The Jakarta Post
Karia’a means cheerfulness in the local language of Kaledupa, Wakatobi, in Southeast Sulawesi. It is also an annual Wakatobi ritual held to mark early teenagers’ entry into adolescence.
The Karia’a procession for young girls serves as a means of inculcating ethical, moral and spiritual values among youngsters entering adolescence. Families joining Karia’a register their girls by delivering agricultural produce like corn, tubers and coconuts, as determined by the local customary body called Sara, to symbolize their gratitude and respect for ancestors.
Before the peak of the ceremony called Henauka Nu Mo’ane, female Karia’a participants are confined and accompanied by traditional songs for more than two weeks, during which they are required to face left while sleeping for eight nights and then face right for nine nights. Every day they have to tell their dreams to customary leaders who interpret them for their future lives.
In the morning before the Henauka Nu Mo’ane parade, the Karia’a girls are dressed in Lariangi attire and carried by sedan chairs called Kasonda’a to the place of celebration known as Batanga. Along the way their families and relatives yell “Lego!”, meaning new or not something borrowed, as a manifestation of joy and pride.
At the celebration site, the Henauka Nu Mo’ane participants sit on chairs lined with pillows to show respect while waiting for Sara to give them blessings by smearing turmeric on their arms and feet to ward off evil spirits. Following the procession, the participants perform the Lariangi dance while singing verses in the Kaledupa language that contain advice and guidance.
Women have a sacred position in the Kaledupa tradition. As mothers in the center of families, women are seen as playing a vital role in bringing up and protecting their children. By preserving Karia’a and bequeathing it to the younger generation, the moral and spiritual values of Kaledupa will be a cultural treasure amid the inevitable waves of modernization and globalization today.
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