A Pedacito Of World Tiger Day, Aceh, Indonesia
The music sounded cheerful on that Sunday morning. Two pairs of dancers, dressed as lions, had performed their dances in the middle of the roads. The Lion Dance, well-known as Barongsai, was now the symbol of guarding, exorcising evil spirits, and getting rid of bad luck.
This performance combines the elements of dance movement, martial arts, and acrobatics. This beautiful attraction had become one of many activities during the celebration of International Tiger Day on 29th July.
Aceh is one of the most remote provinces of Indonesia. Aceh is one of the few areas in the world that have extensive protected forest coverage and is the only place on Earth where critically endangered Sumatra orangutan, rhino, elephant, and tigers still coexist in the wild. The four animals live together inside the Leuser Ecosystem.
The presence of the Leuser forest is clear proof of the wisdom of the traditional Acehnese people in managing their natural surroundings.
Various rules and taboos around the Acehnese community have been used to protect nature, including its flora and fauna.
Acehnese people have their own Tiger Dance. Although not as popular as the Lion Dance, this Tiger Dance is the original dance of the Acehnese people from the Kluet region, South Aceh.
The Tiger Dance is called Landok Begu. This dance depicts the traditional Acehnese people who make a living in the forest and often encounter tigers. This dance uses self-defense arts movements (silet begu) to protect themselves.
The dance imitates the agile movements of a tiger. In Acehnese society, this dance has a highly sacred value. It serves as a form of education for the local community to prevent conflicts with tigers and refers to the coexistence between animals and the surrounding community.
As I watched the agility of the Lion Dance performance on the day of the festival, my mind was blown away at the Landok Begu Dance. I wonder how the lion dance culture from China, which originated from mystical animals, could become entrenched and popular in various other parts of the world.
Meanwhile, why is it that the original Acehnese dance has been forgotten in its own area? It seems to be a real reflection of the enforced disappearance of the presence of the Sumatran Tiger whose population is getting smaller as the cruel acts of poaching and trafficking in wildlife are rampant in the world.
The excitement of this world tiger day festival still left a gap of emptiness in the deepest corner of my heart. While painting and coloring tiger pictures on canvas and paper, my mind was racing with a million hopes.
I was hoping that the festival would generate not only excitement and sweet memories but also raise awareness in maintaining the forest and the wild animals in it. Also, that it would evoke action to re-popularize the variety of unique regional cultures which have been forgotten.
Increasing awareness and protection are things that require more effort. Holding a festival that has educational value is not always easy. But the Acehnese youth actions, who gathered in the community of art and nature lovers, were incredible.
The artists applied body paint to the people who wanted their faces painted like "the king of the jungle". Two large banners containing information about the Sumatran tiger were presented in stunning infographics and placed within reach of the eyes of passers-by.
This is truly a festival that educates and builds public awareness of the importance of protecting nature and all its contents. All the efforts of young Acehnese raising awareness and concern to protect the natural ecosystem were such a blessing for the World Tiger Day Festival, in Aceh.
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