Aksara Rejang—that is, “the Rejang script”—is one of the Surat Ulu or up-river scripts of central and south Sumatra.
Rejang is also sometimes called Kaganga, a formulation by the anthropologist by Mervyn A. Jaspan, based on the phonetic sounds of the first three letters: Ka-ga-nga, in his book Folk literature of South Sumatra. Redjang Ka-Ga-Nga texts. The Rejang community doesn’t use this term, though; it’s also worth pointing out that Rejang is generally spelled without a D.
Traditionally, Rejang was mostly used for ritual texts, medical incantations, and poetry. It seems likely that its specific uses would have been similar to those of Incung. (LINK)
In some instances, traditional Rejang texts used Bejagung, a quinary (base-5) numeral system.
One of many reasons the script is almost extinct is because when the region fell more and more under the influence of the Islamic kingdoms, Rejang couldn’t record the phonetic sounds of Qur’anic Arabic, so Jawi was increasingly used in preference to Rejang.
According to Fikri Ansori, a historian from Rejang, the local municipal education board has reportedly made it mandatory to teach Rejang in primary grades 3 – 5, but like many minority languages and scripts, using Rejang is seen as a sign of lack of sophistication.
“Due to derogatory terms* that are often used to label us when we speak Rejang,” he said, “I was very careful not to speak it and I didn’t even want to have an accent in Malay or Indonesian.”
Research for this profile was conducted by Herdimas Anggara.
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