Strengthening Kinship With Bakar Batu Tradition

Every area usually has traditions that are considered as inseparable part of the community’s culture.  The tradition is usually in the form of collective activities carried out for a collective good by the people in the community. Such as the Bakar Batu tradition (burn the stones) in Papua. So what’s the ritual like?

bakar batu tradition
Bakar Batu Tradition in Papua. Via entertainment.merahputih.com

Initially, the tradition was only about processing food and cooking activities by placing the food materials on a hot stone that’s previously burnt. Along the time, this tradition has more meanings added for a wider purpose. It’s not only an activity of cooking and feasting but has become a celebration of an event. Bakar batu has been used, for example, to commemorate or welcome something as a symbol of gratefulness, such as the birth of a newborn in a village or a wedding where many friends and family are invited. It can also serve a purpose of celebrating traditional wedding, inauguration of a head of village, and others.

Moreover, the bakar batu tradition is also used to reconcile tribes at war. It has become the means to unify Papua in peace, and also to greet visitors and guests that come to papua. This ritual is usually presented to tourists that come to Papua. In practice, and in social settings, the bakar batu tradition is not only about processing food and eating together, but also as a mean to strengthen relationship among the people in a village, between tribes, or even between cultures. In the end, bakar batu has become a tradition that conserves a lot of cultural values.

This tradition is also carried out by a lot of tribes in Papua, known in various names. For example, in Dani tribe in Obia village of Kurulu District, Wamena. The Dani tribe is one of the biggest tribes in Papua. They live in the mountain areas, differ from Asmat or Kamoro tribes that live on the coastal areas.

“These days, Bakar Batu has become a tourist attraction for visitors that come to Wamena,” said a local guide, Sakeus Dabi, as quoted from detik.com.

The bakar batu tradition is usually done by tribes in the inland or mountains, such as Baliem Valley, Paniai, Nabire, Pegunungan Tengah (Central Mountains), Bintang Mountains, Jayawijaya, Dekai, Yahukimo, and others. This tradition has many names, for instance the people of Paniai calls it Gapiia, the people of Wamena calls it Kit Oba Isogoa, while the Biak people knows it as Barapen. However, the most common term for this tradition is Barapen.

Technically, bakar batu is done by  burning the stones in several piles. As quoted from wikipedia. the burning of the stones can be done in several stages, which are:

  1. Stones are being piled on the fireplace and burnt until the fire woods are used up and the stones become hot (sometimes, even until flaming red).
  1. Meanwhile, others dig a deep hole.
  1. The hot stones are then being placed inside the hole, where the bottom has already been covered with banana leaves and grasslands.
  1. On top of the hot stones, chopped pork meats are piled on top of banana leaves.
  1. The pork meats are covered with banana leaves and more hot stones are being piled, then covered it yet again with banana leaves.
  1. On top of the leaves, they put sweet potatoes (batatas), cassavas (hipere) and other vegetables, then cover it with more leaves.
  1. On top of the leaves on the highest layer, more hot stones are piled and then lastly, covered with banana leaves and grasslands. When everything is cooked and ready, the people would gather to eat the feast together.

 

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