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Creating Culture for the New Nation: South Sulawesi, 1950-1965

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posted on 2023-05-22, 13:19 authored by Barbara HatleyBarbara Hatley

South Sulawesi might seem at first a less than promising site for exploring Indonesian cultural activities during the 1950s and 1960s. Given the reportedly low level of pre-war education and nationalist organization in the region (Harvey 1977:21) and the fact that it remained part of the Dutch-created Negara Indonesia Timur (NIT, State of Eastern Indonesia) until the end of 1950, one might expect that there was less involvement here in the developing modern, Indonesian national culture than in other parts of Indonesia, less interaction with the major centres of activity in Java. More importantly, during the 1950s Sulawesi was the site of two regional rebellions, the Darul Islam revolt of Kahar Muzzakar in the south, commencing in 1950, and the PERMESTA rebellion of 1957 centred mainly in the north. Problems of political instability, lack of security and social and economic disruption seem likely to have impacted severely on the energy and resources available for cultural activities.

However, precisely because our understanding of cultural life in this period has so far been dominated by attention to the national capital and Java, because it has been assumed that little cultural activity occurred in more distant, contested regions such as Sulawesi, it is important to test such preconceptions, to investigate what was actually happening in these areas. So, although my own previous research on Indonesian literature and performance has been Javabased, here I have taken up the challenge of exploring cultural life in South Sulawesi in the 1950s and early 1960s. Armed with some very useful contacts provided by colleagues, I made brief trips to Makassar in 2008 and 2009, and sought out relevant newspaper holdings in Australian libraries. The picture presented below of is necessarily limited and partial, in keeping with my restricted time and resources. But it reveals a lively cultural scene at odds with previous expectations, and confirms the vital importance of local research for a full understanding of activities across the regions during this time.


Publication title

Heirs to World Culture: Being Indonesian 1950-1965


J Lindsay and M Liem






School of Humanities



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Copyright 2012 Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (

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