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Cakalele Dance Festival, preserving tradition in the midst of nickel mining on Obi Island

05 December 2023

The presence of the nickel downstream industry on Obi Island, South Halmahera, North Maluku has had a positive impact on improving the economy of the local community. According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the downstream sector has contributed significantly to the achievement of North Maluku as the province with the highest economic growth in Indonesia in the second quarter of 2023.

Amidst the expansion of the electric vehicle battery downstream industry, initiatives have emerged to preserve traditional arts as an effort to maintain the social and cultural wisdom of local communities. One of them is being done by an integrated nickel downstream company, Harita Nickel, which recently held a cakalele dance festival in Kawasi Village, the village surrounding its operations on Obi Island.

Apolinavis F. Mbata, Community Relation Manager of Harita Nickel, said the cakalele dance festival was part of the company's efforts to play an active role in preserving the traditions of local communities. According to him, this activity is routinely carried out by the company in collaboration with the village government and the local community. 

"In addition to the economic sector, the company also pays great attention to the sustainability of traditional arts as a reflection of the wisdom of local communities. We hope that this arts festival can become a platform, especially for the younger generation, to learn and appreciate their ancestral heritage," said Navis.

Harita Nickel's initiative to support the preservation of traditional arts was well received by community leaders on Obi Island. Rev. Edy Karamaha, Chairman of the Tobelo-Galela Family Association of South Halmahera Regency, who is also one of the festival's judges, said the company's support was very meaningful for the sustainability of the traditions of the Tobelo people and other ethnic groups who have lived on Obi Island for generations.

"The company's collaboration with the local community to maintain and preserve this local wisdom needs to be maintained. Hopefully, through activities like this, a harmonious relationship between the community and the company can be well maintained," says Edy.

Meanwhile, from the field observation, the Cakalele dance festival was very lively. Hundreds of villagers of various ages crowded into the yard of the village office. They were willing to jostle each other to watch the participants show their dancing skills.

Harita nickel gelar festival seni tari cakalele di Desa Kawasi-2

A total of 18 participants, consisting of individual, group, children and adult categories, performed alternately. Accompanied by the sound of gong and tifa in a fast rhythm, they danced energetically with machetes, spears and salawaku. According to historical records, Cakalele is a war dance of the Maluku people to repel invaders.

Unlike the previous year, this festival was held in the new settlement of Kawasi Village. This new settlement is a local government program facilitated by Harita Nickel to provide decent housing for local residents. It has been equipped with public facilities such as village government offices, health centers, school buildings, places of worship, and access to clean water and 24-hour electricity.

So far, some residents have started their activities in the new settlement. Of the 259 housing units that are ready for occupancy, at least 50 houses have been occupied by residents. In addition, the village government has begun to set up offices there. Since last September, the learning activities of junior and senior high school students have also been moved to the new settlement.

Although some residents still live in the old settlement, they all seem to live in harmony with each other, enlivening the annual company and community agenda, which this year was held in the new settlement.

Reinhard Siar, Chairman of the Village Council (BPD) of Kawasi Village, confirmed that some residents have moved to the new settlement. He hopes that those who remain in the old settlement will be able to move into the houses that have been made available to them. 

"Hopefully, other residents can follow soon because the facilities in the new settlement are more complete and ready for occupancy," he explained.

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