Posted by indonesiaculture | 10/21/2009 06:24:00 PM | | 0 comments »

Air Anyir society in Bangka Island believe that the last Wednesday in Safar month is the day for God to release 3200 disasters to the world. That belief lets Air Anyir society to perform special ritual Hari Rebo Kasan or last Wednesday in Safar month to far-away them from all disasters.

The ritual is started on 07.00 am when every citizen goes to masque bringing tray with red cover. Inside tray there are 6 plates with ketupat, sayur (vegetables), fish, chicken, cake and fruits. Bangka citizen call the tray as dulang.

One family contributes one dulang. Then all dulang will be collected in the masque to be eat together after ritual completed. This habit in Bangka Island is called as Sepintu Sedulang. Eating together is called as Nganggung. The visitor will get first opportunity to eat the food.

The ritual Rebo Kasan is started with azan announced from the masque, and then followed by praying. Azan and praying are Islamic value which influence Bangka tradition.

At the mid session of the ritual, a paper written by wafak praying will be dipped into water inside ceramic bowl. Wafak praying is written using dawat ink which bought in Mekkah, Saudi Arabia. Water inside cermic bowl is called as wafak water, coming from 7 ceramic bowls representing 7 holy water source. In the end of ritual, the water will be shared to every participant.

Ritual to reject disaster is perform by pull-out the ketupat tolak bala (ketupat for rejecting disaster). The ketupat is unique packing for rice with special processing. But in this ritual ketupat used is only packing without rice inside. The ketupat for this ritual is special because made of 2 coconut leafs. If you pull out every leaf, you can release together its bonding. Each ketupat will be handed by each pair of citizen, then special praying will be delivered with standing position. The praying is to expect God to look after all society and far-away from all disaster such as pain, accident or natural disaster.

Just after the praying completed, all pair of citizen will pull out together the ketupat until the plait is released. This activity will be done together by all society with happy and laughing. All coconut leaf ex ketupat will be collected into special place.

After releasing ketupat is completed, the ritual will closed by eat together or nganggung.

Note; for your info, Bangka island is located in Malacca Strait, close to Sumatera Island. In the past Bangka was a biggest producer (with Belitung Island) of tin.

Reference: KOMPAS Daily Edition 24 March 2007 Page 39, written by L. Andreas Sarwono.

(Osa Kurniawan Ilham, Balikpapan-Borneo, 10 Sept 09)


Posted by indonesiaculture | 10/21/2009 06:22:00 PM | | 0 comments »

In Java, it is common to eat eel as other foods. But in Wolotolo village, it is taboo to eat eel. Why ? because they believe that eel is their ancestor. If they eat eel; intentinal or not; they will get a curse which usually in pain, accident or other sufferings.

Where is Wolotolo ? Wolotolo village is located in Ende district, Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara province. Wolotolo village is 20 km from Ende city, can be reached through road Ende – Maumere.

The sacred eel (belut sakti) can be shown in Lowomamo river in Ae Kewu, Central Wolotolo. To see this scared eel, you need a special skill person who called as pawang. You also need a chicken to be cut, and then its blood will be used to invite the sacred eel come out. If you are sick, you shall cut a chicken with red feather and special ritual.

After the blood is splashed into river, the pawing will call the sacred eel with this magic formula “Mai mamo……, mai mamo…..!” And then the chicken will be cut to be small portion then provided to the sacred eel using wood stick. The sacred eel doesn’t always come out even though you have given them a chicken. If the sacred eel doesn’t come out, it means you are not fortune. In other cases, the sacred eel some time come out is one only, some time two, some time in red color, some time in black color depend on your fortune. If there are 2 eels coming out, it means you will get a big fortune.

A myth about the sacred eel as ancestor can be described as follows. Sare Ngole is a father of Wolotolo society. In the past Sare Ngole got a skin pain. The Lio people called it as una or getting two skins. Due to shame, Sare Ngole went out from Detuwira village to Sikka. In Sikka, Sare Ngole perform meditation in the cave. From his meditation he got a gold necklace called londa. The scared necklace then he stored in the container in his village.

On a day, the sacred necklace shouted because it felt very hot, and he ask Sare Ngole to put it into the water. Sare Ngole then put it into Lowomamo river, previously he put a bamboo stick as a sign.

On the next day, Sare Ngole back to the river to take the sacred necklace. But, the sacred necklace never is found. Sare Ngole even found the eel as substation of the sacred necklace.

Based on above myth, until now the people of Wolotolo village arrange ritual regularly to give the sacred eel food.

