The Baliem Valley Cultural Festival being held on August 8-10, 2016, in the Jayawijaya district area of Walesi had garnered praises from the international community for showcasing Indonesias cultural diversity.
The unique annual festival has been enlivened by various fascinating art and cultural performances, including traditional Papuan dances, and more interestingly, a dance performed by Indian dancers.
Pooja Bhatnagar, a dancer from the Jawaharlal Nehru India Culture Centre at the Indian Embassy in Jakarta, remarked in Wamena on Wednesday that she was pleased to showcase the culture of her country through dance during the Baliem Valley Festival.
According to Bhatnagar, the Indian dancers were delighted to have the opportunity to witness Indonesias cultural diversity, especially of Papua.
Indonesia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, unique cultures, and traditional arts that should be maintained and preserved.
Indonesia, with more than 300 ethnic groups, each with their own languages and dialects, cannot be compared with any other country in terms of its rich cultural diversity.
As an archipelago comprising more than 17 thousand islands, Indonesia has 34 provinces, with over 238 million people, and is the worlds fourth most populous country.
Indonesia is home to over 500 tribes, who speak more than 700 ethnic languages, and are spread across the country that is made up of five major islands: Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua.
Bhatnagar further noted that an invitation to attend the Baliem Valley Cultural Festival in Wamena gave her an opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of the unique culture of Papua, which cannot necessarily be experienced elsewhere.
Seven ambassadors and diplomats of different countries attended the gala evening hosted by the Jayawijaya District Government as part of the implementation of the Baliem Valley Cultural Festival 2016.
Vice District Head of Jayawijaya Richard Jhon Banua stated in Wamena that the seven diplomats were coming from Switzerland, Italy, Armenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Mexico, and India.
"We expect that the ambassadors from these seven countries will develop a good impression of the Land of Papua, especially Jayawijaya district," he remarked.
After seeing all the performances during the Baliem Valley Festival, Swiss Ambassador to Indonesia Yvonne Baumann also admired and praised Indonesias diversity, especially that in Wamena, Papua Province.
"This is my first visit to Papua, especially Wamena. I am very happy to see this cultural festival," the ambassador stated in Wamena on Wednesday at the Baliem Valley Festival.
According to Baumann, Wamena, which is located in Jayawijaya District, has unique cultures and scenic panorama.
"We are very grateful for the invitation to be able to witness Papuas natural and cultural wealth," the ambassador noted.
Baumann hoped the natural beauty and unique cultures of Jayawijaya District will be preserved for people around the world to enjoy.
"We also visited some tourist sites, such as Lake Habema, Pasir Putih, saw a mummy, and many others," Baumann remarked.
The local government is expected to hold such an event next year with better services and facilities.
"We really hope all these cultural and natural diversities will continue to exist in the coming years," the ambassador affirmed.
In addition to the Swiss ambassador, international figures who visited Wamena include Italian Ambassador to Indonesia Vittorio Sandalli, Hungarian Ambassador to Indonesia Judit Nemeth Pach, Bulgarian Ambassador to Indonesia Sergey Michev, and Mexican Ambassador to Indonesia Federico Salas.
Some Rp9 billion were being spent to hold the cultural festival, including on services or activities during the event, apart from other costs, such as infrastructure development.
"These funds, as a whole, are sourced from the Regional Budget (APBD) of Jayawijaya District without using the State Budget (APBN)," the vice district head of Jayawijaya affirmed.
The vast cultural diversities that have been prevalent in Papua for centuries must not be abandoned but maintained to improve the welfare of the people and their livelihood in Papua.
Now, the task of the government today is to harmonize the welfare of the people of Papua with their own culture and customs.
An interesting highlight of the Baliem Valley Festival is the mock tribal warfare held to maintain the agility and preparedness of the tribes to defend their villages.
These mock battles are accompanied by the Papuan traditional music of Pikon, a musical instrument made of wood bark, which produces sounds when blown. The sounds created produce soothing music. Not many people can play the instrument as it requires special skills.
As an asset to Papua, the Baliem Valley Festival has held significance since the past 27 years.
The Baliem Valley Festival is an ideal getaway to experience true and rich cultures apart from the unforgettable experience of pig races, cooking contests, and the all-time tribal, music, and dance presentations.
Jayawijaya District Head John Wempi Wetipo remarked in Wamena on Tuesday that this cultural event was a positive step taken by the local government to maintain the traditional arts and culture and the noble values of the Dani tribe.
"Furthermore, this event becomes an important asset to increase the income of the local community as the guardian of the local culture and to boost local revenue in the Jayawijaya District," Wetipo noted.
He explained that Jayawijaya District, with the Baliem Valley, was one of the most popular, natural, unique, and exceptional tourist attractions in Indonesia.
Also known as Grand Valley, the Baliem Valley measures around 80 km long and around 20 km wide and holds a population of 100,000 inhabitants.(Antara)