Papua has hundreds of tribes inhabiting the area. They are so diverse yet respectful toward each other. The reason is that the communities always hold their hereditary traditions. One such custom is the Barapen stone burning tradition.
Tribes call the tradition by different names. The Wamena tribe calls it Kit Oba Isogoa. The Paniai tribe names it Gapila or Mogo. In general, however, the tribe members call it Barapen.
The stone burning tradition, known as Upacara Bakar Batu, is a celebration of many tribes to show their gratitude for the abundance of blessings, childbirths, and weddings. The people also hold this Thanksgiving celebration to welcome important guests and commemorate someone’s death. Furthermore, the people carry this tradition after a tribal war to express their gratitude for peace and reconciliation.
Using stones to cook certain food materials such as pork and ham, the ritual requires the work of many people. That is why you can see the local rite as a symbol of community togetherness, tolerance, and solidarity. The hereditary practice also shows the Papuan’s hospitality toward visitors.
More About the Barapen Stone Burning Tradition
1. The Oldest Tribal Rite
The stone burning ritual is the oldest tribal rite on Papua island. From generation to generation, people have been doing it for ages. Long ago, there were a limited number of ways to cook. Then, the Papuans discovered that using stones could cook foods and make them more delicious.
The cooking technique takes a long time to finish because all materials (fuel and food) are natural products from nature. The people cook several dishes during the ritual ranging from meats and vegetables to tubers. The tribe members are willing to spend a considerable amount of sources and leave their activity at hand for the Barapen celebration. As a local rite that can gather the Papuans, it symbolizes mutual forgiveness between tribe members.
2. The Long Preparation
The tribe members arrange the Barapen stone burning tradition early in the morning to make ample preparation. First, the chief, in his traditional tribal clothes, will gather and invite everyone to attend. Second, the tribe members will hunt the food materials during the day. Using bows and arrows, they hunt pigs or other animals.
There is a belief that if the animals died instantly during the hunt, the festival would be a success. However, the tribe members might face obstacles if it is the other way around. During the chase, other tribe members will search for solid and sturdy stones, get vegetables or tubers from the forest, and make holes for the burning.
After this, they will clean the hunted animals. It takes quite a long time to cook the food, up to five hours. The people use dry wood to heat the stones and banana leaves for the base of the hole. Then, they place the hot stone together with the food in a deep hole.
3. A Symbol of Togetherness
While waiting for the food to be cooked, the tribe members will use their time to interact with each other. After hours, the people will form a circle and eat the food. The tribe’s representative will distribute the food to everyone starting from the high-ranking people in the celebration.
After eating their share, the people will dance and sing folk songs in a festive mood. This gesture of solidarity and togetherness is one of the reasons why the ritual is held for some special occasions in the community. Also, the stone burning tradition has become a significant manner of tolerance because the Papuans welcome Christmas and Ramadan with the rite.
The Barapen stone burning tradition might look simple, but it has a profound goal and meaning. It is not just a unique cooking process. The tribe members hold the local rite to express gratitude for the peaceful life.