Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka

Writer, social entrepreneur and literacy activist Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka was awarded the 2021 AFIELD Fellowship for Pustaka Bergerak Indonesia (Indonesian Mobile Library Network), a grassroots literacy movement that is catalyzing social interaction and solidarity through the circulation of books using creative methods such as vegetable carts, horses, motorcycles or boats as means of transport, across Indonesia.1

A book is a container of information, knowledge and wisdom. When it moves from one hand to another it collects a new quality: a gift, a sign of love and care, an expression of commitment and solidarity

Pustaka Bergerak is a network of over 3000 mobile libraries that distribute donated books across the Indonesian archipelago. Each node is facilitated and managed by local volunteers who believe in the necessity to circulate books across the country. They came from all walks of life, and most of them are from lower middle class social groups. The initiative targets especially but not only children, and seeks to revive local knowledge through paper books, in the face of the boom of digital devices.2

The dream is to enlarge the network and pave the way to develop a new global culture based on the monthly ritual of book exchange by reviving the Free Cargo Literacy (FCL) day: a program where one day a month, books can be sent nationwide free of cost.

The Fellowship is contributing to the design of a new bilingual digital platform (Bahasa Indonesia and English) that will visualize the ongoing knowledge sharing initiated by the volunteers since 2015. The platform will make it easier for book donor and volunteers to be able to trace the movement of books sent from one point to another, and generate motivation to help children and their communities gain more reliable knowledge.3

Nirwan Arsuka (1968, Indonesia), formally trained as a Nuclear Engineer, during his early days in college in Yogyakarta, would help teach children in the streets of Kali Code (Code Riverside), a slump area in the middle of the historical city. He has worked as a guest editor for Kompas Daily, is a member of the Curator Board of Bentara Budaya Jakarta (BBJ), and a director at the Freedom Institute. Since 2015, he has also actively been taking part in developing the Makassar Biennale, based in the coastal city of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and he is an associate member of The Long Riders Guild, the first international organization of long-distance horse riders.

See the Pustaka Bergerak digital platform and follow their activity on Facebook. Read Nirwan’s blog, follow him on Instagram and order his book online.

Cover image: Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka. Image: courtesy Dewi Indonesia

Top image: Library-horsecart Paissangang, Polewali Mandar, West Sulawesi. Courtesy Pustaka Bergerak

1. The first library-pony of Pustaka Bergerak, Slamet Mountain, Purbalingga, Central Java. Courtesy Pustaka Bergerak
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2. Reading outloud and sharing stories, Central Sulawesi. The volunteer is a housewife and a grandma who visits the neighborhood on foot with books on her back. Courtesy Pustaka Bergerak
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3. Library-boat of Colliq Pujie, West Sulawesi. The fourth library-boat of Pustaka Bergerak. Courtesy Pustaka Bergerak
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