Not just children’s games: Indonesian activist’s race against time to save traditional children’s games from disappearance

His research also took him to the Netherlands, where he found photographs, documents and books of Dutch colonial officials and scientists referring not only to games that still exist today, but to those that had been forgotten.

He also traveled to the Vatican to study documents kept by Catholic priests and to the United Kingdom to research archives compiled by the British.

There were records and references to traditional games compiled under the command of Stamford Raffles, when he was British Lieutenant Governor in Java between 1811 and 1816 and in Bencoolen, now Indonesia’s Bengkulu province, between 1818 and 1824.

Alif said his study shows that between 30 and 40 percent of the traditional games mentioned in these books and manuscripts have been lost.

“We can only guess how they are played,” he said.


After researching traditional games as an Indonesian heritage for nearly two decades, Alif, now a designer and speaker, is more determined to reintroduce these games to the general public.

He started out by teaching children in his neighborhood to play these games.

“Because they were used to playing with modern toys and video games, these games were something new and exciting for them and they had fun,” he said.

But Alif said involving parents – which he said was key to ensuring the games and their values ​​are preserved and passed on – was not so easy.

“It was difficult. They asked, ‘Why should an adult play these kid games? It took a long time to convince them,’ he continued.