National

Lake Sentani plans festival
to bridge gap

Want to know how Papuan “female divers” smoke while diving, or how to call a crocodile out of a river by whistling, or any of the other unique local wisdom of the Sentani people?

Then don’t miss the Lake Sentani Festival, Jayapura Regent Habel Melkias Suwae says.

Delivering his address at the opening of a Sentani photo exhibition here Friday, Habel said the festival, the third such festival since 2008, would be held from July 19 to 23 this year, and was
targeting not only to attract more foreign and domestic tourists to the regency, but also to improve ties between Papua and Indonesia’s other provinces and peoples.

“Ethnically we are different. You are part of the Melayu ethnicity, but we are Melanesian. However,
we are one in Indonesia. This festival is really a means to introduce Papuan people and our culture to you. We need to get to know each other better to strengthen our big national family and to build
mutual trust,” said Habel, wearing a Batik shirt.

The exhibition displayed hundreds of shots taken by freelance photographer Toni Sri, depicting the cultures and daily lives of 24 Papuan ethnic groups living around the lake. The exhibition was aimed to attract Jakartans to visit Papua during the upcoming festival. “Two eyes are not enough
to see and shoot the richness of Papuan culture and its beautiful panorama.”

Freelance writer Anto Dwiastoro also launched Doors to the Unknown: The story of Sentani in the Papuan regency of Jayapura, a book with photos, covering Papuan culture, environment and historical sites around Lake Sentani.

While the Lake Sentani Festival had cost Habel a lot to organize, he said he was proud of it and many other Papuan festivals.

The funding was peanuts in comparison to the cultural value and “political benefit” it had for the whole nation, he said.

“In 2008, the first festival attracted only around 2,000 foreign and domestic tourists, but the second brought in around 5,000. With the third we hope to see up to 10,000, because of the numerous pre-festival events both at home and overseas.”

Habel, a former elementary school teacher and local Golkar Party chairman, said that unlike other festivals, the Lake Sentani Festival would present guests with dance performances, local customs and antiques, as well as sightseeing tours to historical sites and a tourist village near the lake.

“We have prepared 1,500 dancers from 24 villages around the lake... while villagers have been prepared to accommodate guests in their own homes to show our sincere hospitality,” he said.

Festival promotions manager Mian Simanjuntak said his team was working to promote the festival through hotel associations and airlines, both at home and abroad, at cultural events in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Europe and the US.

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