Tjahaja Sijang

Rare Indonesian-Language Periodical: Tjahaja Sijang (The Light of Day), 1869-1925

In cooperation with the Perpustakaan Nasional Indonesia and the Library of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Moran Micropublications has made an edition on microfiche of the very rare twice monthly newspaper Tjahaja Sijang (The Light of Day), which was published in Manado in the Minahasa region of northern Sulawesi between 1869 and 1925. It is one of the oldest Malay-language newspapers of the Netherlands East Indies and the first, and for five decades, only one published in the Minahasa. It is of great importance for the history of the local and regional press in Indonesia.

Founder and goals
It was founded by Nicolaas Graafland, a missionary of the Protestant Nederlandsche Zendelinggenootschap, with the goal of fostering the development of the indigenous people of the Minahasa, not only in a religious sense, but also socially, intellectually and morally through reading and education. Graafland himself had been sent to the East Indies to help set up teacher training schools and viewed the paper as an extension of such work. In this regard the paper was part of a current of colonial thinking promoting the uplifting of the people through education that would crystallize into the “Ethical Policy” around 1900. The choice of name is no accident. Its task was to bring light to the population, not only the light of the Gospel, but also that of western civilization banishing the dark age of tradition and superstition that had prevailed until then. Newspapers with names in which light played a role sprang up in other parts of the archipelago in this period.

To accomplish its ends Tjahaja Sijang published articles and editorials on a great variety of subjects, both secular and religious, ranging from traditional versus Christian conceptions of marriage to economic and social issues such as systems of money and exchange and the use of forced labor. Although founded by, edited and written for by Dutch missionaries, Tjahaja Sijang attracted more and more Indonesian contributors, such as district and village heads, assistants from coffee plantations, school teachers and doctors. The many letters to the editor it published provide an invaluable primary source for probing the thinking of the local population. Increasingly the paper also published news from other regions and countries, thus exposing the people to the wider world. By the end of the period, the newspaper was entirely in Indonesian hands and had shed much of its missionary trappings. It had also grown more political, although never as radical as the nationalist press emerging elsewhere in the islands in the 1920s.

The use of the Malay language as spoken in the Minahasa also makes Tjahaja Sijang interesting from a linguistic point of view. Malay was the obvious choice for publication because it had long been the lingua franca of the region and was in use in education and by the colonial administration. Its use in turn by the paper during more than 50 years no doubt helped form the local variant of the language and promote its adoption by the people of the Minahasa. This linguistic link to the wider Malay-speaking world initiated by Dutch missionaries may then, albeit unintended, have acted as a factor in the process of national integration that was starting to unfold during these years.

Source: “Tjahaja Sijang (The Light of Day), its significance for the History of the Indonesian Local Press,” by A.B. Lapian in Proceedings: Seventh IAHA Conference 22-26 August 1977 . Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press 1979. Vol. 2, pp. 910-923

Technical note on the microfiches
The microfiches published here were made for Moran Micropublications by reformatting 35mm microfilms of Tjahaja Sijang originally made by the Perpustakaan Nasional Indonesia, lent to us by the Library of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, the Netherlands. The films were made under technically less than optimal conditions and some images were of poor quality.
During the reformatting process an effort was made to achieve better quality images, which by and large succeeded. In a few cases, however, the quality could not be enhanced.