Women’s Forest People’s Party celebrates nature, culture, and environmental conservation in Papua’s mangrove haven

With children who participated in Arumbay Tonotwiyat or Women's Forest People's Party in Enggros Village, Saturday (9/23/2023). -Jubi/CR-7

Jayapura, Jubi – The Indonesia Art Movement, in collaboration with the Monj Hen Wani Community and with support from various institutions, local communities, and art and environmental advocates in Papua, organized the Arumbay Tonotwiyat, also known as the Women’s Forest People’s Party. This event was held in Enggros Village, Abepura District, Jayapura City on Saturday, September 23, 2023.

Taking place beneath the lush canopy of Enggros Village’s mangrove forest, Arumbay Tonotwiyat was a multifaceted celebration that seamlessly blended art, culture, and environmental conservation. This gathering served as a heartfelt expression of reverence for nature, preservation of cultural heritage, and a commitment to fostering harmony between humanity and the natural world.

Rumah Bakau Jayapura, Kampung Dongeng Jayapura, Forum Indonesia Muda Jayapura, Sangga Uniyap, and representatives from Cenderawasih University and ISBI Tanah Papua, and Papua Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) supported this event.

The event engaged a wide range of participants, including children, teenagers, and adults. The activities commenced with a beach cleanup initiative at Cibery Beach, organized by Petronela. This cleanup effort was a demonstration of environmental love, acknowledging the persistent issue of marine debris washing ashore during rainy seasons.

Following the cleanup, participants were treated to a tour of Youtefa Bay, where they witnessed a performance by children from Tobati-Enggros Village. This performance depicted the story of a mangrove forest tainted by garbage and waste originating from Nafri Village, Hamadi Beach, and the Acai River.

Women's Forest
The action of cleaning Cibery Beach at the Arumbay Tonotwiyat event, in Enggros Village, Saturday (9/23/2023). -Jubi/CR-7

Subsequently, the participants were guided to the Women’s Forest in Enggros, an area exclusively accessible to women. Here, women sought food sources to meet their household needs while also sharing their domestic concerns. The Women’s Forest was off-limits to men, and any breach of this custom would incur penalties, typically in the form of jewelry or other items.

Mama Ani (Mother Ani) explained that men were not permitted to enter the forest while women were foraging for food, as women in the forest swam without clothing. Within the mangrove forest, women typically gathered clams, crabs, shrimps, and fish as sources of sustenance. However, men could enter the forest in the absence of women, usually in search of dried mangrove wood for firewood.

Orgenes Meraudje, the former head of Enggros Village and a prominent community leader, emphasized that women also visited the Women’s Forest to share their domestic experiences. However, these stories remained within the forest, not to be brought back home. For the women of Enggros-Tobati Beach, the forest held sacred significance, and they foraged unclothed for their household necessities.

Yehuda Hamokwarong, a lecturer at Cenderawasih University who attended the event, stressed the importance of protecting the Women’s Forest.

“The forest served as an educational hub, imparting knowledge and survival skills to Enggros-Tobati women, encompassing practical skills, ethics, and morals. The Women’s Forest represented not only the lungs of the world but also a profound emblem of feminine identity,” she said.

In addition to the Women’s Forest, there is a designated area called “para-para”, a sort of hall exclusive for men, and women were prohibited from entering. Any woman entering this area would face customary fines.

From the Women’s Forest, participants were led to Mitudebi, the venue for the Arumbay Tonotwiyat folk festival. Here, local villagers had set up stalls offering homemade food, beverages, and various accessories. This stage featured a poetry reading competition and a speech contest conducted in the Enggros language, with the children of Enggros Village displaying great enthusiasm for these competitions.

Women's Forest
Talkshow with community leaders, mangrove activists, academics, and BKSDA at the Arumbay Tonotwiyat event, in Enggros Village, Saturday (23/9/2023). -Jubi/CR-7

Subsequently, the children were taken to the Enggros Village Kindergarten, assisted by Lantamal X, where they listened to a fairy tale titled “Si Obo and Mangi Named Jee and Nuy”. This was followed by a screening of a film produced by an environmentalist community, designed to instill environmental awareness among the children of Enggros Village and motivate them to protect and preserve their environment.

Gamel, representing Rumah Bakau Jayapura, one of the communities involved in organizing the folk festival, emphasized that the Arumbay Tonotwiyat was convened out of concern for the deteriorating condition of the mangrove forests in Youtefa Bay. He highlighted the adverse impact of infrastructure development, such as the Hamadi-Holtekamp Road access, the Ring-road, and the Youtefa Bridge on the Port Numbay forest, underscoring the urgent need for preservation.

Gamel expressed concern that the mangrove forests in the area had suffered damage due to extensive land filling. He emphasized that while they do not oppose development, it should be carried out with respect for local wisdom and not at the expense of the community’s well-being.

He also drew attention to the impact of the Youtefa Bay bridge construction, which has led to an influx of vehicles but has also brought along a significant amount of garbage, including discarded alcohol containers.

“While we have cleaned up a substantial amount of waste, there is still work to be done in educating people about responsible waste disposal,” he said.

He stressed the importance of preserving the remaining mangrove forests, as they are at risk of being rapidly lost or damaged due to ongoing development. Gamel called for collective efforts to safeguard these forests for future generations.

Meanwhile, Alhadir, a representative from the BKSDA Papua present at the event, pointed out that waste has consistently been a major issue in Youtefa Bay. He attributed this problem to a lack of environmental awareness among the local population, leading to careless disposal of garbage.

Furthermore, Alhadir highlighted that even flooding contributes to the issue by carrying debris into Youtefa Bay, resulting in sedimentation that poses a threat to the protected and conservation forests in the area. (*)

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