PHOTOGRAPHS I SALLY CONDRO
The welcoming gesture
In Samosir, the world’s biggest island that is surrounded by lake, a group of villagers performed the Bataknese traditional Tor Tor dance. The ritual dance dated back before the arrival of Christianity and Islam in North Sumatra. The versatility of the dance serves for several primary occasions such as in the funeral, wedding, blessing, and last, welcoming important guests. It was performed more frequently for the latter these days due to its increasingly important element to bring regional income from tourism sector.
Local people in Tuk Tuk Village are aware of the key aspect of their civilisation that can potentially generate incomes for them: the Tor Tor dance. it is amplified by the high officials in the central government with the claim that Tor Tor dance is the most important cultural commodity from the western Indonesia. And as the Minister of Economy Hatta Rajassa pointed out during the 2013 Toba Lake Festival, Toba region will become world’s top travel destination. One of the plans is to hold festivals like this.
Culture for money
What was once a ritual to expel negative energy or bad luck now has become a regular show to outsiders in an open square across the Hutabolon Simannindo Museum, Tuk Tuk Village, Samosir Island. Some men and women donning traditional Ulos fabric demonstrated the monotonuos, simple movements of the dance circling a buffalo which was tied to a small tree, and together they formed a symbol of good yields and wealth.
Globalisation dictates the way to monetise such an intangible product like culture. Some helplessly deride the trade, citing a sell-off of holy values. The country’s most famous travel destination, Bali Island, has encountered the same issue as well. But apparently its people have come to terms with it.
This article also appeared in think archipelago e-magazine V4 Nov 2013.