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):
The location. Participants would be dancing/processing in a circle under this tent sundown to sunup.
Building the stage and putting up the tarpaulins.
Rattan is strong stuff!
And of course, lots of food.
Singing the kayori songs that explain the traditional cultural laws.
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.
Some of the younger ones taking a rest break.
And around and around and around….until dawn. (Yes, they do take a few rest breaks, but they aren’t allowed to sleep)
Dawn! Everyone gets to rest for a bit and the stage is clear for the first time in 12 hours.
2 drums and a gong used for all the music.
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.
Marching down to the river.
Lined up in the river, ready to begin.
And the only place for my tripod was in the river. You never know what the situation will be!
First, the leaders blow on some water and pour it over everyone’s heads (lots of questions here)
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)
Then each person is smeared with coconut flesh. (more questions) And then they get to rinse off and return to the river bank.
A view of everyone gathered down at the river.
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.
Participants are carried back; after bathing in the river they aren’t allowed to touch the ground.
They are carefully lowered into the house.
Before leaving the house, participants look into a bucket full of water, dry rice, and a branch (more questions).
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).
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!