Celebrating West Papua Festivals and Traditions: A Guide for Visitors

West Papua

West Papua and its unique traditions are always a treat for visitors. Anyone visiting the province should enjoy seeing some of the celebrations there. All of them have their meaning and philosophy.

Stone Burning Ceremony

The Burning Stone Party is a gathering place for the West Papua community. At this party, you will see how high the solidarity and togetherness of the Papuan people are.

Another meaning of this party is to express mutual forgiveness between residents. The Burning Stone Party also means a unique and distinctive tradition of gratitude.

A traditional Papuan ritual is performed as a form of thanksgiving for abundant blessings, weddings, welcoming great guests, and also as a death ceremony.

As the name implies, in cooking and processing food for the feast, tribes in Papua use the stone-burning method.

Each region and tribe in the Baliem Valley region has its term for stone burning.

The Paniai people call it gapii or ‘mogo gapii’, and the Wamena people call it kit oba isago. In contrast, the Biak people call it barapen. However, barapen is the most commonly used term.

Sasi Planting West Papua Ceremony

In the Marin tribe, Merauke Regency, there is the Tanam Sasi ceremony. This tradition is planting wood as part of a series of death ceremonies.

Sasi is grown 40 days after a person’s death and will be uprooted after 1,000 days.

Sasi Planting will have an impact on Asmat carvings. This Asmat carving has been famous in foreign countries and has four meanings and functions:

  • Symbolizes the presence of ancestral spirits;
  • To express sadness and happiness;
  • As a symbol of belief with motifs of humans, animals, plants, and other objects;
  • As a symbol of beauty and a picture of the memory of ancestors.

In this sasi planting procession, the community will perform a typical dance, the Gatsi Dance.

During the performance, the musicians play the traditional instrument Tifa. This dance means that the community must obey local customs and preserve traditions.

Finger Cutting Ceremony

This finger-cutting tradition occurs when someone feels sad when a loved one has left. This painful feeling of losing a relative is shown by cutting a finger.

Let’s look at the tradition of cutting fingers in the present. This West Papua tradition should not be done, or this tradition is classified as radical.

However, for the people of the central mountains of Papua, this tradition is an obligation that must be done.

They think that cutting a finger symbolizes the pain and sadness of someone who has lost a family member.

It can be interprete that the finger is a symbol of harmony, unity, and strength in humans and a family.

Although the naming of the finger in the human hand only mentions one representative of the family, namely the thumb.

However, if examined, the difference in each shape and length has a unity and strength of togetherness to lighten all the burdens of human work.

Kuling Cigarette West Papua Tradition

Another uniqueness in West Papua is the marriage tradition carry out by the people of Wondama Bay. In traditional marriage, there is a tradition call kuling rokok, or smoking.

In this custom, cigarettes will be burn and give to the bride to smoke. After that, it will be give to the bridegroom, only to knock on the cigarette.

Afterward, a cigarette will be give to the groom’s sister to be smoke.

This tradition means fellowship. This tradition is also commonly practice by the Roon tribe in Wondama Bay Regency.

Still, the object used is not cigarettes but sago which is then cooked into papeda and will be eaten in turn.

The whole series of traditions from these two tribes in West Papua shows that this province is rich in tradition and culture.

All these traditions are hold as a sign to maintain harmonious relationships with everyone.