The Tradition of Opening Sasi in Raja Ampat by Garry Lotulung

The indigenous people in Kapatcol Village, West Misool District, Raja Ampat Regency conducted an open sasi laut ceremony. The sasi area was opened after being closed for 1 year. Traditionally, the sasi area is usually managed by men. However, in Kampung Kapatcol, the sasi area is managed by women as a leader group.

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The indigenous people in Kapatcol Village, West Misool District, Raja Ampat Regency conducted an open sasi laut ceremony. The sasi area was opened after being closed for 1 year.

Traditionally, the sasi area is usually managed by men. However, in Kampung Kapatcol, the sasi area is managed by women as a leader group. These women’s ownership rights are also fully recognized by the village government, church, and customary holders.

Sasi Laut is a traditional ceremony performed by local communities in Raja Ampat. This ceremony is performed as a sign to start or end the harvest season at sea. Also, this ceremony is carried out to get abundant results during the harvest period, by closing the chosen areas until the specified time. The people in Raja Ampat believe that when they go to the sea, their success depends on the Sasi Laut ceremony.

The word Sasi comes from their native language, which means Oath. Sasi Laut is a tradition passed on by their ancestors and practiced by local communities in Raja Ampat. 85% of the Raja Ampat area is an ocean. Therefore, most of the locals have jobs as fishermen. The philosophy of the Sasi Laut is to respect and ask permission from the Creator to take His creation. For them, the Sasi ceremony is a sacred ceremony and everyone must obey the rules to maintain its sanctity of the ceremony.

The Sasi procedure provides significant benefits to the preservation of marine life in Raja Ampat because the chosen areas for the Sasi ceremony are usually areas that produced high-priced marine products and need to be preserved. Examples are lobster and sea cucumber. In its journey, they received assistance in sustainable sasi management, based on science, through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy is a nonprofit organization. Among them by developing a sasi agreement based on the results of monitoring the sea cucumber and lobster populations. The sasi agreement must be obeyed by group members, such as only taking adult biota and using environmentally friendly fishing gear.

“Women must also be at the forefront of preserving nature. Another thing that is no less important is instilling the principles of nature conservation in the family environment,” said the Head of the Group, Almina Kacili. Almina added that their sasi area management activities were not without challenges, currently what is group facing is climate change. “In the last few years, we had to face big waves, strong winds and rain. When we had to patrol the Sasi area, there were waves and strong winds,”.

“The marine products can only be enjoyed within six months to a year from Sasi’s start to end. Monitoring is an effort to see the development of marine resources for some time until it is considered sufficient to be taken again,” Said Alima Those who took part in harvesting Sasi must comply with the agreed rules. These rules include the size of sea cucumbers that can be taken, which is at least 15 centimeters. In addition, to catch sea cucumbers, you must use environmentally friendly tools. “The ancestors have taught us about the use of wise natural resources through Sasi, so we will continue to preserve this Sasi culture,” said Isaiah Kacili, a priest in Kampung Kapatcol.

The Sasi ceremony began with worship in the Sasi board area by praying together, followed by traditional rituals to ask permission from their ancestors so that the Sasi harvest was abundant. During the night, as seawater began to recede, people began to roll into the Sasi region to take sea cucumbers and lobster. Usually, they look for it until the morning. And Yolanda Kacili (21) who regularly takes part in the sasi opening. Yolanda dove to a depth of 5 meters looking for sea cucumbers. “I was three days molo (diving). The first day of harvest is right, tens of sea cucumbers can get,” she said.

The women who don’t dive are responsible for measuring, weighing, and cleaning the catch. They apply a minimum size of 16 centimeters (cm) for sea cucumbers, 7 centimeters for lolas, and the smallest lobster is 6 ounces. This is to keep this high-value marine biota sustainable. “I learned molo as a child at the age of nine,” says Yolanda. His parents were the first to introduce him to the underwater world, and they became his first teachers. “I am happy with [the world] under water because I can meet corals, fish, sea cucumbers, shrimp and lobster, and also underwater beauty. Molo is fun for my life.”

The proceeds from selling sasi helped Yolanda continue nursing in the city of Sorong. He is still raising money for it. However, that means he will leave his village for the duration of his education. In Indonesia, at least 29 types of sea cucumbers were traded. Excessive use and high market demand cause its population in nature to continue to decline; some types of sea cucumbers are now very rarely found. To maintain its sustainability, a sustainable management method is needed.

The benefits of Sasi can be enjoyed directly by the people of Raja Ampat. Their livelihood is obtained from Sasi and most of the results are used for the community to support religious, social-community activities, and education savings for its citizens. Due to this commitment and dedication, in 2019, the local village government expanded the sasi area to 215 hectares from 32 hectares when the group was initially formed in 2010. To support this, the Group also received assistance on organizational management, which was applied in dividing groups into several functions, namely diving, harvesting, recording results, and managing finances.

Through the work of the Group, we have learned that people in a remote area can play an important role in preserving the environment as well as preserving noble traditions such as sasi, as a form of indigenous people-based utilization in the Sasi Zone of the Conservation Area.

About Garry Lotulung

Garry Lotulung is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Jakarta. He was born in Manado, North Sulawesi. Lotulung has specialized in stories about the human condition, social change, and environmental crises. Lotulung joined the international news agency, Anadolu Agency in 2022 and has been a regular contributor and stringer since.

Working extensively in Southeast Asia, he has photographed such pivotal events as his long-term project with the Rangers and mahouts to protect the lives of critically endangered Sumatran elephants. In 2018, Lotulung documented the Surabaya bombings, a series of terrorist attacks that initially occurred on May 13 in three churches in Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia. In the period 2020–2021, Lotulung worked for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and covered deadly Indonesia’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Garry received Pictures of the Year Asia 2022 for his photographic reportage of the Indonesian Battles Second Wave of COVID-19 and was selected as part of The World Press Photo 2022 Contest outreach campaign from emerging Indonesian photographers curated by BicaraFoto. He was also a grantee of the Vital Impacts Environmental Photography Grants 2023, whose founders are Ami Vitale, a National Geographic photographer, and Eileen Mignoni. Lotulung has also been recognized for his photography, and some of his works have been exhibited at the ICConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis, International Center of Photography, New York, USA (2021), The Year Time Stopped, Scopio & Harper Collins Publishers, USA (2021), POY (Pictures of the Year) Asia exhibition features 50 award-winning images, Mindful Art Forum (MAF), Seoul, South Korea (2022), “The Everyday Projects: Endangered Species”, Oldenburg, Germany (2023), Vital Impacts Environmental Grant Exhibition at Festival della Fotografia Etica in Lodi, Italy (2023), The Great Indonesia Exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk, Netherlands (2023).

Lotulung studied graphic design and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University Multimedia Nusantara in Tangerang, Banten Province. He also studied photography at Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara in Jakarta. [Official Website]

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To send it, you must compress the folder in .ZIP format and use our Wetransfer channel specially dedicated to the reception of works. Links or projects in PDF format will not be accepted. All presentations are carefully reviewed based on their content and final quality of the project or portfolio. If your work is selected for publication in the online version, it will be communicated to you via email and subsequently it will be published.
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