Reference: KOMPAS daily edition 14 April 2007 page 39, written by Samuel Oktora.
(Osa Kurniawan Ilham, Balikpapan-Borneo


Posted by indonesiaculture | 10/21/2009 06:19:00 PM | | 0 comments »

As I have mentioned in the previous posting, Indonesia culture is very affected by agricultural. In the past, our farmer always called the rain prior to start planting rice or vegetables. However, in modern ages like now, this ritual has been replaced by rain technology, also has been replaced by weather estimation which assist farmers to start the planting.

But, in Banyumas – Central Java the ritual to call the rain is still alive and implemented by society especially in Plana village, Somagede – Banyumas. In this area, agricultural is very depending on the water from raining. Therefore this ritual, called as Cowongan, is still implemented by society.

Cowongan ritual is conducted in September, October or end of Kapat (time calculation as per Java Calendar). In this time, the water source has dried and the villagers has faced a difficulty to find water.

The ritual can be performed may times until rain falling. But, the performance is only allowed in odd calculation such as 1 night, 3 nights, 5 nights and 7 nights. Based on experience, Cowongan ritual usually didn’t performed more than 7 nights.

To perform Cowongan ritual, they use a tools like Jailangkung (traditional game to call spirit, I will write about this later). As a tool, Cowongan use siwur (water dipper) which stolen from neighbor which located on wuwungan (a top of house).

The stolen water dipper shall be stored below banana tree to absorb natural energy in 3 days. Then, the stolen water dipper can be used for ritual.

In this ritual, the players allowed are menopause women, in other villages men are also allowed. Cowongan ritual is started by mantera (magic spells) using the ancient Java language. The magic formula usually is as follows: Sulasi sulanjana. Kukus menyan ngundang dewa. Ana dewa daning sukma. Bidadari temurunan. Runtung-runtung kesanga.

This mantera is request for fairy or angel to come from heaven and enter to siwur which has been made up as cowongan doll like beautiful lady. The fairy or angel is believed as a good spirit not devil. The come of the angel to the earth is expected to deliver message from earth society to God in order to give raining. To ensure the message received by God, close to cowongan doll they burn kemenyan (incense derived from gum benzoin) whose smoke is believed can deliver the message to God.

As I wrote in the previous posting that Indonesia culture is fulfilled with symbolic culture. In this ritual, cowongan is one of example of symbol to represent all ideas and praying to God. The powerful and effectiveness of this ritual is very depending on the faith and believing of the society.

NOTE: this article is adapted based on article in KOMPAS daily edition 19 Aug 2009 page 38 and written by Madina Nusrat with original title “Seni Tradisi Cowongan : Berusaha Eksis tetapi Tetap Eksis”.
(Osa Kurniawan Ilham, Balikpapan-Borneo, 21 Oct 2009)


Posted by indonesiaculture | 9/20/2009 06:44:00 PM | | 0 comments »

Until 9 years ago, people knew Jember only as a small city in the south area of East Java province with population of Madura ethnic group. There is no interesting matter in this area except its beautiful beach which called as Ulu watu beach.

However, everything is changing now. Jember now is becoming a famous city in Indonesia. It was started on 2001 when a fashion designer named Dynand Fariz had a idea to perform mass fashion carnival in his origin city, Jember.

This fashion carnival is unique as involving all society (not limited to modeling or fashion community), not only Jember citizen but also participants from other cities. In the first performance, the people was under estimate about the success of this carnival because Jember didn’t have history and experience related to design or fashion in the past. But, in fact the first performance was successful and this year (2009) Dynand Fariz is successful to perform 8th Jember Fashion Carnaval (JFC).

8th Jember Fashion Carnaval was performed on 2 August 2009 with the theme “World Unity” and successfully to be watched by 300.000 people. The participants are 600 people, displaying contemporary fashion and choreography on the catwalk with length as 3.6 km. There were 8 sub-themes to be displayed in this performance mean while the sub-theme was displayed through the fashion and choreography.

Sub-theme Upper Ground displayed the fashions with equipped by vegetables and fruits as a symbol for food crisis. Sub-theme Animal Plants displayed the fashions with wild animal and plant. Sub-theme Tecno Eth displayed tradition cultural. Sub-theme Off Life show a gothic fashion which identified by black clothes to represents human creativity which be limited by political situation. Hard-Soft displayed army style to fight human war. Container displayed all fashions to critic globalization and free-trade. Sub-theme Rhythm displayed the beauty of difference which represented by traditional music and tecno-music.

There were many unique costumes to express each sub-theme such as wing with 5 meters width and hat with 2.5 meters height. This year, JFC also taked Minang land (West Sumatra culture) as inspiration to be represented with deluxe-style, fantastic and sensational fashion. Color of Gold, red, green and black were selected to be symbol of Indonesia glory in the monarch ages.

