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A hope comes to light in the attempt to raise a treasured pearl into sight, recognized and understood, since countless potential are found within the gem. This place, situated in the easternmost part of Indonesia, enthralls whoever might go to see it. From the awe-inspiring ancient civilization highlighted on a megalithic rock, a natural landscape that hoard antiquities which had witnessed the war in the Pacific, to distinctive cultures and arts from various tribes inhabiting the area, and the exotic mountains, lake, and beaches, which may give a profound impression. Sentani with all its treasures is displayed here through images and words in order to add yet another tourist attraction that belongs to the Indonesian people.

Doors to the Unknown The Story of Sentani in the Jayapura Regency of Papua

Contents page


Message from the Regent of Jayapura page


Message from the Vice Regent of Jayapura page





A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Earliest Human Inhabitants Pacific Theater Wrecks NICA City page


NATURAL IN NATURE Birds of the Gods Home to Uncommon Fishes The Cyclops Mountains Getting Richer through Cocoa Coastline Offer page


TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN Village Life Sentani Languages Hard Work through Art Work Christian Influences Lake Crossings Underwater Smokers Psychoactive Chewing Stick onto the Plate The Magical Chief

Credit Title Data Contributors

Mr. Habel Melkias Suwae, the Regent of Jayapura Culture and Tourism Services of the Jayapura Regency Mr. Alex, Mr. Martinus, Mr. Alex R. Dusay, SH, Mr. Mian Simanjuntak, Mr. Yotham Yorgen Fonataba Texts

Anto Dwiastoro Photos

Toni Sri Pre-production

Faizal Riza Creative

Toni Sri Graphic Design




TSA Komunika

Message from the Regent of Jayapura

Jayapura is the gateway for whoever is going to visit other parts in Papua. Jayapura is the name of the city which is already recognizable to the Indonesian people, since it is the capital city of the Province of Papua.


But not too many are on familiar terms with the fact that Jayapura is also the name of a regency in the Province of Papua that covers nineteen districts. The prominent city of Jayapura is situated just north of this regency. Within this regency is positioned the Sentani Airport, which is the entry-point to the city of Jayapura. Airlines, big and small, which offer air transportation to and from various destinations throughout Papua as well as a number of cities in the Indonesian archipelago, take off from and land in this airport. This makes the Jayapura Regency suitable as the main destination for domestic and international tourists. Moreover, the regency possesses a landmark in the form of a huge and stunning lake named “Sentani”. In addition to the natural attraction which is one of the assets the Jayapura Regency has in its inventory, the area attracts many foreign sightseers coming from countries which were involved in the Second World War in the Pacific. They or whoever might be interested in history regularly visit Jayapura, taking a closer look and directly experience the remains of the war left behind by Allied as well as Japanese forces.

Culture and arts inscribe uniqueness in the lives of the indigenous people inhabiting areas within the Jayapura Regency. The uniqueness always invites wonder and more often than not also fosters curiosity, especially among those who visit Papua for the first time. The distinctiveness of culture and arts is since 2008 put on specifically and festively in an event staged at Lake Sentani shoreline, dubbed “Lake Sentani Festival”. The Jayapura Regency, especially the Sentani area and its lake, provides a number of doors ready to be opened. These doors will lead you to the fulfillment of your curiosity about Papua and simultaneously straightening up wrong perceptions as a result of misinformation. I hope that Doors to the Unknown will become your key to unlock those doors. Experience the genuine smile, laugh, and friendly gestures of the people of the Jayapura Regency when you start to open the pages of this book. Our hopes are high that this book will be very helpful in giving you new insights and trigger your wish to set your feet down in Papua. Lastly, to the individuals who have helped in bringing this book to fruition, I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude.

Sentani, June 2009


Message from the Vice Regent of Jayapura

We have never imagined that the Jayapura Regency will ever become like it is today: open to the outside world, participating in an international tourism exhibition, and visited by many people, domestic as well as from abroad. The crowd-puller is presumably the cultural and the natural potentials across the Jayapura Regency. We are grateful for these. All these will not come into being without intervention by the Almighty who created a masterpiece through His Hands, a place called Papua. Lake Sentani is one of the natural magnum opus God engraved in the Jayapura Regency. This vast and dazzling lake, besides being the life source for the indigenous people dwelling in the area, has also become the theme of an annual national and international tourism agenda, staged in a full five-day event dubbed “Lake Sentani Festival”. Through the festival, the Jayapura Regency gains the opportunity to present its artistic and cultural assets to the world. In addition to presenting traditional art and culture from twenty four villages in Sentani, the Lake Sentani Festival is also the meeting point and performing stage of specific arts from nineteen districts in the Jayapura Regency, as well as from other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. We at the Jayapura Regency are blessed with the regency’s geographical and historical background, which make Sentani the gateway to other parts of the Province of Papua. This fact makes the Jayapura Regency, both directly as well as indirectly, a place where all attentions are paid to. This definitely is of advantage to the tourism industry of the Jayapura Regency, since the busy interchange to and from Sentani fosters bigger curiosity from the public outside Papua about what awaits them in the area. And if Sentani only already presents a choice of physical and natural attractions, you can imagine what lies ahead of you in other parts of the Jayapura Regency.

Sentani, in particular, with its astoundingly beautiful lake, with the Cyclops Mountains which soar up to the sky on its background, is the good luck charm of the tourism industry in the Jayapura Regency, besides the regency’s beaches and memorial tours. The Lake Sentani Festival which was staged for the first time in 2008 has successfully boosts the tourism industry in the Jayapura Regency. This undoubtedly benefits the efforts in improving the wellbeing of the local people. Contacts with the outside world are created for the locals through this festival, and these bear impacts on the development of insights among the people. In connection with this, there are also transfers of culture and skills to the younger generation, and they will increasingly be encouraged to find out more about the cultural treasures their ancestors possessed. Therefore, the conservation of Lake Sentani must be sustainable, both regarding its cleanliness, its water, as well as its biodiversity, in order to keep holding the Lake Sentani Festival for years to come. On behalf of the government and the people of the Jayapura Regency, we extend our gratitude and our biggest appreciation to the individuals who have pulled out all the stops for the publication of the book about Sentani in the Jayapura Regency of Papua. Through the publication of Doors to the Unknown, we hope that in the future the Jayapura Regency will increasingly become a public recognition, and affects largely on the social and economic growth and development of Papua in general.

Sentani, June 2009

ZADRAK WAMEBU, SH, MM Vice Regent of Jayapura



I have not been in Papua when I was asked to write a book about Sentani in the Jayapura Regency of Papua, the Indonesian part of New Guinea. I heard things, though – negative ones, from afar. Tribal wars, riots, killings, uprisings, as well as backbiting disintegration attempts by the so-called Free Papua Movement. I have questioned people who have been in Papua; have often turned up handicrafts from this easternmost place in the Indonesian archipelago – a koteka (a Papuan penis sheath), a painted bark cloth, and a carved wooden oar.


I have read about Papua, of course, have discussed about Papua, have been writing leaflets and videoprofile scripts about tourism in Sentani and the Lake Sentani Festival and, in the last two years, have watched events in progress, or apparently in progress, on the television screen. I have seen a good deal of Papua in magazines, and documentary films, some of them convincingly authentic, as well as much dramatized feature film and countless static images of Papua: photographs and paintings of a varying degree of realism. But I have never been in Papua before this. And I grew increasingly convinced that I have very little idea of what the place can be like.

Page 3: The view of Lake Sentani seen from Mount Ifar.

