Hoping to attract more local and foreign tourists, this year’s Erau International Folklore and Art Festival will invite representatives from 12 foreign countries to take part in the event, which will be held in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan.
Kutai Kartanegara Regent Rita Widyasari said that the organizer had teamed up with UNESCO’s International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF) to hold the annual event in Tenggarong, the regency’s capital, from June 30 through July 7.
“This year, we will cooperate with CIOFF so there will be a total of 250 representatives from 12 countries that will take part in the festival,” she said during the festival preview at the Erasmus Huis in Central Jakarta on Thursday.
She said that the representatives would come from Togo, Thailand, Taiwan, Egypt, Belgium, Canada, The Czech Republic, Greece, France, India, Russia, and South Korea.
Besides featuring traditional Erau ceremonies as a main event, the festival will also feature world-class art exhibitions, traditional sports competitions, traditional markets and various street performances.
Sri Wahyuni, the agency’s head, said that the administration expected that the festival would prompt more tourists to the regency to see the cultural richness of the region.
“We are optimistic that we will see more tourists come. With the participation of foreign representatives, we hope they can spread information about the festival so more tourists can come,” she said.
Although the agency had no records of festival visitor numbers in previous years, Sri said that the festival had been successful enough in attracting people.
“The city of Tenggarong is quite empty, but during the festival, it is usually crowded with people coming from other cities to watch it,” she said.
Apart from tourists, she added, royal family members from other sultanates also attended the ceremonies.
Other than in Jakarta, the Kutai Kartanegara regency administration has been promoting the festival in Bali and will take part in an event in Yogyakarta next month to attract more local tourists to the festival.
Erau is derived from the Kutai local dialect Eroh. The ritual is a glorious, merry communal celebration, conducted by the sultanate in conjunction with a particular event.
According to Kutai’s culture and tourism agency, the Kutai Kartanegara sultanate conducts three separate Erau ceremonies. First, the Erau Tepong Tawar is conducted by the court for a particular purpose, where the sultan’s actions are not bound by a protocol known as Tuhing, or the prohibition against stepping on the ground during the ceremony.
Second is the Erau Pelas Tahun that is conducted by the court for the community with the aim of banishing all disruptions and disturbance of life within the sultanate. The third is the Erau Beredar di Kutai. The ritual is carried out by royal family members and relatives on the occasion of coronations, inauguration, accessions and all matters related to the monarch in the kingdom.
The Erau ceremony itself has been around since the 16th century, but since the end of the sultanate era in 1960s, when Kutai Kartanegara changed into the Kutai Kartanegara Special Region and now Kutai Kartanegara regency, the Erau celebration was not observed
In 1970, under then regent Achmad Dahlan, the ceremony was revived and has since been celebrated during the regency’s anniversary every September.
“It was not a complete ritual because there wasn’t any sultan during that period of time,” Sri said.
When the Kutai Kartanegara sultanate was revived in 2002, the Erau celebration became a complete ritual again, just as it was in the past.
Sri said that in 2009, the administration moved the annual festival from September to around June and July, in line with the holiday season in the country.
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