Following the Fire

Réportase foto ini mengenai upacara Hari Pattimura di Maluku Tengah. Bakar obor di gunung Saniri, Pulau Saparua. Bawah obor dari puncak gunung Saniri sampai pantung Pattimura di lapangan Merdeka, Kota-Ambon. [Gambar-gambar diambil dengan persetujuan]


Photo essay – This essay shows a glimpse into the world of Moluccan adat. Its surrounded sacredness and the intensity of adat rituals are reflected in these photos. It tells the story of the Moluccan people. The annual Pattimura day in Central Maluku. It is a ceremonial event in remembrance of kapitan [“army commander”] Pattimura. People in Central Maluku commemorate the uprising on the Island of Saparua in 1817. Pattimura also known as Thomas Matulessy led this rebellion** against the Dutch colonial rule. Together with other kapitans and adat officials, Pattimura initiated this battle on the mountain Saniri.

Today this ceremonial event is still surrounded with adat rituals* and intermingled with Christian/Islamic ceremonies. The villagers were very strict in executing of the adat ceremonies. The fire must be created naturally (it is important that only wood should be used), simultaniously using specific ‘prayers’ to connect with the ancestral world. One of the high adat officials on Saparua Island ignites the torches through a sirih pinang adat ritual at the Saniri mountain, to initiate the torch march to Ambon City [Ambon Island]. The complete schedule is from three o’clock in the afternoon up to five o’clock the next morning. Across several villages on two islands (Saparua and Ambon), a few people are carrying the three torches through their village. Eventually to end the torch march in front of the Pattimura statue in Ambon City. For this reason the photo essay is in a chronological order. [May 2010]


* In this context the ‘adat’ refers to traditional customary law in Central Moluccan villages / Sirih pinang: the specific ingredients to chew betel. The betel nut [pinang], lime spatulas [kapur sirih] and betel leaves [daun pinang]. This stimulant is a mixture of areca palm nuts and leaves from the betel, a climbing plant. All these ingredients together are wrapped in betel leaves and chewed into a fine substance. The betel quid is used during ceremonies, for ritual purposes or in situations to make a connection with the ancestral world. Sometimes people use slightly different ingredients that go along with chewing betel nut. Along with these adat-rituals Sopi is used. This is a strong alcoholic beverage destilled from the mayang tree / ** Seen from the colonial perspective, this was a rebellion. Nonetheless, seen from the native’s point of view the Pattimura War was a struggle for freedom.

Side note: These photos are taken with permission; that is why this essay has clearly watermarks. It is prohibited to copy one of these photos.