Saba Budaya Baduy, Sustainability, and Plastics


The Indonesian version of the article is available here

Mandala Kanekes is just like a mysterious black hole at the center of Milky Way, 26 thousand light-years from Earth, forcefully drags on every matter surround it, nowhere to escape. Since the eighteen century, when a Dutch traveler, Blume, felt in love with the allure of the nature of Kanekes’ land, up till nowadays in the twenty-first century there have been many scientific fellows, backpackers, and Baduy’s volunteers visiting Kanekes’ village.

Researchers, mostly academics, are interested in the social life of the Kanekesian or are concerned about environmental issues to study scientifically about the cultural, social, and economic activities of the Kanekesian. They do the researches as studies’ fulfillment in their respective field for master theses or doctoral dissertations, scientific journals or books.

Unlike the researchers, which numbered few—not exactly few, however, there are actually a plethora of academic articles pertaining to Kanekes scattered online—tourist visitors have been in an incessant influx into the village of Baduy, except during the Kawalu Fest, which lasts for three month –usually begin in March and end in May, during which no visitors can enter the village—these visitors, act as tourists, walk along the footpaths, watch gleefully every object they find on the way onto the village, some stay for a couple night, some detour in a day fulfilling their alluring curious imagination of Kanekes. When they go back, the unforgettable moment of the experiences they encounter wrap around their memories, but then forget carelessly any plastic they bring onto the village.

Unlike the tourist-visitors, the Baduy’s volunteers, who mostly come from outside of the village but have passions and intentions to respect and preserve Kanekesian’s ways of life, they come to offer their services to volunteer. Most likely these volunteers have aligned their vision and mission with the Baduy’s, either politically wrong or politically correct. They are prepared to raise an objection to any activities that will surely destroy the land, culture, and people of Kanekes. For example, if there is an ongoing ‘plot’ to open onshore oil exploration, then these volunteers will do their part protecting the Kanekes. They will oppose any illegal lodging activities and they will be very happy to campaign a Car Free Day in the village (which is impossible because there is no way car roads inside the Kanekes village!)

The effects of visitors’ influx

The effects of visitors’ influx have been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, some benefits emerge from the visitors as they bring money to the village. It boosts the economic activities of the villagers and there are more options available for villagers to make money instead of traditional farming only. Villagers may sell crafts, traditional woven-clothes, honey bees, and some fruits like coconut, durian, and mangos. On the other hand, visitors bring problems that the villagers some time difficult to handle. For instance, the problem of plastic garbage the visitors bring in.

Mulyono Kanekes reported his volunteering activity on plastic cleansing operation just to clean scattered garbage left by visitors who had carelessly forgotten to bring back plastics they brought in.  They bring with them ‘unforgettable memories’ back home but they are in deep shit ignoramus forgetfulness of taking back plastics out of the village.

Ujung-ujungna, urang Kanekes keneh bae nu katempuhan. (Read: Consequently, villagers have to play the chorus of cleansing these scattered plastics)

Identifying solutions to the problem

Once Moshe Dayan (He was an Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1977-1979) answered a journalist’s question as to how to solve the Israel-Palestinian problem. He said, “There is a solution to every problem. If there is no solution, then it’s no problem.” So to speak, there will be solutions to a problem of plastic in Kanekes. Nevertheless, unlike the Dayan proposition for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, identifying solutions for the plastic problem in Kanekes is a must.

Having years acquaintance with the Kanekes villagers Kang Heru Nugroho, initiated a meeting with some Kanekes leaders to discuss ways out from existing and potential problems. A solution agreed: To send a formal letter to His Excellency Joko Widodo, the President Republic of Indonesia mentioning several demands that the government should take action on Kanekes, among others, is a plea for omitting Baduy as a tourist destination. Done and ‘boom’ most mainstream national media made ‘buzzing’ news: Indigenous Baduy mandated Heru Nugroho and team sending letter to President demanding the exclusion of their village as a tourist destination.

Merely in a couple days, interestingly enough, the mandate given to Heru Nugroho and team was invalidated (!) as reported by travel detik. What the heck is going on? This article will not go into this matter.

Back to Kang Heru move, Baduy’s stackholders shocked by news and tried to make some clarification, as discussed in Sawala Budaya: “Mencari Solusi Untuk Masyarakat Baduy,” held in Cafe Umakite  Serang City, Banten, Indonesia in July 12, 2020.

A differing point of view

According to Kang Suhada, sending a letter to Presiden Joko Widodo is not a recommended way— rather, considering the way the mandate was given, it is against Adat customs. Pertaining to the matter of visiting Kanekes village, there is existing regulation that has been applicable since 2007, i.e. Peraturan Desa Kanekes Nomor 01 Tahun 2007 Tentang SABA BUDAYA DAN PERLINDUNGAN MASYARAKAT ADAT TATAR KANEKES (BADUY). In this Perdes there are some chapters regulating the way and process of visitation of the village that every visitor must comply (Chapters IV — V).

Kang Suhada further elaborated the Adat governmental structure that governed the society of Kanekes people that was effective by ‘the jure’ and by ‘the facto’ implemented and acknowledged by the Republic of Indonesia, even by the Dutch colonial, and even farthest by Banten Sultanate more than four hundred years ago. The point is that only Djaro Pamarentah who is authorized as a ‘foreign affairs’ officer to communicate formally with the outside world. As such, any other bodies, such as Djaro Tanggungan or Djaro Danka, have no such authorization (They have different job descriptions and spans of duty!) Hence, there will be no such thing as ‘diplomatic services’, even a free of charge service, from outsiders.

