Traders, however, visited the flatter coastal regions of Irian Jaya, as early as the 7th century from Sriwijaya. European traders began arriving in the early 16th century, looking for spices and have left historical footprints in the area with names such as Bougainville, Cape D’Urville and the Torres Straits, named after Luis Baez de Torres, a Spanish navigator from the early 17th. It was the Dutch who made the most lasting impact on the island, who in 1828, formally made Irian a Dutch Territory which was not released until 1962.
Irian Jaya became part of the Dutch East Indies in 1828 as Western New Guinea, and later became known as Irian Barat. It was retained by the Netherlands after Indonesian independence in 1949 but, after an internationally unrecognized declaration of independence was issued in 1961, it was placed under United Nations (UN) administration in 1962. It was transferred to Indonesia in 1963. As agreed with the UN, a referendum on Irian Barat’s future was held in 1969 and it decided to remain part of Indonesia, becoming the province of Irian Jaya. Since then, opposition to Indonesian rule and the fight for independence has been led by the Organization Papua Merdeka (OPM; Free Papua Movement), led by Theys Eluay; the Papuan Taskforce, a pro-independence civil guard; and the Papua Presidium, which favors achieving independence through negotiation with the Indonesian government.
West Irian Jaya covers the Bird’s Head Peninsula (Jazirah Doberai) and surrounding islands. West Irian Jaya was created from the western Papua province portion in February 2003. The split remains controversial. Supporters, including those in the central government in Jakarta and immigrants to Papua from elsewhere in Indonesia, argue that the creation of new province will help ensure the efficient management of resources and fair distribution of services. The split is widely opposed in Papua itself, where it is viewed as a violation of special autonomy laws governing Papua, and as an effort to quell the Papuan separatist movement.
In November 2004, an Indonesian court agreed that the split violated Papua’s autonomy laws. However, the court ruled that because the new province had already been created, it should remain separate from Papua. The ruling also prohibited the creation of another proposed province, Central Irian Jaya, because the split was not yet completed.
Raja Ampat Island
The Raja Ampat Island in Irian is group spreads out over a huge area and consists of over 610 islands. The four largest islands are Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. The area’s reefs are covered in a diverse selection of both hard and soft corals. Most of the areas reefs are pristine, with mile after mile of perfect hard corals, drift after drift of soft corals of many species and colors ranging from brilliant red, to shocking yellow pretty pink and exotic purple. Most reef dives are very colorful. The tourist would be able to experience the best dives sites within those islands, which include Cape Kri, Mellisa’s Garden, Sardines Reef, The Passage, Nudibranch Rock, Wai Island Night Dive.
Raja Ampat is the western island of Papua Island. The name of Raja Ampat based on the legend. This area had begun with 6 eggs that found by King Waikew in Waigeo Island. But from the 6 eggs, just 5 eggs had crack. The last was become an egg stone till now on.
From the fifth eggs that had cracked, the 4 eggs was become men who become King of four big islands that is Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. While the one egg became a woman, had wash away and stranded in Biak Island. That woman was born a child named Gura Besi that known as the historical man of Raja Ampat, because of his heroic story.
The regency that formed based on the constitution number 26 in 2002, is the development of Sorong regency on 12 April 2003. This area has 46.000 km2. But, 85% of this area is archipelago area. There are 610 islands in this area. But most of them have no social life. This regency has 10 districts and 85 villages with about 48.707 men.
Geographically, this area has strategic location. Its boundaries is:
North side: Pacific Ocean
West Side: North Maluku
South side: Maluku Sea
East Side: Sorong Regency
For the fauna sector, Raja Ampat has rarely fauna, such as; red birds of paradise (Paradise Rubra), Wilson birds of paradise (Cicinnurs Republica), Maleo Waigeo (Spilocuscus Papuensis), and rainbow fishes. Hence, for the flora, Raja Ampat has many kinds of Orchids, Waigeo palm, ironwoods or black woods, ‘keruing’, ‘ulin’ woods, etc.
