West Papua Diary

5 Unique West Papua Traditions Unlike Any Others

West Papua Traditions

Indonesia is known to be rich in cultures and languages that spread from the tip of Sabang to the end of Merauke. One place for you to explore should be West Papua, a province of Indonesia that covers the two western peninsulas of New Guinea Island, Bomberai Peninsula and Bird’s Head Peninsula, along with surrounding islands. Apart from having abundant natural resources, the place is also known for its large number of indigenous tribes. Each tribe has many different traditions with deep meaning and symbolization. If you’re intrigued to know more, here we compiled five unique West Papua traditions

Sasi Planting Ceremony (Upacara Tanam Sasi)

Sasi Planting is performed by the Marind or Marind-Anim tribe. The word ‘sasi‘ can be interpreted as a ban against obtaining certain natural resource products as a means to conserve and maintain their quality and population (which can be animals and plants). Sasi also refers to an effort to preserve good manners between humans and their natural surroundings. Hence, you aren’t allowed to take anything in their surrounding area if you see several trees marked with the word ‘Sasi.’

Besides protecting the natural resources of West Papua, this ceremony depicts a bereaved family’s sadness and sorrow. Simply said, performing this tradition alerts the village that someone has passed away. As a part of a series of funeral ceremonies, planting sasi is done 40 days after a person’s death and will be pulled back up again after 1,000 days. 

Stone Burning Ceremony (Upacara Bakar Batu)

Among West Papua traditions, Stone Burning Ceremony is a unique and distinctive Papuan ritual performed as a form of gratitude for abundant blessings. This ceremony is also carried out when something good happens (family gatherings, births, coronation of tribal heads, and marriages).

Burning the stone here means that the tribe people use such a method to cook and prepare meals for the feast. When the whole village gathers, you’ll notice how important the Papuan people’s solidarity and togetherness are. This ceremony usually consists of three stages: preparing, roasting and then eating together. All of this is generally done by men.

Finger Cut Ceremony (Upacara Potong Jari)

Before you freak out after reading the subheading, you should know that it has a deep meaning for the West Papua tribe people, who have done this for as long as they can remember. 

In the Dani tribe, for instance, this tradition denotes the grief of being left behind by a loved one or a family member. They consider fingers as a symbol of harmony, unity, and strength. Losing one finger is therefore regarded as reducing togetherness and strength.

Cutting a finger is done to express loyalty and a deep sense of loss towards the deceased. Therefore, in a way, you can know how many family members someone has lost just by seeing his/her fingers. 

Tattoo Tradition (Tradisi Tato)

Tattooing was initially introduced by Austronesian people from Asia who migrated to Papua in prehistoric times around 3,000 years ago. Three tribes in West Papua perform this tradition: the Sentani, Moi, and Waropen tribes.

The tattoos are also commonly called ‘enahu’ by locals. The material for making enahu is charcoal made from burning wam wood and mixed with breadfruit tree sap. Tattoos are created three months before the wedding ceremony is held. Sentani women mostly have motifs like nine fish, eels, and birds of paradise. Sentani men usually wear motifs like a crocodile, saw shark, snake, and cassowary. These tattoos are supposed to beautify their wearers.

Ararem Tradition – Biak Tribe (Tradisi Ararem – Suku Biak

 

Ararem is a typical West Papua tradition of the Biak tribe that’s usually held in weddings, where the groom will be delivering his dowry (ararem) for the bride’s family. The dowry usually includes traditional plates, jars, food, household utensils, and money. 

Delivering the dowry is regarded as something highly sacred as it’ll officially hold the status of a wife in the keret or clan family ties. The customary procession of giving dowry to the woman’s family is a form of honor and self-esteem from the groom’s family. It denotes his ability to properly support his wife, live together in a strong household, and continue the legacy of both family’s lineages or clans.

What do you think about our five unique West Papua traditions above? For your information, some of the practices have begun to extinct due to globalization and modernization. However, you still can support West Papua cultures and heritages by spreading the information on this article so that more people can know about their traditions.

 

We’re looking forward to hearing about your next trip to the island!

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