Neither of these statements and none of this experience are in the least remarkable. For very, very few Indonesians, let alone expatriates, have learned at first

hand that knowledge of Papua, and Sentani in particular, which epitomized the splendor of their native soil. I needed, however, to come into contact with Papua personally before I could start writing this book. At the same time as I stepped my feet on Sentani, like anyone else who have never been there before, I had the feeling that I had opened the doors to the unknown. Spending a week among the Papuans living in the Lake Sentani area as well as in other parts of the Jayapura Regency unexpectedly made me realize that I had come in contact with many things I hadn’t know they existed. I studied history while in college, reading mainly the history of battles occurred in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) and the nation’s War of Independence (1945-1949), none of which puts me in the picture of what happened in parts of the archipelago other than Java and Sumatra. This is so because possibly the history of Indonesia is intentionally designed to be “Java-centric”, since the first two presidents of Indonesia are Javanese. So, there I stood – a guy of Javanese and Sumatran descent, which has never before been to a part of the Indonesian territory farther than Java, Bali, East and Central Kalimantan. This place, popularly known as Irian Jaya (Glorious Irian) was ever the largest province of Indonesia, yet hardly any Indonesians are on familiar

terms with what are found behind its doors. The press has become the main source of information about Papua all this time, and what comes out on the television screen, in the pages of news magazines and newspapers, or the radio are mostly what are considered newsworthy in terms of a sensation-craze society. Stunning beaches, awe-inspiring historical events, friendly indigenous faces, the sparkling surface of a huge lake, and a cultural festival held annually at the lake’s shore are certainly not part of this. This book runs through my and my partner’s one-week experience of roaming the Jayapura Regency, particularly the Sentani District, which raised our spirits to head off for a journey to discover Papua’s exquisite side. This eventually led us to open the doors to the unknown. Jakarta, May 2009 Anto Dwiastoro



A Journey Through Time

My flight from Jakarta to Jayapura, with two transits in-between, lasted more than six hours. The last transit was in Biak, 55 flying minutes from Sentani Airport, within the Jayapura Regency. When the plane descended from its previous altitude to land at the Sentani Airport, I saw clouds edging away and presented me the stunning surface of a huge lake. Flanked by numerous, countless hills around the lake, it provides an astonishing view. My partner, the photographer, sitting behind me on the plane, shed light on me that down there is Lake Sentani. The word “sentani” is surprisingly foreign to the Sentani language itself. There exist diverse ideas and opinions regarding the origin of the word. The most widely held is being the idea that it sprung out of Japanese, which means “thousand hills”. There are in fact numerous hills surrounding Lake Sentani. Nevertheless, I have consulted a Web site for a free Kanji translation, which states that “sen” denotes “thousand” in Japanese, while “tani” means “valley”, “ravine” or “mountain stream”. This idea is, to some extent, strange, as the Japanese occupied the area only during the Second World War, while there are anthropological and ethnographical studies done by Europeans, which already mention “Sentani”, years before the Japanese entered the area in 1942.

An ondoafi (tribal chief) I met by chance, on the contrary, argued that the word is derived from “Santa Annie”, the Portuguese name for the place. The tribal chief’s argument may carry weight, since the first European contact with Papua was made by Portuguese and/or Spanish sailors in the 16th century.


For my part, I like to cling on the information provided by Jan H. Ramandei’s Dari Samudranta ke Iriyan Jaya (1997) that Sentani’s real name is Puyakha. “Puyakha” in Sentani language means “an obvious feature”, while Puyakhapu is a lake/waterway owned and controlled by Puyakha. The name stems from a story surrounding the purchase of water at Mount Dofonsoro by two ancestors of the Sentanis who had their home in Yonokhom Island. The word “sentani” itself sprung from hedam which later converted into setam, and then to sentani. The word hedam is still detectable in the ondofolo (traditional chief) of the Ohei tribe.

Earliest Human Inhabitants The meaning of hedam or setam is far-reaching, perhaps linked to the vastness of Lake Sentani. People inhabiting the area are known as the Sentanis, which is now administratively incorporated under one district consisting of 24 villages. According to an indigenous

Page 7 - Sunset in Sentani; photo taken from Mount Ifar. Next page - Sentani Airport with the Cyclops Mountains in the background.

historical narration about the spread of the Puyakhapu community, originating from what is now Papua New Guinea, the Sentanis were at the outset concentrated at three places, i.e.: 1. The Yamokho Hill, and then fanned out to the Ohei Island (Asei Village), and subsequently to Little Ayopo (Ayopo Kecil), Waena, and Yoka. 2. The Ajau Island with the Big Ifar (Ifar Besar) Village, and spreading out to Small Ifar (Ifar Kecil), Sibaobai, Yabuai, Sereh, Small Puyoh (Puyoh Kecil), Ifar Babrongko, as well as Abar. 3. The Island of Yonokhom with the Kwadeware Village, then dispersing to Doyo, Sosiri, Yakonde, and Dondai.

Caledonia, but seemingly rare in Papua with the exception of the Doyo Lama (Tutari) site near Lake Sentani.

Not much is known about SentaniÂ’s ancient times. Historical evidences are scarce. The Tutari megalithic site is just one of the few. Occupying a high-lying spot and, except at certain points in the landscape, protruding significantly at the most picturesque side of Lake Sentani, the site contains remains of forebears of the Sentanis in the form of rock paintings, sitting on mounds near the lake. A red-painted rock art style is widespread in the region at about this time, distributed generally coastally from Timor and Maluku through Papua to Vanuatu in Southern Melanesia. It seems to articulate with a related rock engraving style found more generally in eastern Melanesia, including New

A majority of archaeological sites that are unearthed in Papua consist of megalithic relics from 40,000 to 30,000 B.C. up to the latest, in the form of remains from the colonial period and shortly thereafter. Palynological evidence from Lake Hordorli near Sentani can also be interpreted as evidence for an early Holocene (meaning within the last 10,000 years) intensification of subsistence strategies. Claims for Papua being an early and independent center for the domestication of various root and tree crops have been made on the basis of ethno-botanical and some palaeoethnobotanical study. It has further been suggested that the spread of Trans New Guinea Phylum languages across

A major trade route out of mainland Southeast Asia, with links probably both to China and India, is marked by the spread of Dongson bronze drums originating in north Vietnam along the Lesser Sundas and up into Maluku and the BirdÂ’s Head in the first few centuries A.D. Finds of Dongson-related metal have been made as far east as Lake Sentani, almost at the Papua New Guinea border, but the rest of the island and points east did not seem to join in this global trade system until the last two hundred years or so.


Opposite - Lake Sentani as seen from Yokiwa Village near Arso. Right - A painted rock in the Tutari megalithic site near Lake Sentani.

A huge lake as well as numerous, countless hills and a plethora of cultures is an obvious feature Sentani provides as a beautifully dramatic introduction to Papua.

the island is associated with an early agricultural expansion.


Current evidence indicates that the Papuans (who constitute the majority of the island’s peoples, including Sentani) are descended from the earliest human inhabitants of New Guinea. These original inhabitants first arrived in New Guinea at a time (either side of the Last Glacial Maximum, approximately 21,000 years ago) when the island was connected to the Australian continent via a land bridge, forming the landmass known as Sahul. These peoples had made the shortened sea-crossing from the islands of Wallacea and Sundaland (the present Malay Archipelago) by at least 40,000 years ago, subsequent to the dispersal of peoples from Africa circa 50,000-70,000 years ago.

Previous page - The spread out valley in Sentani. The clearing in the middle marks the runway of the Sentani Airport. This picture is taken from the top of Mount Ifar. Opposite, clockwise - The MacArthur Monument is erected at the Ifar mountain top that was once the general’s headquarters during the Western New Guinea campaign in 1944.

Furthermore, Sentani’s primeval past is mostly revealed through myths and legends. The most significant and most copious, on the contrary, is the narration and relics of Sentani and the Jayapura Regency during the Second World War.

