This week the Southeast Sulawesi port city of Bau-Bau hosted the biannual Festival Kraton Nusantara.
To kick off the event, young ladies of the one-time Butonese kingdom of Wolio welcomed the 60 plus visiting royal families last Saturday with a traditional feast called pekakandekanden, meaning “eat and eat” in the local dialect.
And the row upon row of picnic blankets laid deep in platters of traditional Butonese dishes including curried crab and eggs, sweet onde-onde and lapapa (red and white rice steamed in banana leaves) were invitation enough to join in the celebration.
As per Butonese tradition, the ladies, dressed in chiffon, velvet and silk, served the grand homemade buffets free of charge with the condition that they hand-feed the first bite to each diner.
Begun in 1997, Festival Kraton Nusantara brings together royalty from across the Indonesian archipelago every two years to celebrate traditional arts and culture.
This year, the event drew over 60 sultans and rajas from Sumatra to West Papua. With the royal entourages came dancers, musicians and craftsmen who demonstrated the richness of Indonesia’s traditions.
After the pekakandekanden of the first night, the following three days in Bau-Bau served as cultural showcases of craft, dance and cuisine from all over Indonesia.
On Sunday, the gathered royalty proceeded from the historic kraton down to a newly reclaimed beachfront area where performances, dancing and musical performances commenced.
Monday was reserved for Indonesia’s rich cuisines, and on Tuesday festival organizers selected the host for the festival in 2014.
While many may consider Indonesia’s monarchial period now a part of history, some of the gathered royalty were quick to point out that this was not just a pageant of the arts.
As 22-year-old Princess Ratu Nur Alya Roza Syahoeri from Kanoman Keraton of Cirebon remarked, “With the festival, we are tightening the bonds between palaces, families … Indonesians.”
— Photos by Brian Orland and Melati Kaye