The Aur Kuning villagers living in the Kampar Kiri Hulu district of Riau hold an annual fishing festival called Mancokau along the Subayang River. The festival is a form of natural conservation education practiced by residents beside the river. The Aur Kuning village recently had the opportunity to organize the festival, which starts with the act of opening the lubuk larangan (forbidden pool).
The village elders are the ones who mark which part of the river is the lubuk larangan. This part of the river, which teems with fish, is only allowed to be trawled on the day of the festival.
The Mancokau ritual begins as the river is embanked with nets, wood and stones to prevent fish in the confined area from escaping. It is followed by prayers for the opening of the lubuk larangan and the village elders cruise down the river aboard a piyau (small boat) to spread a net and catch the first fish as an offering.
The first fish caught is split into two; one half is returned to the river and the other thrown on land.
“The part returned to the river is a token of honor to nature and the ancestors, while the other put on land and consumed represents our gratitude for what nature bestows on us,” Aur Kuning village head Damri said.
While the elders fish, the region’s traditional music made with calempong (small gongs), drums and large gongs plays as local people watch from the riverbanks. Only after the first fish is caught and sacrificed are the villagers permitted to take part in a fishing spree with nets or other devices.
Some of the fish they harvest are collected to be cooked and relished together, while the remainder are auctioned off to pay for village development. Until the coming year, the river area is prohibited by local custom from being fished, pending the arrival of the next Mancokau ceremony.