Sunday, March 02, 2008

Borneo Literature Bureau - Dolphin and other publications

Does any one still remember how much we primary school students looked forward to receiving our precious Dolphin each month? The blue cover,light weight magazine published by the Borneo Literature Bureau was the joy of our simple 1960's hearts.

Later on ,the Dolphin was published in Chinese as well as Bahasa Malaysia. But my sisters and I kept each copy of the Dolphin neatly as if they were the most precious treasures in our life.

Today the Dolphin is no longer in publication but our memories of the magazine which helped us in our studies remain. And whenever we mention the name Dolphin to our friends, a lot of good feelings will flood back in torrents.We had a shared love. We bonded because of a simple very affordable school children's magazine .

The Borneo Literature Bureau, established in 1960 was a "publishing and bookselling organization which helped to provide suitable books for the people of Sarawak and Sabah and build up the local commercial book trade".(Sarawak,1962)

It encouraged local writers and published a wide variety of books and other items for sale. The then Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) governments shared most of the recurrent costs of operating the Bureau, but it was partially self-supporting and some of its was financed from the revenue it received from the sale of books.

In the fifties and sixties most people in Sibu in particular and in Sarawak in general found it difficult to buy books. The only book store which supplied good books was the Rex in Kuching and most schools throughout Sarawak obtained books from it. It was much later that Tai Hwa Bookstore in Sibu was established by lady from Hong Kong, followed by the Chien Feng Bookstore operated by the Kwang family and then much later the Rejang Bookstore which is still owned by the Wong family.

The BLB published books written by local and foreign writers like Hedda Morrison and others. In 1962 alone, it was reported that 27 new books were published and 8 were written by local authors. A fair number of books were published in Chinese and Iban. But what was very interesting was the fact that several books were published in seven Sarawakian languages and Bahasa Malaysia. More than 10,000 copies of the Dolphin was published for students in 1962 alone.

When Malaysia was formed and the Dewan Pustaka dan Bahasa spread its wings to East Malaysia it was felt that the functions and objectives of Borneo Literature Bureau could be well covered by DPB. Thus BLB closed shop after it had served a very important function for Sabah and Sarawak. It had in a very small way helped launch local writers, and raised literacy levels.

And what was saddest of all for all of us children was that our beloved magazine Dolphin too met its demise because it was considered irrelevant by then and because of the National Education Policy and other national policies. We lost a part of our childhood so to speak. Dolphin was such a "friend".

However all is not lost as some digital references can still be made through this excellent website. Enjoy!!

4 memories:

James TC Wong said... can still remember the Dolphin! I was addicted to it when I was in lower Primary. Didn't realize its demise story until reading your story. xD

sarawakiana said...

Aiyo Brother,
We were so innocent then, sitting down on the cement staircases reading the magazine which was very lightweight. Two little girls could hold the magazine together and read two different pages.

Teachers found the students then so easy to teach!!

AlisonBuda said...


You might want to write about past elections or elections in those days when compared to today. How Soon Kai was a popular surgeon turned politicians. Also, you might want to write what happen during the formation of Mlaysia. It will be interesting to read from your perspective.

sarawakiana said...

I am afraid these topics are a little out of my depth. I like telling tales of women suffering,etc.

Election stories are hard to write and comment.

thank you for your suggestions.


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