultural heritage, especially in relation to literacy, which is a cultural identity of Bali,” Koster said on Wednesday, as quoted by the Jawa Pos network.

“I think Balinese letters, Balinese text is in our identity, a symbol of our civilization.”

Although everyday use of Balinese utilizes the Latin alphabet for the most part, the island’s indigenous language is traditionally written with an elaborate Brahmic-derived script natively known as Aksara Bali and Hanacaraka. Used in ceremonies and religious texts, the traditional script is deeply tied to Balinese Hindu practices.

Before the “Balinese script decree”, Koster issued Governor Decree No. 79/2018, regarding customary Balinese dress. The decree has Balinese donning traditional wear every Thursday, full moon (Purnama Day), new moon (Tilem Day), on the anniversary of Bali Province, regency anniversary days, and city anniversaries, reports Bali Post.

There will also be a “Balinese language month” in February 2019, but the administration is still working out the guidelines.

What will a Balinese language month like?

“There will be festivals, exhibitions, performances, and other things,” Koster said, as quoted by Detik

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