Pacific Theater Wrecks The northern part of Dutch New Guinea was occupied by Japanese forces in 1942. Allied forces drove out the Japanese after amphibious landings near Hollandia,

from April 21, 1944. The area served as General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters until the conquest of the Philippines in March 1945. Over twenty U.S. bases were established and half a million U.S. personnel moved through the area. Operation Reckless, on April 21–27, 1944, also known as the invasion of Hollandia, the Hollandia landings and the Battle of Hollandia, were Allied amphibious landings which commenced the Western New Guinea campaign. The U.S. 24th and the 41st Infantry Divisions, under Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger landed at Tanahmerah and Humboldt bays near Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea (later known as Jayapura). The assault troops then drove further inland until they reached the shore of Lake Sentani and ended with the Allied amphibious movement on the lake. The Hollandia area was to prove an excellent air, naval, and logistic base from which future operations in western New Guinea were to be staged and protected, and from which a large part of the force which invaded the Philippines in October 1944 set sail. The exact location of General MacArthur’s headquarters is at Mount Ifar (Gunung Ifar) high above Lake Sentani. This is verified by war remnants found scattered in the area. At the top of Mount Ifar stands today the MacArthur Monument and a small museum that



exhibits what is left of the battle that had once occurred here. Instead of its official name, Mount Ifar is called by the locals as Makatur, based on the local pronunciation of the General’s name. Wrecks of World War II in the Pacific are spread out in other districts of the Jayapura Regency as well. Wrecks of aircraft and vehicles as well as corroded weapons and other combat equipment are found throughout Genyem, a populated place 85 kilometers away from Sentani. The remains are numerous and widely dispersed you even can find them at one’s backyard. The local ondoafi whom I interviewed during my visit to the area claims to have the bones of Japanese soldiers buried under his house, so tourists coming from Japan often turn up at his house to pay homage. Other historical objects in the area include a Japanese tank on the road to Depapre, on the left hand side. There are also five or six plane wrecks from WW II in the bottom of Lake Sentani. One has been salvaged by a Dutch navy divers’ team for a Dutch air force museum. Large containers used for storing petrol and kerosene can still be seen on the hills east of Depapre, if you take the first road to the right, before the police office. These lie at the base of the track built by the Americans that connects Tanahmerah to Jayapura (Hollandia) to the east. If after the police office you go immediately to the

left and follow the road you come at a place, which local people use as a beach and for picnics. From there you can swim to the wooden mooring poles still remaining there from the American period (June 1944-August 1945). There was an airplane wreck on the Cyclops Mountains, a Northrop P-61B Black Widow night fighter, named the “Midnight Queen”, bearing Serial Number 43-39445. It belonged to the 418th Night Fighter Squadron, stationed in Hollandia from 12 May to 28 September 1944. The airplane has been repatriated to the United States. Jayapura’s airport, named after the lake and the indigenous people inhabiting the area, also witnessed the hot-and-heavy battles between the invading Allied forces and the defending Japanese in New Guinea. Sentani Airport was a part of the large American facilities at Hollandia, which was liberated from the Japanese by an American amphibious task force codenamed Operation Reckless on 22 April 1944. The area was occupied by the Japanese in April 1942, and by October 10, 1943, the Japanese had built a large complex with two runways: a western runway of 4,500 feet and a second southern runway was 6,200 feet x 340 feet. There were larger bomber


revetments to the west of the strip, with 24 revetments and an additional 27 to the east of the field, connected by taxiways to the two runways. Anti-aircraft defenses included four light guns that were later upgraded. The airfields were badly cratered by American bomber raids.


Once controlled by the Americans there were altogether three large military airfields in Sentani during the war, forming a complex of airfields. They were the Hollandia, Sentani and Cyclops Aerodromes. These were rebuilt and they became command and control bases with large numbers of operational units flying combat missions with fighters and heavy bombers operating out of the area.

Previous page, above, left A large WW2 container used to store fuel in Depapre. Previous page, below, left A rusted Japanese steel helmet found in oneÂ’s backyard in Genyem. Previous page, right A Japanese machine-gun turret attached to a pillbox in the vicinity of Sentani Airport. Right - A visitor to the MacArthur Monument on Mount Ifar enjoys the view from a gazebo built inside the monument complex.

At the end of the war the Hollandia airfield was abandoned but remains in good condition to this day. It currently finds itself situated 1 kilometer further inward the Indonesian Air Force Base complex in the Sentani District. Part of the complex was the Cyclops airfield, which was a single runway facility, built by the Japanese. It is notable because it functioned as MacArthurÂ’s headquarters at Hollandia. Today, the Cyclops Airfield is overgrown, being abandoned since the war. It has been partially developed into the town of Jayapura. The Sentani Airfield is the only part of the complex still in use as an airfield today. It is used as the principal entry point into the Indonesian half of the island.



The Americans were very generous to leave to the Dutch for a very moderate price all what was remaining from the war effort. That was the main reason why the Dutch after the war decided to move the capital of New Guinea from Manokwari to Jayapura, though it was in a very eccentric position.

Opposite - Papuan highschool students stand upright in honor of the red-and-white Indonesian national flag during the commemoration of the return of West Irian to the Republic of Indonesia on May 1, 1963. Next page, left - A member of the Indonesian Air Force parachute team displays the redand-white flag on his drop as part of the May 1 commemoration. Next page, right - Ornamented canoes from villages around Lake Sentani take part in the commemoration.

When the Dutch returned to New Guinea in the wake of the Americans they established their headquarters at Kampung Harapan (Harapan Village), about halfway between Sentani and Abepura. This was then named Kota NICA, the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration City. “City” was a very grand name for a place with some improvised buildings. Later the civil administration moved to Abepura, where the governor build his “palace” out of the parts of the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur, which he had build on Mount Ifar. The site of his house has a monument. This is situated in the compound of army barracks. Jayapura is very much the result of the Second World War. Before the war the place was called Hollandia. What is now called Jayapura was then Hollandia Haven, while the real Hollandia, with the government offices, was Hollandia-Binnen, present-day Abepura. There were no good road connections between “Haven” and

“Binnen”. By 1940 the place had about 300 inhabitants. This was “the outer-end of the Dutch East-Indian Empire”. In 1945, the Dutch made Hollandia the capital of Netherlands New Guinea. During the 1950s the Dutch government began to prepare Netherlands New Guinea for full independence and allowed elections in 1959; an elected Papuan council, the New Guinea Council took office on April 5, 1961. Under strong pressure of the United States government (under the Kennedy administration) the Dutch, who were prepared to resist an Indonesian attack, attended diplomatic talks. On October 1, 1962, the Dutch handed over the territory to a temporary UN administration (UNTEA). After the territory was handed over to the United Nations, the territory was renamed West Irian and then Irian Jaya. Hollandia became known by the name Kota Baru, and retained the name when Indonesia took control, on May 1, 1969. The city was briefly renamed Sukarnopura, after President Sukarno, until the end of 1968, when it acquired its present name – Jayapura. May 1 is since 2009 commenced by the regent of Jayapura, Habel Melkias Suwae, as a day for the commemoration of Kembalinya Irian Barat ke Pangkuan Republik Indonesia (the Return of West Irian to the Republic of Indonesia).


Natural in Nature

Birds of the Gods


The color green was what I had in mind when I heard the name Papua being mentioned. Though this is very true, there are other aspects concerning PapuaÂ’s nature as well. There are floras as well as faunas. The most celebrated is the Cendrawasih (bird of paradise). The bird of paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) is the national bird of Papua, and its figure graces everything from the state university in Jayapura to stamps. Because they have such rare and beautiful plumage, birds of paradise have been hunted for centuries, and their feathers have been used for decoration and their supposed mystical properties. They are currently listed as endangered and trapping and export are illegal, but all species of the bird of paradise are still being traded illegally on the black market. An interesting fact is attached to the Cendrawasih. After trading plumes of birds of paradise with early European explorers, local tribes told them that the birds were the birds of the gods and never touched earth, feeding only on dew. This story accentuated the value of the birds for over 100 years, and the feathers were in such high demand that it almost killed off the species. Top - Paradisaea raggiana, the bird of paradise.

