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The Pati Karapau Ceremony of Nua Lu’a (Palu’e Island), Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia

The Pati Karapau Ceremony of Nua Lu’a (Palu’e Island), Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia

August 26, 2019

I am a Palu’e, one of the Indigenous peoples of Indonesia. I am a student in the English Education Study Program of Nusa Nipa University of Maumere, Indonesia. I’m going do my thesis about our traditional culture, Palu’e. When I was looking for the best subject for my thesis, my aunty suggested that I research our traditional culture as it exists on Palu’e Island.

Palu’e Island, locally called Nua Lu’a, is under the administrative region of Sikka Regency of Nusa Tenggara Timur Province of Indonesia. Palu’e is one of the subdistricts of Sikka Regency. Sara Lu’a is one of the local languages spoken by Palu’e people. Palu’e Island preserves a unique culture that includes our Sara Lu’a language, legend stories, traditional songs and dances, and traditional ceremonies. I went to Palu’e Island in December 2018 in hopes of attending the Pati Karapau, one of the traditional ceremonies held in the hamlet of Ko’a, which is part of Rokirole Village.

This traditional ceremony is usually performed every five years, closing an agricultural cycle. (Not all Tana, or domains, of Palu’e perform the Pati Karapau ceremony; those who do are called Tana Laja Karapau.)  It is the peak ceremony of thanksgiving rituals, acknowledging that the success of all work done during the previous five years is due to the greatness, grace, and blessings of the Era Wula Wathu Tana. The Era Wula Watu Tana is believed by the Palu’e people to be the highest, most powerful entity creating and giving life for humans. Era Wula refers to “the high power or local god,” and Watu Tana refers to “the ancestors and the earth.” The Palu’e people believe the Era Wula is the sun and the moon, and the Watu Tana are the land and the ancestors, and each must be given some food in any ceremony. Pati Karapau itself means “the sacrifice of buffalo.” In Ko’a, the buffalo is ranked as the sacrificial animal of the highest order. Although this is never explicitly stated, according to hada, or law, its blood is meant to serve as a replacement for the human blood in sacrifices. The buffalo that is sacrificed in this offering is a symbol or sign of thanks being given to the Era Wula Watu Tana.

I went to Palu’e Island last December to meet the Ko’a Lakimosa, or the ceremony leader. The Lakimosa was really nice to me and gave me the schedule for the ceremony. I am really happy that the Lakimosa gave me permission to follow the ceremony, and in January 2019, I attended in the Pati Karapau ceremony.

The Pati Karapau ceremony has many steps, the most important of which is a ritual called Phoka Pu’u Ca Supo Ngalu Lawa. In Phoka Pu’u Ca Supo Ngalu Lawa, I saw the buffalo slaughtered by the Lakimosa . Along with his son, he cut the neck and the back legs of the buffalo while dancing and chanting“Oro … e.” After the buffalo had been slaughtered as a sacrifice to the Era Wula Watu Tana, the Lakimosa put grass to the buffalo’s mouth and rice to its stomach to give thanks to the local god and to the ancestors. After the ceremony was done I went back to the city, but, as the Lakimosa told me, I learned that we must protect and care for our traditional culture. He let me record videos and take some pictures of the Pati Karapau ceremony as my part of my research and also as documentation for my generation so we will learn and know about the ceremony.

Traditional cultures like mine play an important role in civilization. They help strike a balance with Mother Nature and promote the conservation of nature and respect of each other. I learned a lot from this ceremony, especially from the way the Lakimosa, together with his people, carried it out. Togetherness is really important: when we have some event or ceremony, we need other people to make the ritual happen. I also learned how we as human beings must always be near the Creator that is God. In this ceremony, Palu’e people believe that we must respect and praise God as our Creator.

My young generation of Palu’e must learn the Pati Karapau ceremony because we will carry it on when the old generation dies. We need to be introduced to the local traditional culture, especially the Pati Karapau ceremony, so that our cultural and social identity are not uprooted. The noble values of the Pati Karapau ceremony must continue to be instilled in the young generation. It can be a strong foundation in facing the currents of external influence that can uproot our cultural identity.

I believe that embracing traditional cultures can make Indigenous people believe in themselves and their natural identity. I hope all the people in this world learn about other traditional cultures, so that we can learn to respect them. ( )


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