The philosophical messages of Saba Budaya Baduy convey the root meaning of ‘nyaba’ in Sundanese, Kang Suhada explained. It describes the moment when two different cultural entities meet and communicate. When a city fellows come to a village fellow or vice versa, it is called ‘nyaba.’ In the Indonesian cultural context, it is known as ‘silaturahmi,’ which comes from Arabic, meaning ‘to connect’ the love, the benevolent, and the mercy among humans, men and women, between two parties at equal distance, respects, and cares.

Therefore, Kanekes seen as an object destination of tourism is out of context for Kanekes culture. The terminology of Baduy Village as a tourism destination must be objected. Saba Budaya Baduy is ‘two-way equal communication’ rather than ‘one-way ignoramus communication,’ which will benefit the visitors only at the severe costs of Kanekes’ sustainability.

The Inspiring Baduy

Paul Mc Cartney in his famaous song “Ebony and Ivory” tells us that there is bad and good in everyone, that we learn to live, to give each other what we need to survive. The Baduy, do really learn from us in their survival of tremendous flux of “bad” magnetic cultural field from outside of the Baduy Villages. And we do learn also that there’s something “bad” that the Baduy strictly adhere to. Such as, the taboo for modern education.

But, the good of Baduy need to be preserved. The Baduy community has been managing its social order and conformity for a long time period, no crimes, no social problems. They are able to be self-dependent economically and they guard the virgin rain forest to such an extent that the modern civilization would not have thought of. The Pu’uns, the leaders of the Baduy havebeen bringing their leadership so powerful and effective.

In terms of economic prosperity the Baduy has reached a level that other Indonesian villagers must learn about. The Baduy Village may become an economic development model for other similar villagers.

The homogeneity of all member attitudes that conform with the ethical teaching of Sunda Wiwitan is also something of bold notion, adding to its characteristic of the Baduy, the People of Kanekes. Along the way, human history is filled with the scenes of wars, racial and religious hatred. Nowadays, these are the very problems of the global politic.

Nowadays, these problems are still persist and contagious. Just take a look at issues in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia bombing terrorist attack. It’s definitely a two contrast ambient of human landscape, between the Baduy and the rest of the world. The Baduy Villages is a place where a landscape painting of solitude peace that awaits you.

Although the late rocker of John Lennon imagined that if there were no religion the war wouldn’t have had existed, the Baduy people apply this imagination into their realm. The Baduy have in fact been veiled their spiritual world from outside and at the same time they reject any offers from religious mission to convert.

The community is an artifact of socio-religious survival success which is only a remnant population in the region. The geo-region that has been predominated by exported religious teaching from India and Middle East. It is clear that a peaceful society of Baduy Villages do not belong to any religion that are recognized officially by the Indonesian government. Technically, they have no religion. The Late John Lennon should have visited this community.

Seba Baduy, What Do They Do?

Seba Baduy has been a tradition of Kanekes from the highland of Banten. The tradition spans from the beginning of the 15th century until now. It passes the Sultanate of Banten, the Dutch colonialist and now the Republic of Indonesia.

It sounds like a mass rally in modern democracy. The Baduy have an effective way to  conduct a rally regularly without vandalism. It’s so wonderful, despite the fact that they do not go to school even a day!

Every year they come in groups, nowadays about 1.800 people, to the capital city of Serang, 50 miles away from the Kanekes village. They are to meet the Ruler of Banten around the month of April – May when they end the Kawalu Fest. They bring with them all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and rice to be presented to the Ruler expressing their thankfulness to God.

Kawalu Fest lasts for almost three months during which the Kanekes villagers doing fasting from morning to evening and the village is closed. So if you are not the Baduy, you must not enter their land during this Kawalu Fest.

When we asked the leader of Kanekes why they still did such an old and odds tradition, he answered in a rather simplistic way that it was ‘Amanat Buyut’ that they had to uphold until the end of time, even when there was only a tree in place of the Ruler of Banten. ‘Amanat Buyut’  could literary mean ‘Ancestor Messages.’ There are some Amanat Buyut that the Baduy still upholds until today. These also make the Baduy live ‘exclusively’ in their 5.000-hectare village land. (Suhada, 2004).

On every occasion of this Seba Baduy, which is ceremonially received by the Ruler of Banten, the leaders of Baduy speak out the villager’s hope and propose some pieces of advice that the Ruler of Banten should apply in his governance of the people.

It sounds like a mass rally in the modern democracy. The Baduy have an effective way to conduct a mass rally regularly without vandalism for centuries. Some Indonesia mass-organization group must learn from the Baduy how to conduct the rally in a civilized way. The Baduy has been doing this for 500 years!

It’s so wonderful, despite the fact that they do not go to school even a day!

And this year on May 14th, 2016 Orang Kanekes will march 50 miles away from their village, barefoot, to conduct their yearly chorus of mass-demo and will send the Ruler of Banten, now Governor of the Banten Province, messages, and advices of what should be done in creating Clean, Transparent and Good Governance.