The Cendrawasih is only found in Papua. There are at least 37 other species of the bird of paradise that also

In fact, Papua has the highest value of biodiversity and endemism level of flora and fauna in Indonesia.

make their homes on this island. The males are known to gather in a specific tree together in the morning and will engage in mutual display, where they fluff out their extensive colorful feathers to try and attract a female. They live in the tops of trees and in the underbrush, making nests in tree branches and holes.


The flight attendant’s voice filled the entire passenger cabin, informing that in a few minutes the plane is going to land at Sentani Airport. I was already wide awake since the plane landed in Biak for its second transit. I just kept seeing through the window to what awaits down there. From the air the landscape bears a resemblance to that of a green woolen rug with tinted dots at few spots, denoting the roofs of dwelling places. From the number of roofs that I could catch sight of from the air, I guessed the greater part of Papua’s geography consists of mere forests, bushes, and plains. Each and every one is simply natural in nature. Previous page - View of Lake Sentani taken from Yokiwa Village near Arso. Opposite, left - Fresh tilapias. The fish is Sentani’s favorite side dish for the sticky papeda paste. Opposite, right - Women selling snakehead murrels and tilapias in a traditional market in the city of Jayapura.

The latest assessment indicates that in fact Papua has the highest value of biodiversity and endemism level of flora and fauna in Indonesia. The faunal species include 146 mammals, 329 reptiles and amphibians and 650 birds that are present and utilize a variety of ecosystems as their natural habitat in Papua. This accounts for more than fifty percent of Indonesia’s biodiversity. Papua has a wide variety of ecosystems

situated from the coastal to highland areas, providing a unique and specific habitat for the distribution of endemic animals. The flora and fauna are very important natural resources which are utilized by many people in Papua to fulfill their daily needs. For example, many people in Papua value forests for the benefits obtained from the extraction of plants and animals.

Home to Uncommon Fishes Lake Sentani forms a specific characteristic of Papua’s nature. Lake Sentani is an unusual small tropical lake because it contains many species of fish that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Usually the only time that rainbows are visible is after a hard rain. But in Lake Sentani, they flash their bright colors all the time. Well, at least rainbow fish do! Species called a rainbow fish (Chilatherina sentaniensis), along with many others, are unique to this lake. Besides having its own species of rainbow fish, Lake Sentani is also home to another fish species that cannot be found anywhere else, the Sentani gudgeon. Situated near the city of Jayapura at the north-eastern extremity of Papua, Lake Sentani lies at an elevation

of 73 meters in a fault-controlled depression mainly in Mesozoic mafic and ultramafic rocks of the Cyclops Ophiolite Belt. It is bounded by the Cyclops Mountains block to the north and the lower-standing terrain of the New Guinea fold thrust belt to the south. An irregularly shaped body with approximate maximum dimensions of 28 kilometers (east-west) by 19 kilometers (north-south) and a surface area of Âą9,630 hectares, Lake Sentani is by far the largest of the Papua lakes. It is fed by a catchment area of about 600 square kilometers and has one outlet only, via the Jafuri and Tami rivers to the Pacific Ocean near the Papua New Guinea border. Lake Sentani is divisible into three main sectors with maximum recorded depths of 7 to 52 meters. Average annual rainfall around the lake is about 2 meters and lake level fluctuates about 0.4 meters with seasonal variation in inflow. The lake is widely believed to have evolved by the tectonic damming and uplift of an arm of the sea, but such a connection has not been demonstrated. Because of its proximity to the provincial capital and the large population around it, Sentani is the best studied of Papua lakes. According to surveys in 197071, 1984 and 1987, the lake is thermally unstratified,

with temperatures of 29-32 degrees Celcius in the top 10 meters. Surface pH (a measure of the acidity of a solution) is 6.2-6.8 and, on the basis of turbidity, plankton levels are low at 1-2 mg/L except in the westernmost basin, where circulation is limited, turbidity is doubled and seasonal algal blooms, with resultant fish mortality, have been reported. A survey conducted in 1993 recorded 33 species of fish, of which 12 are indigenous, 8 anadromous (fish migration) and 13 introduced. Surveys over a 1-year period have shown an increase in introduced species but the impact on the total fish population has not been documented. Sawfish (Pristis microdon) up to 3 meters or more were well known in the lake until the seventies and are a common motif in traditional Sentani art, but appear to have become extinct. Fish are extensively raised in ponds and cages around the perimeter of the lake and the introduction of species (particularly carp and tilapia) has been both accidental and intentional. Many of the Sentani people, who inhabit the islands, perimeter and environs of the lake, still have a traditional subsistence economy based on fishing and sago harvesting. This has been sustainable for centuries but local reports suggest that catch yields have


diminished in recent years. Whether this is a result of overfishing (as a result of population growth and/or market pressure), pollution or introduction of foreign species is not established. Many of the residents occupy dwellings built on posts over the lake, which thus serves as a depository for sewage, leading to locally high coliform bacteria counts but also to nutrient enrichment. Water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes), introduced since the early seventies, has become a major plant pest and may be contributing to decline of some species.


There are 22 islands positioned in the middle of Lake Sentani, segregated into 24 villages. What is more fascinating is that all villages seem to have the same distinctive cultures, but they are in effect different from one another. This is to say that Lake Sentani is in itself a plethora of cultures.

The Cyclops Mountains

Top - The endangered Longbeaked Echidna found in the Cyclops Mountains Strict Nature Reserve. Opposite - Mist conceals the Cyclops Mountains.

The Cyclops Mountains form an isolated east-west trending range, located on the contact zone of the Pacific and Australian continental plates. The Cyclops Mountains Strict Nature Reserve is characterized by a generally steep and incised topography, with prominent spurs extending as far as the coast in the north. This raised topography gives way in the extreme south-east to a more rounded terrain and eventually to a rolling

plateau. The main massif is composed of acid metamorphic rocks, such as schist, gneiss and amphibolites surrounded by basic and ultra-basic rocks such as gabbros and basalts. Tertiary limestone outcrops occur in the south-east. Lateritic and brown forest soils are characteristic of lower elevations with thin lithosols and regosols predominating on the steeper upper slopes. Drainage is radial, elongated and generally subsurface, particularly at elevations above 500 meters. The Cyclops Mountains Strict Nature Reserve contains many endemic mountainous elements among the 273 species of birds and 86 mammals known or expected in the reserve. Because of its location, the reserve suffers from ladang (un-irrigated agricultural field) encroachment along its southern slopes, hunting pressure, wood and orchid gathering and expansion of the Jayapura, Abepura and Sentani settlements. It is also overlapped by a mineral exploration concession and although prospecting for nickel has been suspended, there has been new activity along the north coast to survey marble resources. Sir DavidÂ’s Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi), also known as the AttenboroughÂ’s Long-beaked Echidna or Cyclops Long-beaked Echidna, is one of three species from the genus to occur in New Guinea. It is named in honor of Sir David Frederick

A huge wall of vegetation called the Cyclops sits majestically above Lake Sentani and makes for a stunning background to the clear waters

Attenborough, the renowned British broadcaster and naturalist. It lives in the Cyclops Mountains in Papua province of Indonesia near the cities of Sentani and Jayapura. It is the smallest member of the genus, being closer in size to the Short-beaked Echidna than other members of the genus. It has five claws on its fore and hind feet. It has dense short fur. The species was described from a single damaged specimen collected in the Dutch colonial era (c. 1961), and has apparently not been collected since that time. Given the ongoing anthropogenic disturbance of the Cyclops Mountain forest habitat, this has raised concern that Z. attenboroughi populations may already be endangered or even locally extirpated. However, it is important to note that biological surveys of Papua province are notoriously incomplete and it is possible that the animal still exists there or in related mountain ranges. It was reported on July 15, 2007 that researchers from EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) visiting Papua’s Cyclops Mountains have recently discovered burrows and tracks thought to be those of Zaglossus attenboroughi. Furthermore, communication with local people revealed that the species had perhaps been seen as recently as 2005. Sir David's Long-beaked Echidna was identified as one of the top-10 “focal species” in 2007 by the EDGE project.

