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Jakarta Post

Papuan mountain tribes keep ‘roasting stone’ tradition alive

Tue, January 17, 2017   /   10:19 am
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    Male villagers prepare to hang up dead pigs to clean them. They usually clean them by burning dry leaves and smoking the pig to remove the fur and dirt. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Women, colloquially called “mama mama” in Papuan, peel off tubers. The tubers will be cooked with hot stones too. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Villagers collect banana leaves for the bed of leaves in the hot stone cooking process or to wrap food. Besides banana leaves, villagers also use grass and other leaves. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Residents, young and old, also collect stones to be used in the bakar batu [roasting stone] ritual. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    The stones and leaves are arranged to make the cooking perfect. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    A villager walks past the hot stones. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Men move stones with bamboo sticks. They usually bring the stones while running and singing. The women arrange the hot stones in the hole. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Various tubers are arranged for cooking. The tribes believe that one of the indications that one is a mature adult is the skill to cook the tuber perfectly. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

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    Meat, tubers and vegetables from the forest are arranged on the hot stones. The topmost layer of the arrangement consist of hot stones wrapped in leaves. JP/ Vembri Waluyas

The tradition of roasting pork on stones is an important ritual for tribes living in Papua’s Pegunungan Tengah, or Middle Mountains, like the Dani, Amungme, Lani, Nduga, Moni, Damal and Mee tribes. The bakar batu [roasting stone] ritual is held when the tribes welcome important guests to their villages, engage in a collective prayer before some major work or celebrate a birth or wedding. It can also accompany the inauguration of a village head.

The rite begins with slaughtering a pig and preparing the stones by placing them in fire, sometimes until they turn red. Besides pork, people also cook tubers and vegetables on the stones, which are arranged in a way to ensure the heat is evenly spread.

Bakar batu is done by heating the stones with wood in several piles.

The hot stones are then placed inside a hole, the bottom of which is covered with banana leaves and grass.

The chopped pork is placed on banana leaves on top of the hot stones, then covered with banana leaves, followed by second layer of hot stones, again covered with banana leaves.

This serves to cook sweet potato, cassava and other vegetables, which are covered with yet more leaves and another layer of stones to provide heat from above, covered with with banana leaves and grass.

When everything is cooked and ready, the people gather around for the feast. 

Every villager takes part in the ritual from the planning until the event itself. Each also volunteers something for bakar batu from the pig itself to the wood or the vegetables.

Togetherness is what makes bakar batu a special occasion for the villagers. [evi]