Indonesia in Focus
Lembah Baliem Fest: Papua, Indonesia
Every year since 1991, the Jayawijaya Regency administration organizes the Lembah Baliem Cultural Festival ahead of the Aug. 17 Independence Day celebrations.
This year, the festival from Aug. 9-11 displayed traditional cultural attractions performed by tribes living in Lembah Baliem (Baliem Valley), Papua province.
Inspired by their “traditional wars” that were frequently conducted to become a custom among Papua’s indigenous tribes, the festival presented the stylized “war” as a main attraction for tourists in the area.
In the past, tribal wars were believed triggered by fights among youths, theft and abductions of women.
Wearing traditional clothes and carrying arrows and spears, dozens of tribesmen participated in the “war” in the festival. Although it was a performance, the men employed traditional strategy and stalked their “enemy” as in a tribal war.
Besides the “war”, tourists could also watch the pig race, in which owners race first and are then followed by their trotting pet pigs.
Most of the owners are women, because they are believed to be more caring toward the animals.
Pigs are often a prestigious part of dowries in a traditional Papuan wedding. In addition, wealth and status in tribal societies are measured by the number of pigs they own.
Playing pinkon, a traditional bamboo trumpet, is another attraction of the festival.
Apart from enjoying the performances of the festival, which involved thousands of tribespeople as participants and attendees, tourists used the occasion for observing the daily life of Papuan tribal culture. Most of tribesmen wore only a koteka, a penis sheath made from a gourd, and tribeswomen wore sali, or grass skirts, and were topless according to traditional dress.
Several tourists opted for a hands-on experience, participating in the archery and spear-throwing competitions.
– Nethy Dharma Somba
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