Getting Richer through Cocoa Cocoa remains an important source of income to hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Papua, especially in the Jayapura Regency. This is the reason for the current JayapuraÂ’s regent, Habel Melkias Suwae, to initiate the Gerakan Wajib Tanam Kakao (Compulsory Cocoa Planting Movement) in 2006. Farmers are encouraged to plant cocoa since it proves the enhancement of economic standards of the indigenous people. However, problems remain in its implementation due to social-cultural conditions. The indigenous farmers maintain their semi-nomadic lifestyles, whereby many of them may leave their gardens unattended and unharvested for months at a time, even during the minor harvest season, so as to visit their relatives in distant villages.

A considerable part of the 1,150,000 cocoa trees that were planted three years earlier now bears fruit. The total of land that has been sown until 2008 has reached 10,000 hectares. According to the Jayapura regent, the planting of cocoa through family ownership is far more effective in prevailing over poverty than the planting of oil palm by investors. From 26,484 families (113,437 people) that reside in the Jayapura Regency, 12,645 are poor. Through self-relying efforts in managing cocoa in their own land, it is pursued that in 2009 all families will have fixed incomes. Apart from the economic improvement role the cocoa plantations are playing, they clearly make the environment greener.


Coastline Offer Whether the waves crash on white, brown, pink or black sand, concrete breakwaters or wooden piers, the shoreline and the ocean are destinations for countless tourists. What does the coastline offer in Papua? Dreams of the archipelago’s underpublicized treasures! I found the beaches on the northern coast of the Jayapura Regency incredibly charming. Depapre comes to my earshot when my host tempted me to see the beaches of Papua. Depapre is a district situated on a beautiful, sweeping bay to the west of Sentani. The Tablanusu Village is situated in this area. Being Habel Suwae’s, the current Jayapura’s regent, hometown, the fishing village has been chosen by the local government as a tourist destination. Tourists coming to Tablanusu will be indulged by all kinds of attractions, such as the place’s woodland, coral beach, small yet transparent lake, as well as its spots of historical interest. Natural, harmoniously chic and exotic are what the view of Tablanusu is rendered in my mind. The jetty at Depapre was once the only entry point to Tablanusu, using a motorboat. Today, an asphalt road is being built, breaking through the woods of Depapre.

Page 34 - A Papuan woman in Yokiwa Village scatters cocoa to dry. Page 35 - The field counseling officer proudly presents a ripe cocoa fruit from the Yokiwa plantation. Above, left - A fisherÂ’s house on stilts overlooking the ocean in Depapre. Above, right - The beach of Depapre finds itself on a beautiful sweeping bay to the west of Sentani. Wooden mooring poles still remain here from the American period (1944-45).

Pages 38-39 - The fishing village of Tablanusu overlooks the blue, wide Pacific Ocean. Opposite - A small freshwater pond in Tablanusu lies next to the saltwater ocean. Above, left and right - Playful Tablanusu children.


Above, left and right - The white-sand beach of Bukisi in the Yokari District.

For a reasonable price, a motorboat took me, my partner, and our guide across Tablanusu to nearby white-sand beaches of Toikisi and Bukisi. These two isolated fishing villages are to be developed into tourist attractions as well. Their inaccessibility is for the time being resolved by motorboats that have to crash against the waves of the Pacific Ocean overlooking both beaches. The Toikisi Village was unapproachable by our boat due to the shallow depth. Here and there coral reefs intercept any attempt to wade ashore. The fishing village of Bukisi at the Yokari district of the Jayapura Regency which I and my partner managed to visit has features of the kind of beaches frequently pictured in postcards: exotic as well as numinous. Never before have I paid a visit to somebodyÂ’s home, seated under shady coconut trees, and feted with a drink straight from a coconut hull, while I watched the dazzling white-sand beach several meters away from me.

Evidences indicate that the Papuans are descended from the earliest human inhabitants of New Guinea.

It was so refreshing after being on the motorboat for about an hour, especially when I saw several Bukisi’s kids all stripped down and ran for the water. They loved rubbing the sand all over themselves and then running to the water. As I walked through the village, I noticed that the people are like the ones I met in Sentani: when I waved and greeted “selamat siang” (good afternoon) they got very happy and greeted back, some of them also putting a hand out to shake mine. How amazing!


These people, no matter how ferocious they appear, are also gracious hand-wavers. They like to wave their hands and send big smiles to people they know as well as to strangers when distant. In close distance, they are likely to shake hands with you. When I shook the hand of one Papuan at Kampung Asei (Asei Village) in the middle of Lake Sentani, I immediately sense the exertion he had done in bringing artistry into being. Above, right - Village children from Bukisi spend their afterschool hours playing at the beach. Opposite, left and right Bukisi villagers display colorful clothes made from flattened treebark. Pages 46-47 - Children from Asei Village pose together in front of a house of custom (balai adat).

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The physical appearance of most Papuans had once given me the impression of being hostile, so I had never imagined them as human beings who possess the ability to produce work of art. In fact, Papua is rich in many artistic traditions other than those of the Asmat. There are many contemporary artists across the province producing fine works in a variety of media. The arts of Lake Sentani, which have been overlooked by so many visitors to nearby Jayapura, have also been gaining recent popularity among domestic and foreign visitors to Papua. The Sentani people who dwell in the environs of Lake Sentani have well-adapted customs in making the most of the lake and the materials found in their surrounding. But the culture is increasingly being affected by contemporary standards of living and transformations are already transpiring. The native belief in magical aspects, for example, is on its last legs, and also the things, that had been connected to it. However, the contemporary and the conventional are able to live side-by-side in harmony in todayÂ’s Papua, forming two sides of the same coin.

Village Life In Papua, life seems to center upon the village. A Sentani village represents a typical Papua shore village. It can be small, with not more than twenty houses, or big.

The Asei Village, for example, lies on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Sentani. Known for its wood bark paintings, Kampung Asei has its inhabitants built their houses not too close to one another and the village is easily roamed in less than an hour.


The houses built by the Sentanis have always been found at the lake-shores, although today there are Sentanis who also live further inland. There are many reasons why the Sentanis chose to settle along the lake shoreline. For them, the lake bears food and water. Houses are made from wood and dried sago stems, especially for the walls, while Matoa wood is used in the making of the floors. For roofing, the Sentanis use either modern corrugated iron sheets or traditional sago leaves. These houses mostly stand on poles that are planted in the water. The balai adat (house of custom) is the most important building in Sentani villages as well as in other tribal villages all over Papua and is usually located near the village jetty. It is an open structure with a roof and no walls. Wooden poles that prop the roof have different wood carvings. The house of the ondofolo (Sentani tribal chief) is usually located behind the balai adat. Besides conflict resolutions, village gatherings or meetings are usually held at the balai adat.

Opposite - A Sentani bark painter in Asei Village shows his work.


