Dances are not always about fun and games. Some dances represent grief and wars. As part of the West Papuan arts, one of the dances representing wars is Fela Mandu dance. What is the origin of this traditional dance in West Papua?
Fela Mandu: The Origin and The Back Story
Fela Mandu dance is a war dance from Puyoh Besar, Puyoh Kecil, and Abar in Sentani, Central Papua. This dance can be done by both men and women at once, alias as a group. The dance will be performed along with the sound of tifa and wakhu, two traditional musical instruments from West Papua. The indigenous Papuans consider this dance as part of their ancestors’ heritage.
Here is the back story:
The people of Putali, Amatali, and Abar went to a civil war between tribes. They went against the people of Sekori, Sewiron, and Sebeya in Abar, Central Sentani. The Putalis, Amatalis, and Abaris had won the war.
Although the war inspired the dance, Fela Mandu is now performed for pure entertainment and fun. We can see people do this dance during special events and gatherings. For example, an event to welcome honorable guests, like people from the government.
Fela Mandu Today and What It Means To West Papuan People
Fela Mandu dance was danced later as a means to reduce the strong altercations between tribes and villages. This dance was performed to inspire and strengthen friendships between them and avoid turning into other civil wars. After all, they live on the same island. Why not work together instead?
These days, indigenous people of West Papua, especially those living in Sentani Tengah, are preserving this traditional dance. The Fam Monim and Ayapo Tribes make sure that Fela Mandu dance will still be performed and remembered by the next generations. They believe that this dance is part of their ancestors’ important heritage.
Fela Mandu Dancers’ Outfit:
To do this dance, what do the dancers have to wear? For starters, they have to paint their bodies and faces white. Some also paint their shins as well. Then, the male dancers must wear straw tassel skirts, straw tassel bracelets, and straw trassel anklets. (The female dancers these days wear additional cloth to cover their bosoms.)
Each tribe has its unique style and pattern for painting their bodies, shins, arms, and faces. Last but not least, the dancers also wear headdresses made of animal feathers. Some headdresses are made of long, black animal feathers that make the dancers look much taller than they really are.
Since Fela Mandu is a war dance, the male dancers carry their bows and arrows. The female dancers do not have to carry any weapons. They dance to support their male counterparts. In the past, it was used to burn the spirits of the warriors before they went for a battle.
All in all, the dancers of Fela Mandu have to go barefoot.
At least five people do the Fela Mandu dance. In some performances, you can say about 50 and more dancers are doing this. Just like a lot of other traditional dances in West Papua, the more is, the merrier. This dance is already a source of traditional entertainment.
Here is everything about the Fela Mandu dance from West Papua. As one of the war dances from this province, this traditional dance has been performed as entertainment and fun. It is nice to see their performances, especially on special occasions. Still, we will appreciate this traditional dance even more once we know the back story on how this dance first existed.