Planning for a vacation is simple yet complicated. There are many factors to be reckoned with—whether it is the season, activities to do when you get there, and most importantly you need to match between your paid leave and the events being held at your destination. Speaking of events, cultural festivals is always an interesting and exciting event to attend. You can learn about cultures while having fun.
Just like any other region in Indonesia, Papua is rich in cultural diversity. The reason behind it is due to the existence of many indigenous tribes. It is said that engaging in cultural activities will improve your relations. Therefore, attending cultural activities will help you broaden your insights and create a cultural understanding.
There are many festivals in Papua, and each of them has its purpose and uniqueness. Which ones are worth attending? Here is the list!
Senja Kaimana Festival
West Papua is known for the famous Raja Ampat, making it as one of the top tourist destinations in Indonesia. However, West Papua has more to offer other than Raja Ampat, and that is the Senja Kaimana Festival. As the name implies, this festival is held in Kaimana; specifically, it is a small port town in the southern coastline of West Papua.
Even though the beauty of Kaimana has less popularity than Raja Ampat, it is a place considered to visit. The marine tourism of Kaimana offers colorful coral reefs and rich biodiversity within its ecosystem. Besides, the beaches have white sand and shallow water, perfect for beachgoers.
The festival is called Senja (meaning dusk) because Kaimana is known for its beautiful sunset view. During the sunset on a sunny day, you can see the moon as the sky turns red. This amazing natural phenomenon can be seen from Kaimana Beach. Regarding the exact date of the Senja Kaimana Festival, it differs every year. However, in 2015 – 2017, it is held in October or November.
As an annual festival, it was first held in 2012 to promote local culture. Eight Kaimana ethnics were participating, each presenting their cultural uniqueness. There were stage performances, local cultural exhibition stands, and handicraft products that you can buy as souvenirs. The dances performed by the people of Kaimana vary, from traditional dances to modern contemporary ones. Therefore, they are embracing diversity and modernization while preserving their local cultures.
As the Senja Kaimana Festival promotes local cultures, it is also a strategy used by the local government to attract local and foreign tourists. Kaimana is blessed with beautiful natural tourist spots, and it is open all year round.
Baliem Valley Festival
One of the festivals in Papua worth mentioning is the Baliem Valley Festival. The festival is held every August in West Papua, specifically at Baliem Valley, Wamena. This festival is considered as a famous one, and it is often mentioned and promoted in Papua’s tourism. So, what is the Baliem Valley Festival?
It all began when three native tribes, namely Dani, Lani, and Yali that used to fight among themselves for various reasons decided to make peace in 1989. They all decided to convert the battles into an annual festival. It was a closed festival at first, and only the three tribes are welcomed. However, later on, it was opened for outsiders to come.
The festival attracted foreign travelers and the media. The festival itself is a mimic of a real battle. The best warriors of each tribe were sent to participate in mock battles. Although it is not a real battle, it does feel like it’s real. Spears were thrown, arrows were shot, and battle cries were used.
No worries, the festival does not evolve into an actual war. When the participants are injured, they are immediately evacuated and visitors are only allowed to watch from a safe distance. Not only mock battles, but there are also other activities like massive feasts, traditional dances and competitions (archery and spear throwing). Handicraft and souvenir markets are also available in the nearby Dani Market.
Melanesian Cultural Festival
The Melanesian Cultural Festival is a cultural partnership between the Melanesian States in the Pacific, which includes Eastern Indonesia. It is one of the ways of the Indonesian government to connect with Papua and strengthen their relationship. Besides, it is also considered as a venue to promote Indonesia’s Melanesian cultural heritage and population to the world.
The Melanesian Cultural Festival is a regular event initiated by the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) once every four years since 1998. It is aimed to preserve their cultural heritage. Indonesia became a member of the MSG in 2015, and the festival was held in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara Province to honor the occasion.
Although it is considered as an international event, Indonesia also held their own Melanesian Cultural Festival in May 2018. It was held before sending delegations to the international festival. The national festival itself is similar to the international one, a Melanesian cultural event that showcases cultural performances, crafts, and souvenir markets.
Those are cultural festivals in Papua to satisfy your cultural adventure needs. Always remember to prepare well and dress accordingly, as the journey to see the festivals can be quite challenging.
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