Sentani Languages Papua is perhaps the most linguistically diverse region in the world. Besides the Austronesian languages, there are some 257 languages existing in the Indonesian part of New Guinea, divided into perhaps sixty small language families, with unclear relationships to each other or to anything else, plus a large number of language isolates. Although there has been relatively little study of these languages compared with the Austronesian family, there have been three preliminary attempts at large-scale genealogical classification, byJoseph Greenberg, Stephen Wurm, and Malcolm Ross. The separation was not merely linguistic; among tribes was a factor in the evolution of the men’s house: separate housing of groups of adult men, from the single-family houses of the women and children, for mutual protection against the other groups. Each developed their own language or dialect. The largest family posited for the Papuan region is the Trans-New Guinea Phylum, consisting of the majority of Papuan languages and running mainly along the highlands of New Guinea. Since perhaps only a quarter of Papuan languages have been studied in detail, linguists’ understanding of the relationships between them will continue to be revised.

The Sentani or Buyaka is a Papuan language spoken by natives living in the Lake Sentani area. The Sentani language is classified in three slightly different dialects – the western, eastern, and central dialects. The neighboring people of the Sentanis – the Nimboran in the southwest, the Tanahmerah bay people, and the Tobati and the Nafri in the east – have each their own languages, although the languages are closely related to each other. The fact that the Sentanis have their own distinct dialects is due to the effects of isolation. The geography of the area that some time ago consisted of an even larger area of tropical forest must have had a considerable effect on the communication between the natives. According to Summer International Linguistics (SIL) in 2004, Papua now has 264 languages, with Malay, later known as Bahasa Indonesia, serving as a bridge through which the hundreds of Papuan languages meet. Bahasa Indonesia also allows Papuans to communicate, interact and enter inter-tribe marriages. The widespread use of Bahasa Indonesia has not only sped up development in the province, but also killed off local languages. People who still speak the local Sentani dialects are above 40 years old, with younger generations having

only a passive comprehension of their languages. With its limited resources, the Jayapura Language Center has composed the dictionaries of Sentani and Jayapura languages, and has documented 180 local languages all over Papua and West Papua since its establishment in 2002.

Hard Work through Art Work Sentani is famous for abstract paintings written or painted on bark. The Lake Sentani bark-cloth is highly distinctive, and generally took the form of maro (skirts or loin cloths). Some pieces feature seemingly abstract, highly dynamic interlocked curvilinear forms, and others hybrid fish-like or lizard-like creatures, often with human faces. Almost abandoned around 1900, this art was revived in the 1930s in response to the interest of dealers and collectors, and is sustained in the present. Sentani bark paintings use only three colors: black, white and red. Black is made from charcoal, white from sea-shell, red from Sentani soil. The bark is peeled off and flattened. Sometimes there are natural holes within the bark and the designs. Tapa, or bark cloth, is a nonwoven fabric decorated with figurative and abstract designs usually applied by

scratching or by painting. The basic cloth-like material, produced from the inner bark, or bast, of certain trees (bark fiber), is made by stripping off the bast, soaking it, and beating it to make the fibers interlace and to reduce thickness. The most popular material is the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree, although breadfruit and fig trees are also used. Hand-painted bark cloth is limited today primarily to northern Australia, the island of New Guinea, and parts of Melanesia. Among contemporary bark cloth paintings produced by the Asei islanders of Lake Sentani, I noted several unusual pieces clearly combining both Asmat and Sentani motifs. The Asmat motifs were the “bipane” (boar tusk nosepiece symbol) and hornbill head (in brown), a crocodile (either Sentani or Asmat), Asmat human figures that transform into Sentani spiral motifs called fouw and Sentani fish. Such a fusion is reminiscent of batik Irian, yet the use of Asmat motifs by the Sentanis for monetary gain goes against unspoken rules of conduct among many Papuan artists. Numerous fish, including swordfish and sea turtles, are often painted on a piece of bark cloth from Asei or another local village from Lake Sentani: Fish and other


Next page, left - Houses built on poles planted in the water along Lake Sentani shores. Next page, right - Sentani children playing on a village jetty. Page 53, left - A Bukisi elderly with traditional motif carved on the wooden pole in the background. Page 54, right - An orudia, “customary table”, where village leaders meet and make decisions.

A Bukisi village represents a typical Papua shore village. It can be small, with not more than twenty houses, or big.


The arts of Lake Sentani have been gaining recent popularity among domestic and foreign visitors to Papua

Opposite, left and right - The process of flattening and painting the bark cloth in Asei Village, Sentani. Above, left, middle and right - Various displays of the making of artistic works in Sentani. Next page, left and right - Stems of khombouw trees after the bast had been peeled off for the making of painted bark cloth in Bukisi. Page 57 - Bark cloth and accessories worn by Bukisi traditional dancers.

water animals were often portrayed on bark cloth since bark cloth has traditionally been the clothing of the married woman and since, in the Sentani region, it is mostly women who catch fish.


Lake Sentani was an old sea inlet which had been separated from the ocean by a volcanic eruption. This is the reason why sea fish such as swordfish occur on the cloths. Traditionally, pieces of bark cloth were painted with patterns such as wavy lines and spirals. The current style, characterized by separate figures that seem to float freely in space, is probably a development of the 1920s and 1930s. Women have created bark cloths paintings for centuries. The bark is first cleaned by scraping it with a shell. Thereafter, the outer bark is loosened with beaters and then cut away. The thinner, inner bark is worked with beaters until the cloth has the right thickness and dimensions. The cloth is soaked in water, wrung out, and then hung up in the sun to dry. Top, left - The church on the top of a hill in Asei Village was built by American soldiers after the place was taken from the Japanese in April 1944. Top, right - Unique to the Sentanis, drum and flute bands usually perform during festivities. Opposite, left and right - The male and female canoes.

The painting is man’s work, and so it is with most of other art works. Traditional art works of the Sentanis were originally products of common works to produce tools and equipment. The men worked hard to make tools and utensils during a time when they had provide everything by their own. Today, the tools and utensils have economic worth since Sentani was being opened to the world through tourism.

Christian Influences While domestic and foreign tourism in Papua flourishes on the perception of “primitive people” living in “remote” places, rapid urbanization is creating new social, economic and political communities and activities in many towns across the province. Though some of these trends have been distinctly Papuan, others are formed by pan-Indonesian or global influences like Christianity. The Christian influence upon Papuan arts is noticeable on the tambur-suling (drum and flute) bands of Sentani. The tambur-suling band is seemingly brought by Protestant missions from the island of Sangir and Talaud, North Sulawesi. But apparently its original source might be Portuguese since tambur-suling orchestras frequently feature ceremonial events in eastern Indonesia as well. Every village in the Lake Sentani has its own band. Taking the form roughly in the vein of modern drumbands, the tambur-suling bands are distinctive from one another; each village has its own characteristic. The tambur-suling bands usually perform during festivities, where members of the band wear colorful clothes that are rather contemporary of design.

Lake Crossings There are several big and tiny inhabited islands in the middle of Lake Sentani. Villages exist also in these islands. The villagers rely on canoes and motorboats to arrive at the other end of the lake or between islands, usually to trade handicrafts, crops and other purposes. No road is constructed to link the islands with Sentani or the city of Jayapura. The nearest jetty that is connected with the road to Sentani/Jayapura is Yahim, located on the northern side of the lake. A few decades ago, the only means of transportation on the lake was traditional canoes, and was completely relied upon for transportation and communication. The Sentanis have constructed canoes based on gender. The female canoe (kaji) has traditionally only been used by Sentani women. The canoe itself is usually between 4-10 meters and is made from iron wood, a particular wood that has a reputation for hardness, or Matoa (Pomea pinnata) wood. The typical female canoe is quite bigger than the male canoe and able to carry 2 to 10 people at a time and at the same time allows the woman to bring her fishing equipment, water containers and other goods. The women use this canoe on a daily basis.

