The Uniqueness of Biak Heritage

Biak is a town in a small island with the same name, Biak. This small island is located in Cendrawasih Bay near the northern coast of Papua and on the northwest of Papua Guinea. At the beginning, there is a myth that Biak was named after the Burdan tribe moved away from the island of Warmambo Island (the original name of Biak island) after having arguments with the Mandowen tribe. The legend said that while the people of Burdan tribe were moving away from the Warmambo island, they keep turning their head to the back while they screamed “V`iak”, which means “will be back”. They named it Biak after since. Although it is a small island, Biak heritage has many uniqueness.

Recently, Biak has received national certifications for intangible cultures from the Ministry of Education and Culture for Wor Dance and Aker (Traditional Fishing Method). This national certification for intangible culture is meant to preserve the authenticity of Biak cultures as a national heritage. As cited from, The Chairman of the Regional Arts Council said that “the Biak art council will be the front line in preserving the authenticity of the original culture of Biak indigenous people”.

The Wor dance originated from Biak and it means the dancing and singing of poetic lyrics. There are many kinds of Wor dance and it’s performed on special occasions or ceremonies. In Wor dance, the people are dancing to the rhythm that’s coming from the beat of the Tifa (traditional music instrument from East of Indonesia, especially Papua and Maluku). It is danced by a group of people or even by the entire people who live in a village. The Wor dance is danced in different occasions with different purposes. Some of those events and purposes are:

  1. A festival to predict the sex of the fetus using coconut.
  2. Munara Sababu, known as Wor Sababu, the introduction of nature to the children at a very young age.
  3. A feast for children age 6-7 years, symbolized with ears and nose piercings.
  4. A coming of age celebration for someone that has stepped in to adolescence.
  5. A party to signify that a person has just entered adulthood.
  6. A party to propose a prospective bride.
  7. A man is ready to present a dowry. The dowry is shaped like a plate, which are white iron rings (Sarak).
  8. A groom delivers gifts to the bride.
  9. At the wedding ceremony from the bride’s side, where the bride ushers the groom.

Wor dance also has a message of peace for the tribes in Biak. Today, Wor Dance is hard to find, since it needs a lot of preparation and a big budget.

The Uniqueness of Biak Heritages
A festival to predict the sex of the fetus via Kompas.Susi Ivvaty

The Biak tribes also wander and live in other islands in Papua from Supiori, Numfor, Padaido, Rani, Insumbabi, Meosbefandi, Ayau, Mapia, Doreri, Manokwari, Ransiki, Oransbari, Nuni, Bird’s Head Seascape to Sorong, and other islands and islands in Raja Ampat. Besides living as farmers, many of them work as fishermen.

As fishermen, Biak tribes have a famous traditional fishing technique called Aker or Safsaker. This fishing technique has been used by generations to generations to give education about natural sustainability. It also has an important intention, which is to avoid illegal fishing.

The Uniqueness of Biak Heritages
Aker via

Aker is a method of piling stones which functions as a trap to catch the fishes. Before building an Aker, there should be an observation around the coastal environment concerning its structure and the places where fishes schooled during a tide. Aker should be built close to the mangrove forest and the stones should be available around the site. The Aker and observation should be done by the expert called Mamfakir. After the Mamfakir is done with the observation, he will discuss it with the traditional leaders.

Aker has a strong social function for Biak people. Besides nurturing the patience of the people in the community, it is believed that it can also make them more intelligent. The people of Biak suggested that when they consume more fish, their intelligence will improve – whether in mind and in action. It is also a way to strengthen the relationship in their communities by working together in making the Aker.


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