Because of its various nature profit, Raja Ampat will declared by Maritime Ministry Freddy Numberi as ancient regency, based on its location that not only rich of fishes, but also its sea herb and the pearl
Asmat people who live along the remote southeast coast around Agats are famed for their artistic “primitive” woodcarving. Modern civilization did not reach this area until recently. Agats has an interesting museum filled with woodcarvings and other objects. The area however is still largely untamed wilderness. Asmat crash received a boost in late 1960s under a United Nations supported project to encourage local craftsmen to keep alive their art.
The Asmat homeland comprises the rugged and isolated southern coast of Irian Jaya. It is an area of approximately 10,000 square miles and comprises mainly swamps and mangroves.
Ancestor figures were traditionally made only for the festival honoring Fumer-ipits. They wear a unique costume. Tourists demand, however, is as resulted to change to this custom. Previously, after the festival, the figure is discarded into the forests near a sago tree because it was believed that as the wood of the carving is deteriorated, the power of the ancestor was transferred to the sago palm. Other ancestor carvings are designed as elements in larger carvings, such as canoe prows, paddles or ancestor poles.
The Asmat believe that all things have a spirit whether humans, animals, plants and even special locations such as a whirlpool or the bottom of a river. They also believe that the world is divided between that which can be seen and that which is unseen which is the realm of the spirits. It is considered important to maintain a proper balance between the seen and the unseen. In this respect, birth and death balanced the population between the seen and unseen realms and one cannot take place without the other. This would manifest itself in disease, hunger, death and misfortune that will be caused by the unsettled spirits.
The Asmat Shields
Traditionally, shields were carved prior to a headhunting reprisal raid, which was organized to avenge the death of the ancestor for whom the shield was named. A shield always represents an ancestor. It is named after him and the ancestor’s spirit is believed to be present in the shield and make the owner fierce, powerful and invincible. Shields are considered so powerful that it may control the owner. Shields also provide spiritual help to the owner in hunting regular prey for food.
A shield is carved out of the lightweight flattened (or plank) buttress root of a mangrove tree– the root is planed to half an inch thick, except for a protrusion left on one side for a handle. The front of the shield is carved in high relief. They include symbols of wild boar tusks or bones, flying foxes, the tails of tree kangaroos, whirlpools. Some symbols are believed to be so powerful that just by seeing these symbols, the enemy will flee in terror or be immobilized in fear. But such powerful symbols require strict rituals of appeasement. A special feast, the yamas pokumbu is held to call upon the ancestor’s spirit to enter the war shields.
The spirit in the shield must be properly treated or it might cause disease, or doom hunting efforts and rot the sago palms. During festivals, shields are decorated with tassels of sago leaves and placed near each other so the spirits may interact. Shields are placed near doorways to protect the home from evil spirits and human intruders.
Shields from different areas have different features: some have a phallic protrusion at the top; others have a symbolic head at the top, yet others add facial features of the ancestor at the top.
The Asmat Drums
Asmat drums are made in exactly the same way that the mythological figure Fumer-ipits is said to have made the drum that brought the Asmat people to life. The drums are carved from a single piece of wood and the handle is decorated with head hunting symbols and covered with the skin of a monitor lizard, attached with an adhesive made from blood and lime. Indeed, the mythological Fumer-ipits was thus not only the first wood carver but also the first drummer.
The hourglass shaped drums take a long time to make and require constant attention as the drum may split during the drying process. Each drum is carved from a solid log being specially selected for its soft centre, which can be easily removed with a hard palm wood stick. A lot of water is needed for this task which is usually performed by the banks of a river preferably at high tide so that the wood chips wash away. Once the centre hole is made, the hourglass shape is obtained by placing hot embers on the wood to burn it slowly. The charred canter is then scraped out afterwards; the exterior is shaped out leaving the curved handles.
Holding the drum close to a fire and allowing the skin to shrink to the correct tension tune a drum. Because of the high humidity, a drum skin loses tension rapidly and needs to be retunaed every twenty to thirty minutes. The picture of the drum is determined by its length and diameter. Each drum can produce only a single tone and so usually a number of drums and drummers are used.
Named of the big casuarinas trees, which grow in that area. Casuarinas Cape is just two kilometers from Sorong town on the Bird’s Head peninsula of northern Irian Jaya. Good for swimming and recreation.
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