Wor Dance, a Tribute to West Papua History

West Papua

There are 254 ethnic groups spread across the land of Papua, and each of them has its culture and uniqueness. The Biak people or the Biak tribe is one of the large ethnic groups that have a historical background of extensive cultural contact with other ethnic groups both in Papua and outside Papua. Until now, their cultural traditions have survived, one of which is wor dance.

Wor dance is a traditional dance from West Papua originating one of wor cultures of the Biak tribe. This dance has been around since the time of the Biak people’s ancestors and is still preserved today. It is usually performed during traditional rituals by male dancers as a tribute to the ancestors. 

The Glimpse of History of Wor Dance

West Papua

In the past, Wor dances and songs from the Biak tribe were part of the life of the Biak people. They will dance to Wor while gardening, fishing, or chatting with neighbors. The brave sailors and fishermen also sang Wor in the middle of the sea to keep the sea calm or get the fish catch as expected.

Wor dance symbolizes the valor and heroism of the Papuan people. The dance is generally held when the leader of the clan is ordered to fight. Accompanied by movements and songs of worship and is only accompanied by the tifa musical instrument, Wor dance was able to inflame the spirit of war.  

Referring to aspects of cultural anthropology in the land of Papua and the development of traditional dance in Southeast Asia, this traditional dance from West Papua leads to prehistoric performance arts. As a form of the dignity of the Biak tribe as well as respecting the ancestors, Papuan people are still preserving Wor dance.

This is proof that the development of arts and society is not mutually exclusive, instead mutually sustainable. They strongly believe that the culture since ancestors’ time has to be passed on, so the next generation will reminisce various waves of trouble, distress, and unrest their ancestors faced to create the dance culture. 

Wor dance performed to a spiritual vibe in the face of war. However, the modern era has come, and the war between tribes in West Papua is also strictly prohibited by the government. Now, this dance only becomes a dance for entertainment or welcoming guests.

Enjoying the Wor Dance

West Papua

Through dance, various people with differences can be united in the same movement, in the same rhythm. This social function is borne by Wor dance that is part of traditional ceremonies in various activities, from weddings to welcoming guests, and can be performed by anyone, male or female, young or old.

Wor dance was also performed at the 2019 Wampasi Munara Biak Festival from July 1-6. This event is a priority because it is included in the Ministry of Tourism’s Calendar of Events (CoE). Through this activity, it is hoped that it can increase the number of tourist visits to Biak and West Papua.

Apart from local tourists, some foreign tourists attend the Biak Munara Wampasi Festival 2019. This means that this event is well known by tourists. The festival has entered its seventh year. It is hoped that the local government will continue to improve so that the packaging for this event will be more attractive.

Wor Dance Now

West Papua

Children and mothers mingled in a line. Papuan pattern lines adorn their faces and arms. They sing and dance to Wor together to welcome guests who come from outside Biak. Tifa and shellfish flutes accompanied the children’s gestures in Mansyam Village, Biak, West Papua. Wor dance has a message for peace between ethnic groups in Biak. 

Another uniqueness is the presence of typical Papuan musical instruments played by the Wor music team and dance. Apart from the Tifa, guitar, and ukulele, there are other musical instruments, such as the three-string acoustic bass made of pandanus leaf-rolled fibers—which are commonly found in the forests of coastal areas of Papua.

Also, there is the Kalabasa, a musical instrument made of dried gourds and then filled with beads or small stones. The way to play this instrument is to shake it and give a rain sound effect. The rhythms and songs of the Wor Dance, in particular, evoke the power to dance.

Biak people call it Wor Mamun, namely folk songs in the local and Indonesian Papuan language, a song to ignite the fighting spirit. The lyrics contain support and moral messages that speak about don’t getting easily frightened by opponents. Along with the performance, the fighting spirit continued to be sung throughout the world.

The popularity of Wor dance as the traditional dance from West Papua has reached several international festivals. It is no longer just the property of the Papuan Biak people. This dance has belonged to people throughout Indonesia. This dance appears to encourage all people who want to unite their steps together to build Indonesia, regardless of differences.


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