Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lindu Earthquake

Some of you might already know about this, but I’d like to let you all know about the earthquake that happened here on Saturday (8/18).  USGS measured it as a 6.3, but where we were in the city (about 35 miles north of the epicenter) it didn’t feel too strong.  We haven’t seen any damage or heard of any injuries here.  However, down in the remote community where the epicenter was things are much worse.  So far we know that at least 6 people died, with many more seriously injured.  So far at least 6 have been airlifted out to the local hospital.

The epicenter was right in the middle of a remote national park with no phone reception and no roads, so the disaster response was somewhat delayed.  Thankfully the government and Red Cross have been getting aid into the affected villages, but without a helicopter it is a 3 hour hike in past the landslides.  I and some others drove down with a carload of food and supplies, and it turns out we arrived just as the helicopter (from another organization in town) was arriving. 

I was impressed by the response I saw while I was down there, but we’re starting to think ahead to the ongoing needs of people there in the weeks and months to come after the earthquake is old news.  Although this isn’t in the area of our people group, some of our coworkers are working in the area and we’d like to help out if we can.  Right now we’re still assessing things and finding out what is needed, but if there is anything that could help we’ll let you all know.  For now, here’s some pictures that a local translation worker from Lindu took.

Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna2Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna1Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna3Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna4Kondisi jln sehari stlh bncna5

Here’s a few pictures I took of the helicopter airlifting the supplies.  A friend of ours is the pilot:

2012-08-21 08.13.392012-08-21 08.11.442012-08-21 08.10.13

Some of the supplies, and some fuel drums for the helicopter in the foreground.  The clover-shaped patch on peoples’ shirts with a red cross in it is the local Red Cross symbol.

2012-08-21 07.59.38

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.


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Filed under Relief and Aid

Mopopoadat–At the River

This is the next blog post in my series about the recent cultural event I documented.  The first blog post gave a photographic overview, the second highlighted the traditional martial arts here, the third was about kayori singing, and this fourth post will explain the next portion of the mopopoadat ceremony that takes place at a nearby river.

After the participants and leaders sing kayori all night long (as detailed in my pervious blog post), they are able to rest for a few minutes before the next event begins – going down to the river.  The “initiates” (for lack of a better term that’s what I’m calling them for now) are traditionally not allowed to touch the ground at all, except for the special designated area during kayori.  As they leave the ceremonial home, they are carried on the shoulders of their family and friends for the journey down to the river. 

Once we got there, it took quite a while to get all 89 participants set up and ready to go.  They ended up doing everything in shifts since there were too many initiates to do everyone in one batch.  You’ll see all this in the video but I’ll give a quick summary of what takes place here so you’ll know what you’re watching:

  1. All the initiates kneel or sit in the shallow river.  A cultural leader scoops up a pail of water, blows on it, and then sprinkles it on the initiates all the way down the line.
  2. A cultural leader takes a husked coconut and splits it over the initiate’s head using the back (blunt) side of a machete.  The coconut water pours over the initiate.
  3. The leader then tosses the two halves of the coconut into the river behind the initiate.  How the halves land is said to predict the length of the initiate’s life, but only the leader knows what it means and the information is never shared with anyone.
  4. The parents or supporting relatives scoop out some of the coconut flesh and scrub it all over the neck and face of the initiate.
  5. The initiates bathe and wash all the coconut off.

After this it takes a while for everyone to get back into their nice clothes and back on people’s shoulders, but once they are ready the procession back to the village begins.  Along the way, another interesting thing happens:  they are met by an “enemy.”  A guard and the enemy mock fight in front of the procession for a while, and eventually the enemy is defeated and the procession is able to return to the ceremonial house.  The initiates march around the house three times before being allowed to enter. 

I was very thankful to have a good tripod with me to keep the video stable, especially since I was walking around in the river for much of the shooting. Also thankful my tripod has a built in level!  Here’s my setup:


Here’s the video (about 7 minutes long, and I just couldn’t get it any shorter!):

Acara di sungai


I have piles of questions I need to ask just about this one portion of the mopopoadat ceremony.  Given the focus of our work, I specifically need to ask about some of the possibly animistic beliefs that still exist behind some of these practices.  There is a wealth of deep symbolism and meaning here that I would hate to see lost but we always must be careful in how we apply what we learn about a culture. Many more questions need to be asked so we can find what is appropriate and useable and what isn’t; this is why research is such an essential part of our work!  If we just start encouraging things to be used without asking questions first, we could do more harm than good.

Most of all, I was excited to see a traditional ceremony like this when I have been repeatedly told for the past 2 years that this culture is mostly lost and doesn’t matter to anyone anymore.  I would say the crowd that turned up for this mopopoadat is evidence to the contrary. 

