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Traditional Fishing Culture (Wer Warat) in Kei Islands and the Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei

Traditional Fishing Culture (Wer Warat) in Kei Islands and the Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei
The kei islands or in the local language referred to as Nuhu Evav, is an area or territory that is located in eastern Indonesia. They do not have many historical records, they only have Tom which means saga, and tad which means sign. Tom or saga will be told for generations that are strengthened by a tad or a sign of song, heritage objects, custom objects, the scene, and so forth.

The kei islands have stunningly beautiful tourist spots, such as hawang cave, ngurbloat beach (long sand beach), bair island, ngurtavur island (embossed sand island), hako waterfall, madwaer beach, and many more tourist attractions I can not mention it here. The kei community also still maintains local traditions that you can find there, one of them is the traditional fishing tradition of wer warat.

Meti Kei and Traditional Fishing Culture (Wer Warat)


Traditional Fishing Culture (Wer Warat) in Kei Islands and the Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei

The kei islands are largely marine, so they have a marvelous natural beauty of the sea. Every year in certain months starting from September to November (the peak in October) there is a very rare natural phenomenon, which people in the province of Maluku and Papua generally refer to as meti kei. Meti means low tide while kei is an archipelago located in the southeast of Maluku province. The mention of meti kei has been going on for a long time, and was first popularized by the kei community.

Natural phenomenon meti kei is the lowest sea water recedes up to 500-700 meters, even in some villages can reach one kilometer. This natural phenomenon usually occurs during the dry season so it is used by locals to find bia (sea shells), and other seafood, whether for sale or for own consumption at home. Usually at the time of kei kei season, most people in kei islands catching fish in a traditional way even spelled out unique. Because it uses only yellow coconut leaves tied to nylon ropes that length is adjusted to the length of the beach.

At first the fishing gear (yellow coconut leaves tied to nylon ropes) was pulled in a semi-circular shape to reach the beach lips and left to soak for a day-and-night in the sea, the next day when the sea water began to recede, the man who has qualified certain down to the sea to pull the rope to the ground while hitting sea water to fish trapped. Then all the people present, went down to the sea to catch fish by stabbing, cutting, or using nets. The fish will be eaten in a crowded manner by all the people present at the beach, and also distributed to all the villagers who are not present. In the traditional fishing activities that Kei people call the "wer warat" tradition or in the Indonesian language means the tradition of "Tarik tali", there are also some special rituals performed before going down to the sea.

According to the local culture, not all men are allowed to install and pull the rope, there are some requirements that must be met by adult men to participate in the tradition. The main requirement is not to commit an act of sin that is prohibited by the religion it embraces, for those who are married his wife should not be pregnant and also should not commit a sin. Adult men who follow the tradition must be completely clean from sin. After passing the requirements, they are bathed with special water to have the courage and strength to catch fish, by directing the fish to the beach (sea water until knee), after that other person who are in the location are entirely participate catch the fish already trapped in nylon ropes tied with yellow coconut leaves. According to local belief, fish are scared with yellow coconut leaves so it is used to direct fish to the beach.

The traditional fishing tradition of wer warat is not only followed by local villagers but usually enlivened by people from other villages, such as neighboring villages or villages that get news about the tradition. All present men may participate but they must meet the requirements and rituals I mentioned above.

The tradition like this is a good tradition and is an obligation for the local population that is kei community to continue to preserve it because has a good benefit for the survival of kei society. Firstly, that with this kind of activity will foster a sense of brotherhood among people. Second, improving community harmony. Third, be part of the environmental maintenance, because fishing by using traditional tools that are environmentally friendly and not harm the nature.

Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei


Traditional Fishing Culture (Wer Warat) in Kei Islands and the Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei

The people of the kei islands are traditional societies that wisely still maintain the local culture, and local laws they call Larvul Ngabal. For indigenous people kei, the most priority in life is kinship and tradition, after which then religion and state law.

The Kei people are the people who live on the coast so that they can easily accept new cultures that come from outside but still maintain local wisdom. So the author sees that the Kei society has long transcended post-modernism theory, a theory that combines local wisdom into the life of modern society.

Modern events that we usually meet and even we engage in it if you want to see is actually only a development of local traditions that have been done for a long time. For example, the "Denpasar Festival" activities conducted in Denpasar Bali (read: research journal by Ni Putu Eka Juliawati), which raised the local traditions of Bali that have been shown to the general public for a long time in local activities, just to look more interesting then, made as much as possible with a modern bandage.

This is also the same as the Festival of Meti Kei Enchantment which is held annually in kei islands. Basically the main activities in the event such as the traditional fishing tradition of wer warat (pull rope), the cultural carnival, the exhibition of nature and creatives, dance performances, etc. are old traditions of the kei community that are raised in the event with modern style to be seen better.

The Festival of Meti Kei Enchantment for the first time was held on 8-22 October 2016 in Larvul Ngabal land (Southeast Maluku), after the kei islands were awarded the Most Popular Hidden Paradise in the activities of Anugrah Pesona Indonesia in the same year.

This awarding is derived from the efforts made by many in promoting the beauty of the kei islands. Included in the group promoting the charm of the kei islands are the traveling communities both coming from the kei archipelago, as well as those from outside the region. In addition, there are also efforts made by the government of Southeast Maluku district in promoting tourism in the archipelago kei with various events, be it local, national and international events.  The event that is currently done routinely every year by the government of Southeast Maluku regency as already mentioned above authors of the Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei.

Festival Of Enchantment Meti Kei is an event to promote tourism kei islands, besides that, Festival of Enchantment Meti Kei become the arena to foster harmony of life of kei islands society. Because in the annual event there are various activities undertaken. Like traditional fishing activities (wer warat), cultural carnivals, photography competitions, the people's party enlivened by national artists, marathon runs, and other events held in various places in the kei islands.

The above events are not only carried out by one community group, but are implemented by all tribal, religious, and community groups in the kei islands. There are even participants who come from outside the region. This proves that the kei community still maintains its culture, so that the life of social harmony is still maintained, from ancient times until today.

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