Residents of Wates village in Majalengka, West Java, performed their annual tradition of carrying stilt houses on Aug. 16.
In 1942, Japan occupied Majalengka and demolished nine villages in order to build an airplane runway. The people of Wates then decided to move. Along with all of the residents, at least 20 stilt houses were carried to Reusing village, 3 kilometers to the south.
Zaenal Abidin, now 82 years old, is the only living witness of the time. He told The Jakarta Post that the move was voluntary. He also said that the runway was built by romusha (forced labor) from Majalengka, Cirebon, Kuningan and Indramayu.
After Japan surrendered, residents of Wates returned to their land along with the stilt houses. But not long after they arrived, the Indonesian Army came and put pegs in their village, claiming over half of the 10.5-hectare plot of land.
Land conflict continues to this day. Residents of Wates are without land certificates and are still fighting for their rights.
dome placed in the center of the museum covers a certificate. The certificate was issued by the Land Research Agency as a form of cultural ownership as residents have yet to acquire certificates from the state.
The Creative Economy Agency [Bekraf] picked Majalengka as one of the creative towns in Indonesia within the performing arts subsector. The Majalengka administration responded by declaring Jatiwangi a terracotta city, with Wakare Museum as the first building and cultural symbol.
In early February, the Architecture Department of Pelita Harapan University held an excursion to nonprofit organization Jatiwangi Art Factory, located beside the village. Along with the residents, they agreed to build the Wakare Museum to honor the village’s history.
Wakare means farewell in Japanese.
Made from terracotta, the museum is shaped like two rings united, as a symbol of the people’s mutual efforts. The tradition of carrying homes is told through a mosaic, while the residents’ genealogy is on another.
“This is our statement as residents who are yet to enjoy freedom in this country,” said Zaenal. (wng)