The male canoe (ifa) is traditionally very small with limited space left for the oarsman and is considered unstable in the water. Some male canoes use an outrigger to keep their stability. But you still have to balance yourself on it, since wrong seating may throw you overboard, which befell me in Tablanusu. Male canoes are so narrow that the user does not sit between the edges of the canoe, but on top of its thwart (horizontal crossbeam near the top of the hull). Sometimes one leg is dangled out in the water to help preserve balance. Not all men have the capability to use the ifa due to its difficult usage. Therefore, Sentani boys entering maturity are often tested by their ability to use the ifa.


Today, the male canoe is fading in Sentani. The reason for this is due to the changing trends of transportation, its former function and value. Today the Sentani men tend to perform work on land than in the lake, and if they need transportation, they often use motorboats. In times of yore, every man had his own private ifa. A man can own a canoe if he is able to make one himself. Even the oars have their own sexual category: the mie reng (female oar) and the roh reng (male oar). These are often decorated with different motifs, which often caught the touristÂ’s eye and exchanged with a sum of money.

Next page - A certain ceremony performed when members of a village deliver wares to another village. Canoes are brought together and decorated to ship the delivery. This one performs during the Lake Sentani Festival.

Underwater Smokers


Sentani is not only recognized for its magnificent lake, especially when viewed from the air, but also for its cluster of islands spread along the shoreline and in the middle of the lake, which makes it appear like a sleeping crocodile. The villagers living along the lake shoreline retain a unique habit in the form of underwater smoking. Already rare among the villagers in contemporary Sentani, underwater smoking is performed when one dives to the bottom of the lake to catch fish. Underwater smoking is exclusively to women only, as women who do the fishing in Sentani culture. Since olden times, the SentaniÂ’s livelihood is fishing. They catch fishes with spears and during the quest they warm themselves up with cigarette smoke.

Top - Areca nuts and betel vines are sold on street corners. Opposite - Chewing the areca nut and betel vine is a thousand of years tradition.

Before diving, these underwater smokers get various diving equipment ready, consisting of an onggei (a single or triple-point spear), a wauw (a kind of net to take fishes in), a felfale (a special net to contain shells), and molo mask (diving mask), as well as cigarettes and areca nuts (pinang). The equipment is then placed in the canoe, which is then rowed toward the middle of the lake. Before

plunging into the water, the divers put their masks on, lit their cigarettes, then chew on areca nuts. After taking several smokes, they put the burnt tip of the cigarette into their mouth. By so doing, the cigarette stays burnt though the diver is under the water. This technique enables the divers to stay underwater for an extended time – sometimes until ten minutes!

Psychoactive Chewing I became aware of one particular thing at Sentani Airport, and was told that such thing will never be found in other airports. There are warning signs clung on to the airportÂ’s terminal windows and walls, saying that chewing on pinang (areca nut) is not allowed within the spot. Suddenly I realized that nearly every Papuan, young and old, men as well as women, are chewing on areca nuts. The areca nut is the seed of the areca palm (Arecha catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. These are planted by villagers in Sentani, but are also found in the wild. An areca nut is chewed with betel vine (afe) and lime (au). The betel vine is collected from the betel vine tree. Lime is made of shells. It comes in two varieties, lime made of sea-shells and the ones made of shells from Lake Sentani.

Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel vine or leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from South Asia to the Pacific. It constitutes an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian and Oceanic countries, including, Taiwan, Myanmar, the Solomon Island, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. It is not known how and when the areca nut and the betel leaf/vine were combined together into one psychoactive drug. Archaeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that they have been used in tandem for four thousand years or more. Regular betel chewing causes the teeth and gums to be stained orange/red, a color that was formerly considered attractive in certain cultures. It is believed among the Papuans that regular chewing reduces the incidence of cavities, and toothpastes were once produced containing betel extracts. However, the increase in mouth ulcers and gum deterioration caused by areca nut and betel chewing may outweigh any positive effects. In the Regency alone, fresh areca nut, betel leaf or vine and lime are sold on street corners. Dried or flavored areca nut is otherwise not popular. Betel and areca nut chewing is a social pastime as a means to extend friendship and formal invitations between tribal chiefs,

and can be found in many, if not most, large gatherings as part of the food display.

Stick onto the Plate For a person who has virtually spent his entire lifetime in Java, strange things occurred before me when I found myself in Papua. I watched the people with queer, mainly for their physical appearance which is poles apart from the average Indonesian I knew in my life. I have met the Balinese, the Dayaks in Central and East Kalimantan; nothing is specifically peculiar about them. But the Papuans is so out of the ordinary, I assumed they do not belong to Indonesia, but to one of the islandstates strewn across the central and southern Pacific Ocean. Looking at the Papuans, with their dark skin and highly curly hair, the men mostly powerfully built, the women tough and energetic, makes me wonder about what these people have for their meal. According to a government-appointed field counseling officer, who escorted during my and my partnerÂ’s trip through the cocoa plantations of Yokiwa Village in the Jayapura Regency, the food that the indigenous people in Sentani eat differ from that consumed by those living in the central highland of Papua.


Sago is for the Sentanis as rice is for the Javanese, while the Central Highlanders desire sweet potatoes and yam above any food. Sago is a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stems. It is a major staple food for the lowland peoples of Papua. It is traditionally cooked and eaten in the form of a gluey paste called papeda and served with fish soup. The main ingredient used for the soup comes from freshwater fishes caught from Lake Sentani, mainly mujair (Mozambique tilapia) and gabus (snakehead murrel). The cooked sago paste is so sticky that two wooden forks are needed to pull the paste out of the bowl into the plate. The fish soup is then poured over it. The Sentanis rarely preserve food over long periods. Vegetables and fruits can be stored in the kitchen over a few days but is usually cooked and eaten right away. Crops are usually sold in Sentani markets, or elsewhere, so there is no reason in bringing too much of them home. Fishes and various meats are often preserved for a few weeks through smoking over the fire for one day.

The Magical Chief The process of traditional inheritance that is still sound up to this day makes leadership dualism possible in the village. The existence of the formal governance does

not sweep traditional institutions aside.


Though it may seem that the role of traditional institutions is becoming weaker, the traditional governance is principally winning over its formal counterpart. This is instigated by the fact that the traditional governance is directed to serve the needs of the community, while the formal leadership and administration is inured and functioned to provide the interests of bureaucracy from higher levels of the government. The indigenous supernatural belief that the ondoafi possesses magical powers, something that most contemporary village chiefs lack, also plays a role in maintaining the roots of the traditional governance on its place. The highest post in traditional governance is held by the ondoafi. Even so, from its functional side, the ondoafi should provide assistance and protection to his people, and not otherwise. The ondoafi status is inherited to the oldest son of an ondoafi. The term “ondoafi” develops from the word ondowai which means “glory”, “greatness” and “honor”. Hence a person, who has been named an ondoafi, is often called an ondiwai. The investiture of an ondoafi is featured by the attachment of a Yomalo, a sash/belt made from wood-bark, bestowed upon him as symbol of an inherited sovereign.

Opposite, left - Sago harvesting in Bukisi. Opposite, above - The making of sago flour; and below - served as sticky papeda paste.

Among Sentani’s tribal community, the ondoafi leadership system is just the same. In Sentani terminology, the ondoafi is called ondofolo. All standings in the ondofolo leadership system, both in the lower clan levels, the villages, as well as at the confederate levels are positions held for a lifetime and are transmissible on an agnatic kinship basis. A wouldbe ondofolo is habitually groomed long before now through an initiation process and socialization in the family as well as among the tribal community.


Pages 68-69 - A Rokhabia procession marks one stage of a customary ceremony when members of a village deliver wares to another village. Page 70 - A riverstream in Bukisi. Page 71 - Tablanusu fishing village. Page 72 - The numinous beach of Tablanusu Village. Page 73 - A wonderful view of the city of Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province, situated at the Yos Sudarso Bay.