Now, JFC has participated in England, Mumbay-India and Shanghai-China. The next target is Rio de Janeiro Festival.

For further information, click

See you on next 9th Jember Fashion Carnaval next year.

(Osa Kurniawan Ilham, Balikpapan-Borneo)

Reference: KOMPAS daily edition, 19 Aug 2009 page 36.


Posted by indonesiaculture | 9/20/2009 06:36:00 PM | | 0 comments »

Indonesia national flag is Sang Saka Merah Putih (Red and white flag). Our flag is similar with Manaco’s. Also similar with Poland’ flag but with opposite composition.

Our flag is one of good example about symbolic culture. Red and white flag has been used as flag of battle by our ancient kingdom as Sriwijaya (8 AD century) and Majapahit (13 AD century).

Our Red and White flag represents Indonesia Revolution. During Dutch occupation in the past, you will be jailed and killed if you make or show Red and White. Why ? Because it represents our spirit for independence.

Red in our flag means brave. Red represents our blood which spilled out to take away our independence. White means holy, sterile, purification. White represents our bone which be sacrificed for fighting colonialism and imperialism.

In our culture, we treat our red and white flag as a high value heritage as representing the sacrifice of our heroes and founding father during independence revolution. Therefore, don’t be under estimate for our flag.

Indonesia has good experience in the past about this condition. Surabaya, October 1945, several Dutch officers put out Dutch’s flag (Red-White-Blue) on the top of Hotel Yamato in Surabaya, capital of East Java. This situation as like provocation for Indonesian which celebrating its independence which proclaimed on 17 Aug 1945. Therefore, all Surabaya people finally crowd around the hotel to perform demonstration demanding put off Dutch’s flag. Finally one Dutch officer was killed in this incident and several young people was lowering the Dutch’s flag, tearing the blue part and then put out again the flag, now in Red and White only.

Source of photo:

(Osa Kurniawan Ilham, Balikpapan – Borneo)


Posted by indonesiaculture | 9/17/2009 06:39:00 PM | | 0 comments »

Basic character of Indonesia people is quiet, polite and not straight to the point. It should be well understood since we are living with many ethnic groups, with different habits, language and also life style. In this situation, you should be careful if you make interaction and communication with others. Because; as example verbal communication; the words you used in your conversation may be not too dangerous in your ethnic groups, but it will be dangerous in other groups.

Therefore, symbolic cultural is growing in Indonesia. Every message is usually being delivered using symbolic language to reduce problems occurred. To know a real meaning of something you cannot directly get from the visual, but you should develop ability to understand deeply than you see or listen. It needs ability of meditation and self-possession.

Every thing is symbolic here, representing the meaning inside. White color is meaning a holy, righteous, no contamination, true. Red color means brave. Blue color means calm, faithfulness. Black means a mystery. Yellow means richness, wealth. It is just example of symbolic cultural in color usage.

Symbolic also can be found in our traditional dance. Every movement in our dance represents specific meaning; sometime its meaning is very deep and useful for our daily life. It is more transcendent than just as an art.

This situation may be difficult to be understood by western people. But, impossible is nothing. All people from whole the world can enjoy and understand our culture, even though need a bit effort.


Posted by indonesiaculture | 9/17/2009 06:37:00 PM | | 0 comments »

Officially, Indonesia has 2 seasons; dry season and rain season. Dry season is usually in April until September and Rain season is in October until February. But, due to global warming our seasons now have changed, cannot well predicted as previously.

As a joke, we also have other many seasons here such as durian season, mango season, banana season, pineapple season, etc. Don’t be mixed. It is not talking about natural season, but fruit season. For you info, in our country, fruit is still farmed traditionally therefore fruit cannot be produced along a year depend on its fertilization. For instance, durian is produced during November until March. Different fruit has different periods.

Seasons is very influencing the life-style in Indonesia, including their cultural life. As info, Indonesia is agricultural country since most of citizen work as farmer. Long time ago when agriculture is performed traditionally, our people only work during rain season. During dry season, the people will be more creative to produce culture as well as dance, song, music or traditions ceremonies.

Most of Indonesia culture is affected by agricultural. You will know the legend of Dewi Sri here to express our appreciation to God who gives us rice as source of food. I will write about this later.
Since the most area of Indonesia is sea, and very affected by seasons, cultural among people which stay in beach area is also affected by sea and season. You will know the legend of Nyi Roro Kidul who believed by most of Java people as queen of India Ocean. I also will write about this in next opportunity.