My first visit to Papua, back at the end of 2012, was to Sorong and Raja Ampat. I was amazed by the beauty of the nature, the friendliness of the people and the diversity of the wildlife. Last week, when my flight was about to land at Sentani Airport, Jayapura, that feeling came back. Sentani Lake looked calm and hypnotizing from above.
Allow me to explain a bit about Papua. Some of you might more familiar with Papua New Guinea. The country makes up half of the island. The other half is Indonesian. And it’s big… Papua is the world’s second largest island. Many people still refer to Papua as Irian Jaya. During the Dutch colonial era the region was known as “Dutch New Guinea.” In 1973 it was renamed renamed “Irian Jaya” (roughly translated, “Glorious Irian”) by the Suharto administration. Whatever you do call it, the Indonesian half consist of two provinces: Papua and West Papua.
I digress. I was coming to Papua to attend the Sentani Lake Festival. It’s a local celebration of culture from the people who live around the area. This was my opportunity to see what the local culture of Sentani was like. It was also my first chance to visit and explore the province of Papua (Raja Ampat is in West Papua).
The Sentani Lake Festival
This year, the Sentani Lake festival was held from June 19-23. It’s the eighth time the festival has been held and it’s an annual event. The first festival was held in 2008. The event actually takes place at Khalkote, East Sentani. It’s a mix of color, music, dancing, cultural parades, local craft fairs and food. The chance to see the culture of Papua excited me. I was looking forwards to the dances, seeing the traditional clothing and experiencing the island.
There were a lot of events held over those four days and there were plenty of memorable moments. The highlight was definitely the Isolo, the dance that was performed on boats on the lake. I think there were 5-6 boats with probably more than 100 dancers in total. I loved watching the dancers covered in white body paint applied in intricate designs.
I really wish that there were more boats and dancers on the lake. That would be super awesome. Nonetheless, Isolo was dazzling. It was also fun just seeing the dancers joking around, laughing together and chewing betel nut. It was a festive moment.
At the time, I was confused what I wanted to do. Should I just watch the dances and enjoy it, take photos or record a video? In the end I tried to do all three. I’m going to share some of those photos with you now and then later on hopefully create a video for you.
Giving the fact that this was my first time at the Sentani Lake Festival, I couldn’t help but ask some locals about the previous Sentani Lake festival. A local girl said that this years festival was a busier than the festival last year. So next years festival will probably be even better.
At the festival, I also had a light chat with some other locals who were visiting. They were mostly happy with the idea of the festival and enjoyed the festivities. It was a chance for local people to meet other local people from different villages and tribes. It was even a chance for some to learn about and see other Papuan cultures, which I thought was really great. Some of them also used the festival as an opportunity to meet with family that lived far away.
Now the festival was really special. Let me share with you some of the other activities that you can do around Sentani. Things that I found out about during the festival.
To see besides the Sentani Lake Festival
Abar village is located on the banks of Lake Sentani and is very famous with its pottery. Pottery in the village is still made in the traditional way. Though there is a move towards mechanisation.
Asei Island, one of 21 islands around Sentani Lake, is famous for its craft bark. A lady named Ance Kaigere demonstrated the process of preparing the bark for crafts. The wood used is usually wood Khombouw. The bark is cut and peeled from the trunk of the tree by banging the timber and skinning it slowly. After that the bark is soaked, pounded and dried. The end result is a beautiful piece of bark that can be painted and used as a decoration.
I hope that this festival will continue to grow. That there are more tribes who perform at the event and show their culture to the world. It would also be great if more people come to visit Papua and enjoy the festival.
So final thoughts… The culture and its people made me fall even more in love with this island. Papua has a very rich culture and the Sentani Lake Festival is just a tiny bit part of it. Papuan people are very direct and undeniably kind and friendly. Though for me the nature still holds the crown, but Papua is definitely a must visit place if you love nature, culture and local people.
Do you love cultural festivals? If you do, what is the best thing about a festival in your opinion? Or what is the best cultural festival you ever attended?
Feel free to check out other articles about Sentani or Sentani Lake Festival by #PesonaSentani team (in random order):
Tarian Isosolo di Festival Danau Sentani 2015 by Wira Nurmansyah
Onomi Fokha Sentani by Tekno Bolang
Pesona Festival Danau Sentani 2015 by Yuki Anggia
If you are interested in booking accommodation for your holiday in Papua Province I recommend Airbnb. Book through this link to receive a special $25 discount. For hotel bookings I recommend Agoda for its low price and discounts.