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, the fourth post explained the events at a nearby river, and this post finishes up the series.
After returning from the river and gathering in the ceremonial house, the participants are required to do a few more things. First, before leaving the home they look into a pail of water with a branch (buah pinang, but a young branch with no fruit) and some dry rice (beras) floating on top. They look into the water with their eyes open, and they are asked by the leader if they can see a certain species of fish. The correct answer is “yes.” However, there is more to this story than I yet know. That particular species of fish is, as far as they know, only found in one lake up north of where we are. They apparently used to live in that area but no longer do. This question now seems to be mostly for the sake of tradition, but it is rooted in old beliefs and meanings that now appear to be lost. Perhaps this fish had some sort of significance? Or maybe it was just a species unique to their local lake and a source of pride? So many questions still…
Here’s a short video of this part:
After each initiate looked into the water and answered the question, they all returned to the house for teeth filing.
(Those of you who are squeamish, stop here)
It really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Each initiate lays down in front of the leader, and he uses a stone to make their upper front teeth level. They don’t file down to points or anything like that, and he didn’t file much off at all. This is a mark that shows you have been through the mopopoadat and are now a full member of the community. Here’s a short video:
After that was lunch, and the end! Due to some unrest in the area I had to leave immediately, but fortunately I was able to finish documenting everything. Sometimes circumcision would take place after the mopopoadat was finished, but I didn’t see that in this case and many boys are circumcised at a young age here, well before they participate in mopopoadat.
That’s it for now! I hope you all enjoyed following along with me through this event. As you can see, this is just a first glimpse into a rich cultural heritage and I still have a lot of work to do. There are many unanswered questions, and I’d like to document this event again so I can compare what happens. I’m hopeful that we can help them keep their traditions alive in a changing world, and help them reconcile their Christian identity (which is very Western) with their cultural identity so that going to church doesn’t mean leaving behind their language, identity, culture, and arts.