Papuan Voices: The Papuan Serving of Culture, Video and Change

Wempie talks to KBR 68H about Papuan Voices
Wempie talks to KBR 68H about Papuan Voices (Photo credit:



The BAKAR BATU Papuan Voices Launch in Goethe-Institute, Jakarta on October 13, 2012 provided an eye-view of the struggle and inspiration in West Papua, brought to you by Papuan video activists from Jayapura and Merauke.



dancers2As the Merauke dancers waltzed into the Goethe-Haus theatre, the people who turned up for the Bakar Batu Papuan Voices Launchknew they were in for an evening of West Papuan culture which was filled with more than just the usual sad stories, but more so with hope and inspiration.Master of ceremony and Papuan Voices filmmaker Cyntia Warwewelcomed the audience, giving a bit of a philosophical explanation of the event.“Bakar Batu (literally translates to earth oven in Indonesian) or ‘barapen’ is an event where Papuans gather for a special occasion,” said Cyntia. “And this is a special event indeed, we’ve cooked up nine videos proudly, and we want to serve them to you, our friends.”

The theatre was packed. The Sisir Bambu acoustic group followed the dancers. Lead singer Sem Awom sang his work and also Mambesak songs to celebrate the cultural struggle of Papua.

“Years ago, there was a guy named Arnold Ap who worked very hard to keep the Papuan culture alive through the group Mambesak,” Sem said. “Unfortunately, his great work was deemed separatist by the then regime, and in the end he was arrested and killed.”

The award-winning filmmaker Wenda Tokomonowir kicked off the film screening  with the acclaimed “Surat Cinta Kepada Sang Prada’ (Love Letter to the Soldier). There were a total of 11 films screened. It was an emotional roller coaster as the films showed the tough lives many Papuans have to face, but encouraging as the same peoples are also not back down and fighting hard for survival. A video called ‘Salam Bilogai’ about a traditional Bilogai click handshake lit up the theatre with laughter as the audience demonstrated the handshakes with one another.

Papuan Voices co-producer, Wensi Fatubun, said that even though the project that ran since 2011 was a video initiative, both EngageMedia and Church group JPIC MSC have encouraged the participants in Jayapura and Merauke to design and use the videos for change.

“Papuan Voices is a cultural struggle,” said Wensi. “We want people to see Papua through the eyes of the Papuans themselves.”

Winning accolades was not the intention, but we are grateful of that. But to change and inspire is a lot more important.”

Web Launch

The evening was also about the unveiling of the dedicated Papuan Voices website – This particular site compiles the nine Papuan Voices videos, along with various background information about the places and issues raised in the videos, a study guide that teachers/educators can use to trigger discussions, a screening guide and a take action page that provides information on groups to join and resources to read more about West Papua.

At the end of the screening, the audience were led outside to eat the sago and betel nut made by the indigenous market traders in the video ‘Awin Meke’.


One audience said: “Thanks for letting me take a peek to the window of lives in West Papua for the first time. I hope folks in the TNI (the Indonesian Armed Forces) and the Government can have the opportunity to take a look at the videos also.”

The Papuan Voices Compilation DVD can be purchased here.





Breaking News: Police in Jayapura forcibly prevent commemoration of 3rd Papuan Congress brutality from going ahead, ban free speech

October 19, 2011

by West Papua Media

(Abepura) Indonesian Brimob Riot Police have forcibly broken up attempts to hold a memorial commemoration at the graveside of slain independence hero Theys Eluay today, where a prayer service was planned in remembrance of the first anniversary of a brutal crackdown by Indonesian security forces on the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress.

Despite the Jayapura police issuing a permit on October 8 allowing a gathering at the sacred cemetery site, the literal touchstone for civil mobilisations in support of Papuan justice issues, police reneged on their agreement with organisers for the memorial prayer service to go ahead.

Up to 1000 people braved a threatening environment in spite of an ongoing crackdown by Indonesian occupation forces across West Papua on organisers of peaceful free expression.

The event had been planned by the National Federated Republic of West Papua, the body set up immediately prior to the violent dispersal by Australian funded Detachment 88 troops on October 19 last year.  Prayer services and commemorations were also planned to be held in memorials in Wamena, Merauke, Fakfak, Sorong, Timika, Manokwari, and Serui.

Just before 10 am local time, several hundred heavily armed members of the Indonesian security forces had gathered outside Expo Waena shopping centre adjacent to the gravesite, causing many people to stand back from the already gathered mass.  6 trucks full of Brimob, 4 trucks of Army (TNI), 1 Gegana anti terror police unit and 3 trucks of Dalmas public order riot police (including members of Detachment 88) had deployed in a “show force” manoeuvre.  According to witnesses in the crowd, almost 100 plain clothes armed intelligence officers had also deployed throughout the mass of ordinary Papuans around the shopping complex threatening to kill anyone that spoke against Indonesia.

At 10 am, Police issued a verbal warning on megaphones that the gathering was illegal and would be dispersed.  However the right to engage is peaceful free expression is guaranteed both under the Indonesian Constitution and the 2001 Special Autonomy law in Papua.  Witnesses reported the police commdander on the ground as saying, “we already warned you, there will not be any democratic space for you guys to speak out about the significance of todays commemoration,” relayed over a megaphone immediately prior to the dispersal.

Police have reportedly banned the services from displaying any West Papuan independence attributes or cultural symbols, and have also banned the mention of the word “merdeka” (freedom) or any mention of the NFRWP, demands for independence or referendum – conditions subject to immediate dispersal if broken.

Up to 1000 people has begun to gather at the pendopo (traditional ceremony hut) at the gravesite of Eluay, when police stormed the gravesite in contempt of traditional customs, and forced people to disperse by pushing people heavily with riot shields.  Participants then regrouped and began to march down the street adjacent to the cemetery.

Early reports have been unable to confirm if any injuries were sustained.  At this stage there have been no reports of live fire being used or casualties.

At last report heated verbal confrontations between organisers and police were occurring, with police being angrily accused of being liars for reneging on their agreement, according to sources on the ground.  Committee organiser Pastor Ketty Yabansabra called on participants to stand firm, stay together, and to not disperse until the event was to be closed with a prayer.  At time of writing the event is currently ongoing.

No updates have yet been received from other venues at this stage.  Significant concerns are held for the service in Serui, who had been threatened with violent dispersal by the head of police on Yapen should strict topics of speech be broken.

More to come – this is a developing story.

West Papua Media

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