About the questions: I like to be open in our research, so I’ll post a partial list of the questions I have after observing this event.  Feel free to post more questions in the comments if you see other things I should be asking about!

  • Why do initiates step on axe head and then 2 leaves?  
  • What kind of leaves are they, and what are they for?
  • What does the axe head mean?
  • Why must they step on it with their right foot?
  • How is the river and/or spot in the river chosen for the ceremony?
  • Why does the cultural leader blow on the water?
  • Does he say anything when he does it?
  • Why split a coconut over each person’s head?  What does it mean?
  • Why smear each person with coconut flesh, and what does that mean?
  • Who is allowed to smear the person with coconut?
  • What is the significance of throwing the two halves of the coconut into the water? 
  • Does how they land mean something?
  • Why march around the house 3 times? Someone told me it could be 7 times.
  • Meeting an enemy – who/what is he, and who/what challenges him?
  • What does that battle symbolize?
  • Why does it take place on the way back from the river?
  • What are their weapons and shields?  What kinds of branches are those and what does that mean?
  • On the trip to and from river, should participants not touch the ground?  Why were some allowed to walk when most were carried?

Okay, and…. GO! Please feel free to share your thoughts!


Filed under Ethnoarts, language/culture


Recently I (Matt) had the opportunity to attend and document a huge cultural ceremony with the people group we work with, called mopopoadat.  I’ve already posted a photographic overview of the whole ceremony and a few videos of a local martial arts tradition that serves as entertainment during the rest breaks, and now I’d like to continue by posting a video of Kayori singing.  This singing while processing/dancing in a circle lies at the heart of this ceremony, and I’m told that mopopoadat absolutely can’t be done without it.  I have recorded a slightly different version some of these songs once before, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see kayori in the context of the ceremony.  I don’t yet have a translation of all the words, but generally speaking the singers are reciting the cultural “laws” (hukum adat) to the participants so they can learn and understand it.  After going through the mopopoadat ceremony the participants are considered to be under the cultural law and must abide by its rules and regulations. 

This singing starts at sundown (about 6:15pm here), goes until dawn the next day (about 6:00am), and the participants continue to process in a circle as the leaders sing all night with only short breaks to rest their legs.  This video is only 4 1/2 minutes long; I decided to be kind to you all and just pick a few highlights!

There is so much more for me to learn about this especially since it lies at the heart of this culture.  I was very thankful to have a good shotgun mic on my video camera, otherwise with the noise of the crowd I never could have picked up the singing.  Shotgun mics are amazing tools; without my headphones on I couldn’t hear the singing at all, but when I put them on it was as if I was just a few feet away.  I’m hoping for an opportunity to meet with the singers again and get a better quality audio recording of just the singing.

Pendau Kayori Singing

Something you might notice is that the singers appear to be off from each other; they aren’t singing together but rather some of them always sound “behind the beat.”  I’ve only had the chance to record this singing on two occasions, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that this “echo” effect happened both times.  We still have a lot to learn about the arts here!


Filed under Ethnoarts, Research


Here’s the first of many installments from my recent field recording session of Mopopoadat.  These videos show a type of martial arts they perform here; it’s almost a dance since they don’t seem to strike each other.  The first video shows several different men performing by themselves, and the second video is two men “fighting” each other.  I still have lots of questions about all of this!  Because of some unrest in the area, I had to leave immediately after the ceremony and was unable to stay and ask questions.  I’m hoping to be able to head back there in the next few weeks for some Q&A. 

Without further ado, here’s the videos:

Silat #1
Silat #2


Sorry for the low quality of the videos.  There’s a few reasons for that:

1. I recorded in 1080p 60i 30fps AVCHD at 17Mbps, but with our internet connection here I just can’t upload large videos of that quality.  I was only able to upload at 8Mbps 720p, and I don’t know what YouTube displays it at.

2. Lighting: The first video was shot in the middle of the night, so there is some graininess from the low light that just can’t be avoided.  The second video was shot under a bright orange tarp, which gives everything a unique orang-ish tint.

Here’s some of the questions I have about this event:

  • Where did this come from?  Is it unique to this people group or common to the area?
  • What is the meaning of the bowing at the beginning?
  • Why do they never kick up high and raise their feet (one person, not pictured, did so but the announcer apologized for it afterwards)
  • Was/is this ever used in real combat, or has it always been a performance?
  • Is it always accompanied by music, and if so is it always the same as this?
  • Do only men perform this, or can women do it as well?
  • Is there any significance to some of the various hand gestures or positions?
  • Is there a religious significance to the performance?
  • Who is allowed to learn and perform this?
  • and many, many more…

If you all think of questions I should be asking that aren’t listed here, let me know in the comments!  More videos to come soon from other parts of this huge cultural event.


Filed under Ethnoarts