The Ogan script is a branch of the Surat Ulu scripts such as Rejang. It was, and to a lesser extent still is used by the Ogan people of southern Sumatra, a Malay people who settled in a region called Ogan Hulu.
Today perhaps fewer than a dozen older people can still write in the Ogan script, though a few young enthusiasts are showing a revived interest, including Dandy Naufalzach Fadlurahman, who explores and develops Ogan fonts and type designs.
In the past, he explained, it was written on wood, animal skin, bamboo and horn for a variety of purposes: medicine, magic, even to plan and communicate strategy in the colonial wars against the Dutch. Traditionally, its use was sacred, and forbidden to anyone other than elders, clan leaders, or religious figures.
Progress in revitalizing the script is hindered by the fact that some have claimed that Ogan is simply a poorly-written version of the Ulu script, and point to the lack of historical documents. “Even though there are old generations that can write it,” he added, “[the] government still needs historical writing as a standard of the script’s existence.”
According to one report, the Ogan script was taught in schools in Ogan Komering Ulu throughout the early 2000s until it was removed. However, in early 2020, the Government of Ogan Komering Ulu began to revive the learning of Surat Ulu and the Ogan language for elementary and secondary schools.
Meanwhile, the wonderful typography/cultural revival organization Aksara di Nusantara (literally “writing systems of our homeland,” namely the islands we now call Indonesia) not only develops fonts for the traditional scripts of the region that are to some degree in use–they anticipate and encourage the return of dormant scripts by creating fonts for them too.
We offer you a kind of linguistic thought exercise created by Aksara di Nusantara, a sign that might greet the visitor on entering the township of Muara Kuang in the Ogan Ilir Regency of South Sumatra, using the Ogan font designed by Muhammad Nur Hidayat.
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