The Moi tribe is a native tribe of Sorong, West Papua, Indonesia. They prefer to be called the Mekwei while others refer to them as the Mekwei, Mooi, or Mosana people. The tribe holds a distinct culture and stance on life within the community. One great representation of this culture would be the Watukala Dance.
The dance encompasses the idea of the tribe’s unique way to communicate, connect, and thank Mother nature’s blessing upon their daily life. Moi Tribe views the Earth as a mother for it gives life and birth to a new life.
What is Watukala Dance?
The dance narrates a brief detail of a series of activities of the Moi people. The main idea circles around fishing. As a native tribe of Sorong, the Moi tribe resides in the coastal area. Thus, fishing is a vital source of procuring food. The people have been working as fish hunters or fishermen for as long as they live, even since the days of yore.
Long ago, the Moi people utilized spears to catch fish near the coastal area. As time went on, it got harder to find fish with only spears. The people created an innovative way to complement the old one: using the tuba root. The root carries a mild poisonous substance. Crushed tuba roots have the effect of stupefying fishes. The dance mirrors exactly this activity. The movement starts with male dancers holding spears while in motion hunting fish. Then, female dancers portray the movement of seeing the catch.
The dance performance requires 5 to 6 pairs of males and females wearing traditional clothing. Male dancers wear skirts made of dry roots and leaves on their waists and head coverings (from Cendrawasih feathers) on their heads. Their body is also covered by ethnic paintings in black and white. Female dancers have similar styles with more clothing for their upper body. The dance is accompanied by unique, traditional music and folk song.
Why is It Sacred to the Moi Tribe?
The answer could be a couple of reasons. The Moi people consider the following motivations for the dance.
Memoirs of the Past
Humanity has always found a way to connect with past eras. The goal is to remember or commemorate the happenings which indicate another survival. A similar concept applies to the Watukala dance of the Moi tribe. To retain the memory of the past, the Moi people perform the dance each year matching the tradition of the previous years. They wanted to respect the old civilization by inventing a new means of hunting fish.
The Representation of Society
The Moi people are known for being kind and nature-dependent. In addition, they lead a simple practice of life to treasure and preserve the natural world. Since the dance was created to cater to a certain story of the past, it illustrated one significant representation of society. The Moi only used the tuba roots when hunting fish with spears were getting more difficult.
The Sacred Value
The dance brings forth symbolism. As stated before, the dance’s purpose is to appreciate an innovation of old advancements in hunting fish. In addition, the Moi people use the dance to deliver their thankfulness to nature concerning their livelihood. These two things make the Moi use the dance in some traditional, ceremonious events.
Watukala Dance not only expresses the Moi people’s values but is also notable for its distinguished characteristics. It depicts the people’s contentment with their life in Papua, while the dance has a reminiscence of the past. It is no wonder that the dance appears in many ceremonial and cultural events.