The Vibrant Literacy Movement in Cicalengka: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective


Since the emergence of various art communities and reading parks, literacy activities in Cicalengka have never seemed to stop. This suburban area of Bandung continues to showcase a variety of activities that appeal to almost all groups. Among the frequently held activities are regular book discussions and drawing classes for children.

The rise of literacy in Cicalengka can be traced back to 1915. The newspaper Kaoem Moeda, in its March 30, 1915 edition, reported activities organized by a reading and writing club. Although the exact founding date of the club is unknown, the newspaper, led by Abdoel Moeis, documented a meeting held on Friday, March 19, 1915, at the residence of the club’s president. The chosen book for discussion was “Baruang Kanu Ngarora,” a Sundanese novel by DK Ardiwinata, chosen for its beneficial content on household matters. Besides discussing books, the club also tackled social issues, such as the debts of railway workers to moneylenders. The club president urged members to set aside funds to help these workers, advocating for a 5 percent monthly interest on loans to avoid the prohibited practice of usury.

In 1997, the rise of literacy in Cicalengka resurfaced. Bob Ujo and his 15 friends at SMA Negeri 1 Cicalengka formed the Igrex’s Nature Lovers and Explorers Association. Bob, despite not having an outstanding academic background, was driven by his passion for books, a sentiment shared by his peers. Igrex’s not only explored mountains but also conducted observations and data collection, emphasizing research and writing skills. This foundation fostered a culture of inquiry and continuous learning, leading to numerous book donations from outside the town.

The literacy climate in Cicalengka continued to evolve. The influence of Igrex’s led to the formation of art and music communities, such as the Kendan community, established in 2000. In 2001, Kendan performed a monologue theater show at Pendopo Cicalengka, where visitors were required to donate a book as a ticket. This initiative accumulated numerous book donations, inspiring the creation of a public space on Jalan Dewi Sartika, featuring a music studio, reading area, and discussion venue for local children, art enthusiasts, and underground music enthusiasts.

In 2002, several artists, photographers, musicians, and environmental activists held a joint event titled “Reading Poetry for 12 Hours,” spearheaded by Bob Ujo. This unplanned event, held at the Cicalengka Terminal courtyard, drew significant support and media attention. The success of this event led to the publication of a monthly magazine called Bilik, although it only lasted for two editions.

After a hiatus, literacy activities in Cicalengka flourished again in 2013 with the emergence of Community Reading Parks (TBM) and street libraries. Under the coordination of Nurul Maria Sisilia, the Cicalengka Literacy Circle (LLC) was formed in 2017 to unify these efforts. The LLC, originally coordinated by Agus Sopandi, saw Nurul take over in 2021. Under her leadership, literacy programs have become more regular and thematic, highlighted by events like the Blue Market Book Festival in June 2022.

Currently, nine TBMs remain active, complemented by new initiatives like the Cicalengka Historical Trip, a walking tour community established in mid-2023. Despite challenges, the spirit of literacy in Cicalengka continues to thrive, driven by a dedicated community committed to fostering a love for reading and learning.