Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Translating an historic text in #Batak

Sisingamangaraja XII is an official hero of #Indonesia. So much so that his face adorns the 1000 rupia bill. Original documents relevant to the struggle of the Batak at the beginning of the twentieth century are important and of historic relevance.

When I asked the Tropenmuseum for a text in the Batak script, it was our good luck that I received a really relevant document. The text is only two pages and it is adorned with the seal of the Raja on the first page.

In the document Sisingamangaraja insists that the Dutch colonial troops keep the peace in accordance to a letter of peace. From my perspective, using the official seal is a way of giving the letter gravitas. Having the text translated in Indonesian, Dutch or English without knowing the existence of the seal prevents a full appreciation of the document.

Top of the first page

When you look at the scan of the first page, you find an annotation in Dutch saying: "Inappropriate use of the seal". This I do not understand. Another thing I do not understand is why they gave Sisingamangaraja XII a beard; in the many photos of Bataks I have seen there was no male with a beard.


Kartika Henry asked me in if I could translate the Dutch translation into English. I have done my best but I am sure that it can be improved upon.

Translation of the letter by Si Singa Mangaradja
                 in the Royal Institute of the Tropics                                                                                          No. 687/73.

This is a letter of (our lord) Si Singa Mangaradja, who rules over the blackeyes (the Bataks), addressed to the "highest general", leader of the war for the Kompenie. The reason for this letter to be addressed to the "highest general" is this; I have heard, that you are warring at Sibagindar (?) and that you have taken my subjects prisoner, that is Si Rompis and Guru Mangabat it is said.
But I have received words of peace from the great lord of Medan and the great lord resident of Tapanuli and from the controller of Barus that the Kompenie will not wage war against me and those I rule.
I have also given this letter to the great lord resident of Medan and the great lord resident of Tapanuli and the controller of Barus, there is peace and that I will not war on the Kompenie awaiting the result of the meeting of the ambassadors of the Lord of Barus and the radja Hatorusan and the lord of Tunga, that the Kompenie me and those I govern will not engage in war, that the Kompenie will not trespass (what is not desired?) and now I say to the "highest general": Return, do not continue to wage war on me and those I rule, because in accordance with my letter to the great lord resident of Tapanuli and the controllers of Barus it is not permitted to the Kompenie to bother me and those I rule (with what is not wanted?)
Therefore: when the "highest general¨ and his troops do not return, the Kompenie is in breach of the words of peace and the agreement made by the great lord resident of Medan and the great lord resident of Tapanuli and the lord controler of Barus. This is why I say finally; when there are complaints about my subjects at Boang by you Kompenie, send your letter to me in Pakpak so that I can order an investigation and ensure that my subjects have no problems, therefore go away from here. If you do not leave, you will be in violation of the letter of peace who was given by the great lord resident of Tapanuli and the great lord resident of Medan and the lord controller of Barus. So be it.
        the month November 3th day - 1904
Thanks,
      GerardM
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