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.