The Sentani social order of society is made up of: 1. An Apu Along/Apu Afaa who serves as advisor to the ondofolo (yodo yado = one who is considered an elderly of the community) 2. The ondofolo is the customary leader of a village 3. Khoselo/Khotelo is a clan leader within one ondofolo-ship and reports to the ondofolo 4. Akhona is the head of the family from one lineage and reports to the khoselo/khotelo (clan leader) 5. Akha Pakhe is a tribal community under an ondofolo Furthermore, each village is ruled by an ondofolo assisted by four administrators who administer religious affairs (pulo-yo), security (phuyo-ayo), prosperity (phume ameyo), and law and order (yommeyo). Every confederate use ranks that agrees with the location they are in, such as heram rasing, kleuben, rembu

yolopateuw, hokhoupoye, hokhoitembu and heusulu marweri. The source of the ondoafi’s power is believed to be sacred and magical, and therefore feared by his subjects. The decision-making process is centered upon him and considered final. The ondoafi holds two authorities, the common and the distinctive (the control upon customary lands). The ondoafi’s authority is commonly fervent in religious affairs, economics, social, security and law and order. In the control of customary lands, the size of the ondoafi’s rule is perceived in the hak ulayat (indigenous land rights) that has no clear boundaries since the “boundary pole” is based simply on what exists in nature. This state often triggers conflicts or disputes between tribes. Land possessions are settled on geography, but initially they were gained through tribal wars. The land is allocated among the ondoafi and the khoselo and commonly used for the interests of members of the community. Customary land possessions among the tribal community of Sentani are determined by social conventions, including political, religious, economic and legal matters.




Festive Skyline

Many people in Indonesia and abroad are more acquainted with the Asmat tribe and the Baliem Valley in Wamena, which are Papua’s tourist attractions. But the Jayapura Regency also encloses many places of interest, such as the Cyclops Mountains and World War II leftovers. It is the huge Lake Sentani that finds itself in the regency that is now becoming the good luck charm for Papua’s tourism industry.


The 9,630-hectare lake enjoys an amazing panorama through the existence of indigenous villages around it. There are 24 tribal communities with different dialects as well as customs and traditions. These cultural heritages are staged annually during the Lake Sentani Festival which takes place from 19 to 23 June every year, creating a festive skyline for everyone looking to Kampung Harapan from across the lake. Page 76 - Beating tifa drums in groups. Page 77 - The tifa drum is all hand-carved and made with cowskin. The drum is lightweight as each holds his drum in one hand and plays it with the other while singing and dancing. Page 78 - Men and women alike, singing and dancing in customary dress with Cendrawasih plumages and colorful tufts and tassels. Each of the 24 Sentani villages present their dancers.

A customary ceremony performed when members of a village deliver wares to another village is one of the cultural heritages staged. When an ondofolo is intended for the erection of a house, for example, people from other villages will roll up to deliver materials, mostly timber. Canoes are brought together and decorated to ship the timber. Escorting canoes carry food and people, who dance and sing all the way through. There will be a rokhabia procession after they go ashore. Villagers will dance and sing at the place where the

ondofolo’s house will be erected. They will subsequently dine together with the ondofolo being in the lead. Other Papuan cultures as well as its ethnic family, the Australian Aborigines, will also stage their artistic tradition during the festival. With regard to the second Lake Sentani Festival in 2009, art performers indigenous to other areas in the Indonesian archipelago that are recognized as having a particular lake will also play their part in the festival. The first Lake Sentani Festival was held in 2008 and has since become an annual national tourism agenda in Papua. There is no doubt the Jayapura’s local government is making quiet but very strong inroads into the world’s tourism business. That inroad is making the tiny place itself one of the world’s newest and most interesting destinations. Cultural festivals are Papua’s main touristic activities and have been held several times. The first is the Baliem Valley Festival in the Jayawijaya Regency which presented traditions and customs of Papua’s central highland and is now meeting its tenth year. The Asmat Cultural Festival comes in second, while the Lake Sentani Festival is the third festive event held in Papua that retains an international recognition.

The huge Lake Sentani is now becoming the good luck charm for PapuaÂ’s tourism industry.






As many as 1,200 dancers from 24 villages around and in the middle of Lake Sentani performed during the first Lake Sentani Festival, each village being represented by 50 artists. Some ondoafi villages around the lake shore staged a unique ancestral tradition, in the form of dances and tribal war attitudes on platforms built on boats. The Lake Sentani Festival is concurrently the preservation of cultural values that are specific to Sentani. All forms of arts that are presented in the festival, may that be dances, music, and songs, emerge in its original forms and are the arts that has been protected and preserved by SentaniÂ’s customary communities for ages.

Page 79-81 - The Sentani dancers are perhaps the only ones in the world who are able to dance and laugh the whole day through.

Page 86-89 - The genuine festive traits the Lake Sentani Festival presents to the world.


Page 91, clockwise - A traditional wedding ceremony presented during the Lake Sentani Festival. Bride prices in the form of a neolithic bracelet (top, left) and axe head (top, middle). The bracelet prevails only among the ondoafi family, while the axe head is the common peopleÂ’s bride price. Page 93 - Use of gastropod shells, specifically cowries, and beads in many different solid colors in the traditional dress of the Sentani dancer. Page 94-95 - Typical Papuan warriors.





Like the dispersed pearls throughout the archipelago known as Indonesia, the innate cultures, the glorious past, as well as the stunning natural traits of the Jayapura Regency are evenly spread all over the region. Whether they represent the Sentanis, the Tobatis, or the Nafris, to name but a few tribes inhabiting the regency, they perpetually materialize a unity in diversity. These treasures form an integrated part of Indonesia.


The researching and writing of this book were both very personal, but shared experiences. In the days we, the author and the photographer, spent together, sifting through places, and trying to make sense of the life of the Sentani people unfamiliar to both of us, we hoped to produce a work that would be useful and helpful for initiating tourists into Papua. After several trips to the Jayapura Regency, and hours of isolation to study, research, and clarify our own thoughts, this book was written. We feel we have run a long and challenging road through frustration, discouragement, rejection, and interruption in pursuit of this project. Today, a month later, we are almost surprised to see that the book is now at the printing stage. This book could not have been completed without the assistance of the Jayapura Regency Office which directed us to a wide range of resources. Several ondoafis and other Sentani village officials answered all of our questions that helped us to narrow our search. The Jayapura Regional Tourism Service helped us to refine our ideas and pointed out weaknesses. Their ideas, suggestions, hints and queries were the source of our inspiration. The courtesies of the staffs and management of the Hotel Sentani Indah in the town of Sentani ensured our visit was pleasant. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to the people of Sentani, who have generously shared their viewpoint of this book - that it should be a realization that nothing is as important as factual information about the place.

Anto Dwiastoro has been writing print ads, television and radio commercial, video-profile and corporate communication literature since 1995. The author began his involvement with tourism when writing marketing and promotion materials for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and places of interest in the course of his career. A graduate from the Department of History at the University of Indonesia, he has written numerous newspaper, magazine and Web-based articles on subjects ranging from spirituality and military history to military technology and socio-cultural issues.

Toni Sri has a profound knack in industrial and nature photography. A graduate of the Jakarta Art Institute, majoring in graphic design, he takes up with photography since 1980. He has taken pictures of countless tourist attractions as well as manufacturing and mining sites all through his entire career. Occasionally articulating artistic expressions through the canvas, he is a creative designer by profession and acts upon the business of marketing communications through a company that he founded in 1997.

Doors to the unknown  

The Environment and Culture from Sentani Distric, Jayapura-Papua

Doors to the unknown  

The Environment and Culture from Sentani Distric, Jayapura-Papua