Tag Archives: mopopoadat

Research and Papers

A few days ago, I (Matt) did something I have never done before.  I wrote a 21 page paper documenting all my observations, research, and musical analysis of the mopopoadat ceremony you’ve been hearing about if you follow this blog.  Today I sat down and thought about it, and I realized this is the first time I’ve written a paper like this outside the classroom and I actually enjoyed it.  It makes a difference when I care about the topic!

Although it may not seem like writing papers would be part of our job, it’s important for several reasons.  First, we need to document what we see for future generations.  In this case it isn’t just research for the sake of research, but rather preserving a moment in time for this culture.  I’m thinking about writing some of our research up in Indonesian to make it more accessible to people here (maybe even translating this paper).  Second, if we don’t do thorough research to understand the arts here how can we possibly expect to help? 

If there’s any of you out there that are true academia/ethnomusicology nerds, I’m going to put a link to the paper at the end of this post.  I know that about 99.9% of you aren’t interested in reading something like that, but on the random chance that someone is I’m including it. 

Something I’ve been considering for a long time is how to make all my research open.  I’m still working on the best way to do this, but I’d like to publish anything I write and any media we record on the web, freely accessible to all.  Academic journals and the like are excellent “gatekeepers” to ensure that published research is well done and reputable, but I don’t like the difficulty it can present when regular people want to access it.  Ideally if I publish any research it would be in a reputable journal in our field but I would like to find some way to make it easily available too.  Enough about this topic; it’s best saved for another time and I digress…

As we record performances and talk to people, we are always asking their permission to use what we record for research and to help the Pendau people, and we commit that nothing will ever be sold for profit.  This is a very important part of our research as it removes so much suspicion about motives and gives us the freedom to share with the outside world the amazing and unique things we see here. 

For now, I’m just “publishing” this paper via Google Docs, but who knows what I’ll do with it in the future.  Here’s the link for that 0.01% of you who are interested:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1QqfpvpCZ-pzAjhkzA1tLeCkgeHQsmtu72QyA4wX0ZkQ

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Mopopoadat– Teeth Filing etc.

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.

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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:

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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!

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Kayori

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!

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Silat

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.

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Mopopoadat

About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend and document a huge ceremony for the people group we work with here.  This event is central to their identity and holds a lot of meaning, so I was excited to be invited and asked to record and document the entire thing.  It was long: we started at about 6pm and went until about 12pm the next day or about 18 hours nonstop.  Needless to say, I was pretty tired after not much sleep and working almost constantly!

I took over 1,200 photos and almost 4 hours of video (34.5 GB total!) so I’ll be processing all that media for quite a while.  The plan is for me to give the local leaders everything I recorded, organized into a sort of documentary to give them a tool for teaching future generations about their culture and ceremonies. 

Because I don’t want to wait months until everything is processed to finally post about this, I’ve decided to give you all a few photos of each part of the event.  Hopefully sometime soon I’ll have a chance to condense it down to some short videos to post on the blog. I don’t think we’ll try to tackle this one with just one blog post; rather I’ll post bits and pieces over the next few months.

I learned so much about local culture during this event, and it’s still a bit overwhelming.  I’ll be following up and interviewing people about this for quite a while!  What was very exciting was to see so many parts of this culture still thriving and healthy in the midst of so much change and globalization.

So, here goes (caption is below each picture):

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The location. Participants would be dancing/processing in a circle under this tent sundown to sunup.

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Building the stage and putting up the tarpaulins.

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Rattan is strong stuff!

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And of course, lots of food.

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Singing the kayori songs that explain the traditional cultural laws.

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And then all the participants join in the kayori, processing in a circle with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front.  89 participants total, and a few hundred spectators!  Most participants are children being “initiated” into the local culture, but the event is open to anyone who has never been through it before. The oldest participant was around 45.

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Some of the younger ones taking a rest break.

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And around and around and around….until dawn.  (Yes, they do take a few rest breaks, but they aren’t allowed to sleep)

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Dawn!  Everyone gets to rest for a bit and the stage is clear for the first time in 12 hours.

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2 drums and a gong used for all the music.

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Leaving the house to head down to the river. They step with their right foot on an axe-head and then step on the two leaves.  Lots of symbolism here, and I’ve still got lots of questions.

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Marching down to the river.

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Lined up in the river, ready to begin.

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And the only place for my tripod was in the river.  You never know what the situation will be!

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First, the leaders blow on some water and pour it over everyone’s heads (lots of questions here)

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Next, a coconut is split over each person’s head with a machete, and they are doused in coconut water. The two halves are tossed in the water; how they land supposedly tells you about the length of the person’s life. (more questions)

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Then each person is smeared with coconut flesh.  (more questions)  And then they get to rinse off and return to the river bank.

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A view of everyone gathered down at the river.

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Marching back to the village.  The procession is met by an “enemy” (back to the camera) who is successfully defeated so the group can return safely home. 

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Participants are carried back; after bathing in the river they aren’t allowed to touch the ground.

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They are carefully lowered into the house.

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Before leaving the house, participants look into a bucket full of water, dry rice, and a branch (more questions).

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For entertainment at various points, there were demonstrations of a local variety of martial arts (some great videos to follow in a different blog post).

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And the part to make everyone squeamish: teeth filing!  It’s not as bad as it looks, really.  No one cried, and they don’t really do much to the teeth; it’s mostly a formality nowadays.

And that’s the end!  There will be plenty more blog posts about all of this, especially since writing these up helps me process and analyze everything I’ve seen.  We hope you enjoy it!

Note: It was a public event, and all of this was documented by me at the community’s request.  I also had a chance to explain who I am and what I am here to do, and I obtained their permission to freely use all the media I recorded.  These things are important!

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