Consider this an audition to find the next fine gentlemen in Papua and West Papua. Why only ‘gentlemen’? This local tradition called ‘Wuon’ has always been done for centuries in Tambraw Regency, West Papua. Only recently, more people began to realize that it is more than just forming “the big boys’ club.”
Their Own Version of ‘Beast Barracks’
Every corner of Indonesia has their own local wisdom. The mountainous area of Tambraw Regency, West Papua, has theirs too. Since they live in an area far away from the center of civilization, the Tambraw community prepares their youths to be more independent as they grow up.
When a Tambraw boy reaches his adolescence, he will be forged through an initiation called Wuon. According to one of the Tambraw’s traditional leaders, Safrino Didimus Bame, Wuon takes between six months to a year of training. The goal is to shape their young men into more mature, responsible, and independent men.
While formal military education has their beast barracks, the people of Tambraw run the Wuon training by sending their young men into the wild. Let’s check out their interesting steps in completing this unique local tradition.
The Wuon Tradition:
Here are the steps:
When a boy turns 14 years old, he is automatically recruited. This is not a bargain, or the boy will bring great shame to his family. Among other boys of the same age, he will be sent into an exile to start his special training into adulthood.
In exile, the sons of Tambraw have to do many things to survive. Their daily tasks include growing medicinal herbs, mixing medicinal herbs, practicing archery, fishing, hunting, and many outdoor activities required to stay alive in the wild.
For these boys of Papua and West Papua, practicing Wuon means no visiting from parents. Just like in military education, they are not allowed to receive any help from parents or other family members outside the training during their session. This shapes them into becoming more independent.
Another thing that they must do is that they are only allowed to eat one or two types of food. They must do this for a year of practicing Wuon. According to Didi, this is also part of their meditation—as a way to bond a spiritual connection with God and the nature around them.
A Dying Tradition That Needs To Be Revived for The Greater Good:
Unfortunately, Wuon has become a dying tradition in the present time. The last time Wuon took place was back in the 1990s. Currently, there are only four Wuon trainers and they are already senior residents.
Another problem regarding the Wuon tradition is that there is no documentation on the practice. This is why Didi hopes that there are influential figures, like teachers and professors, who are willing to document this ancient tradition in books and other materials. They will also need to have the next generation who are willing to carry this tradition around. The four Wuon trainers are the last to own the knowledge.
Didi, who is also the Head of the Value, Culture, and Arts Development Section of the Tambraw Regency Tourism and Culture Office, stated that his party was preparing Wuon in the next few years. He was worried that the legacy would not have the chance to see another year if the four Wuon trainers passed away first before that.
In addition to holding Wuon to maintain the value of the Tambraw tradition, they are planning to hold a Wuon cultural festival. After all, this tradition may help Papua and West Papua preserve nature conservation based on local wisdom. When the youths get in touch more with Mother Nature, they will learn to appreciate it and later help to reduce environmental damage from home.