In West Papua, some ceremonies and traditions have been passed down from the time of their ancestors, generation to generation. Still preserved today, these traditions, including the stone burning tradition, have become one of the most interesting local identities.
Stone burning tradition, or the ceremony, is an essential event for many indigenous tribes in Papua and West Papua. As time goes by, it is still important, but there are several changes here and there. Let’s elaborate and explore this unique West Papua culture.
Many Names for Stone Burning Tradition
Initially, the stone burning tradition was a moment of celebration for indigenous tribes in the mountains and highlands of Papua. But besides the Indonesian name “Upacara Bakar Batu,” several other names for this ceremony come from different Papuan regions and tribes.
For example, in Baliem Valley, Wamena, the area that is said to be the origin of this ceremony, the stone burning tradition is called “Kit Oba Isogoa”. On the other hand, it is “Lago Lakwi” for Lani tribes, “Mogo Gapil” for people in the Paniai region, and “Barapen” for people in the Biak region, Dani tribes, and other tribes in the coastal area.
To point out, now this tradition is also called out by people in Nabire, Dekai, Bintang Mountains, Central Mountains, Jayawijaya, and Yahukimo. Barapen is the most common term to mention this stone-burning tradition in many regions and tribes in Papua and West Papua.
Steps and Details of the Ceremony
Seeing that Bakar Batu Papua is the most iconic stone burning tradition in Indonesia, you probably want to know the step-by-step of this ceremony and every single detail of it. In a word, every step of the ceremony is unique and meaningful.
This stone-burning procession generally happens in three stages. Preparation, burning and eating together.
For preparation, two different processes are happening simultaneously. But beforehand, usually, the men collected stones from the river, regular big-sized stones. The women also collected fruits and vegetables from the forests.
To prepare, one group of people will burn the stones along with dry wood until the stone gets hot and red. Another group will make a deep hole around 50 centimeters to place the hot stone and the food.
Formerly, before the burning phase, there was also a ritual of executing livestock to be used in this ceremony. In traditional customs, the common meat is pork. There is also some symbolism in the process of executing the pig.
However, along with the increasingly diverse population of West Papua today, people also replace pork with chicken. The chicken that will be cooked is often also slaughtered just before the burning procession.
Then, people will place the hot stones at the bottom of the hole to cook the food. Then they’ll put banana leaves before putting in the meat.
On top of the meat, they will put another banana leaves, then another hot stone to distribute the heat. Then other ingredients include vegetables, fruits, cassava, and sweet potato over another layer of banana leaves.
In the final steps, the people will cover it all, again, with banana leaves, hot stones, and alang-alang leaves.
3. Eating together
As mentioned above, the traditional cooking process using the burning stone will take a long time. So, while waiting for the food, people will talk, dance, or do other activities together.
After around an hour, people will take it out and put it on a large expanse of banana leaves. Everyone will gather and eat right from there if possible. If there are many people, some representatives will take turns distributing the food.
This act of togetherness is why this ceremony ordinarily happens to celebrate special events in the local community. For example, to give thanks for abundant blessings, traditional weddings, childbirth, and the coronation of the tribal chief.
Currently, the stone burning tradition has also become an act of tolerance and celebration of diversity among West Papua people. Because they also welcome Christmas and the month of Ramadan with this ceremony.
Looking at the facts of the stone burning tradition in West Papua, it symbolizes humbleness and closeness to nature and celebrates harmonious relationships in society. All in all, it will be a fantastic ceremony to witness if you visit West Papua.