Seeing Red in Bungaya

Culture | Written By, Life on the Island |

What is it about many traditional societies who just love the colour red? Just a few years ago, the inhabitants of Papua’s Baliem Valley would choose a red hundred rupiah note over a higher demomination of a different colour. Red is some kind of energy colour that attracts.

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In the tiny hamlet of Bungaya, in the backlands from Amlapura, a recent temple ceremony had everyone dressed beautifully to the nines. Inside the ancient Pura Bale Agung the crowd was dressed in white, except for the sacred dancers and men wearing the special red sarongs.

The villagers make their own specially handloomed red sarongs, with golden accents which provide a striking contrast to the grey stone of the temple.

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This traditional Bali Aga located close to Amlapura is one of a string of traditional Bali Aga Villages between Amlapura and Candidasa. Few people know about them and life continues without benefit of the almighty tourist dollar.

Hidden in the verdant hills, they are worthy of exploration. Some of the villages are walled, others not but all can be distinguished by the long Bale Agungs which dominate the courtyards.

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This two day ceremony attracted the usual crowd of photographers in the know and fun was had by all. The first day brought out the Rejang dancers – the dance of the virgins or unmarried women. Their ages ranged from seven to about fifty seven and I guess some girls just don’t get lucky.

In this area of Bali where Rejang is treated with great respect, the creative decoration of the headdresses, can border on extraordinary! Flowers, gold and gilt, bamboo structures are all used to create these unique decorations. Known as ongar ongar, they differ from village to village, but these Bungaya girls take the trophy.

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Their distinctive headdresses are like no other. With the plaintive sounds of the distinctive Selunding gamelan accompanying the scene – it was quite from another world. Made with iron keys, the sound produced is higher pitched and ethereal.

This little village is completely off the tourist path and as a result the people are delightful. Calm, dignified and self possessed to the extreme they retain an integrity which is rare to find anywhere.

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Apart from the colour red, the other distinguishing feature is the love of pigs! On the second day of the celebration, the Bungaya pigs came out! Roasted to a succulent perfectness, with red hibiscus popped in their mouths, the pigs were placed all around inner courtyard of the main temple.

While the outer compound was filled with gorgeous offerings, the inner yard with roasted pork. After the ceremonies finished and all the blessings given, the pigs would be taken home for huge feasts. One wonders just how much pork a human can eat! But no doubt with the poor relatives, and pets, it would all be devoured.

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While I stayed only until around nine am, the yard already had several dozen porcine offerings filling the spaces. No doubt by midday there would be a real squeeze.

Bungaya returns to its sleepy normality a day or two later but the beautiful memories shall remain firmly fixed in my mind.

Written By Ayu Sekar

 

 

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