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Jakarta Post

‘Tungguk tembakau’ ritual

Tue, September 20, 2016   /   09:40 am
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    A tobacco plantation in the foothills of Mt. Merbabu in Senden village, Selo district, Boyolali regency. The wet dry season has caused the harvesting season to be postponed almost a month. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    Residents of Senden village, Selo, Boyolali, feast together and hold a traditional ceremony before harvesting tobacco. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    Farmers in Boyolali carry a small pile of tobacco leaves to be symbolically blessed before the harvesting process. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    Farmers and villagers feast together in Boyolali and pray for a good harvest and good prices. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    Two prominent figures pray before the start of the harvesting process. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    Offerings symbolize welfare as a result of the plantation. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    A big, green tobacco leaf is a symbol of the great harvest this year. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

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    The leaves from the bottom part of the plants will not be chopped and will be sold at a cheaper price of about Rp 10,000 per kilogram. JP/Alb Magnus Kus Hendratmo

The erratic weather has tobacco farmers in Boyolali, Central Java, worried. July should have still been a dry season, but rain started pouring and when it is wet, their harvests could fail. The tobacco leaves grown on the foot of Mt. Merbabu would be too wet for harvest if the rain continues.

But a glimmer of hope appeared when several days went by without any rain. They decided to hold “tungguk tembakau,” which means tobacco picking, on Aug. 3, to send thanks to God for the beginning of harvest season in Senden village, Selo district.

Tungguk tembakau has been a tradition through generations, but for the first time in August, it gave new meaning. The ritual, meant to be an individual one, instead had farmers and villagers presenting local performances with messages rooted in local wisdom.

A mountain of tobacco leaves was paraded and carried to the graves of ancestors and the farmers feasted together while hoping for a good harvest that would fetch a good price. The farmers worried that the wet dry season would affect the quality of the tobacco.

“I hope the tobacco prices don’t drop,” Ngatinem said. Last harvest season, she said, tobacco dried leaves were sold at Rp 16,000 (US$1.21) per kilogram and dried chopped leaves at Rp 80,000. [evi]