This way (by receiving visits from academics) we can share our insights and knowledge about the lives of local residents, especially in the use of natural resources...
Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung (ANTARA) - Far in the northernmost reaches of Bangka Island, precisely in Aikabik Hamlet, Gunungmuda Village, Bangka District, Bangka Belitung Islands Province, lives an indigenous community that still adheres to the customs of the Mapor tribe.

The Mapor tribe is a Bangka Malay sub-ethnic group and one of the oldest tribes inhabiting Bangka Island.

The community developed from various civilizations around Mapor River -- stretching from Pangkalan Mapor area to the upstream areas, such as Aikabik and Benak, as well as to coastal areas, such as Pejem, Tengkalat, and Tuing.

Members of the community choose to live in groups of around 600 people and close to nature, such as in the mountains or forests, thus they truly appreciate the environment.

They believe that each part of the universe has a spirit or power, which oversees humans and their actions.

At least 30 percent of the people of Mapor tribe still adhere to the Mapor Dangkel belief, while the rest have embraced other religions: most of them are Muslims, while a few of them are Christians.

People who still adhere to the indigenous belief are called Lom people.

Earlier, since the Indonesian government required each individual to write down their religion in the identity card (KTP), but there were only six religions recognized by the government, the adherents of various indigenous beliefs in Indonesia often left their data blank.

However, the Constitutional Court decided to allow people to use the option of “adherents of belief” while filling in their data from 2017.

“And since then, we have facilitated them (the people of Mapor Tribe) to change (the data in) their identity (card)," a trustee of the Mapor Customary Institution (LAM), Ali Usman, said.

So far, about 100 of the 200 adherents of Mapor Dangkel belief have updated the data in their KTP.

Several attempts have been conducted to preserve the cultures of the Mapor Tribe community, including the establishment of the LAM in 2019. The institution has also been tasked with assisting the adherents of Mapor Dangkel belief.

The LAM was registered with the Directorate of Beliefs in One Almighty God and Indigenous Community of the Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Ministry in 2020.

Usman, who is also the culture preservation officer at the Bangka Belitung Islands Provincial Tourism, Culture, Youth, and Sports Office, said that the government's recognition of LAM is a motivation for other indigenous communities to work together to maintain their existence.

Furthermore, the next step after providing equal access to the administration process for the indigenous people is to expedite the improvement of their welfare.

Currently, the improvement of Mapor community is focusing on developing a new residential area, called the Gebong Memarong Traditional Village, which resembles the ones built during the early existence of the tribe.

The area is being developed based on the concept of bubung tujuh and bulu perindu — two famous legends of intangible cultural heritage in the Land of Bangka.

The revitalization does not only aim to preserve culture, but also improve the welfare of local communities since sustainability is the most important aspect, thus in the future, indigenous people can independently preserve their customs and cultures.

State-run tin mining company PT Timah Tbk has agreed to help realize the development of the traditional village.

The construction of the Gebong Memarong Traditional Village is being conducted in accordance with the community development and empowerment concept by involving the residents of Aikabik hamlet to prepare the building materials, provide labor, as well as manage the required administration.

During the period from July to August 2022, the joint development team from the company and community built six memarong or Mapor tribe traditional buildings — one of the memarong will be used as a community hall, the other one as cultural gallery, and the rest as lodgings.

Currently, the development team is completing the supporting facilities and infrastructure to support the comfort of visitors.

It is expected that the Gebong Memarong Traditional Village will be inaugurated later in 2023 and become a new cultural tourism destination, which can also improve the economy and welfare of the local people.

Education enter

The Gebong Memarong Traditional Village will also aim to become an education center for visitors and academics who wish to know further about the daily life of the Mapor tribe.

Chairperson of LAM, Asih Harmoko, said that, till now, he has often received visits from academics.

He said he hoped that such activities would continue to be conducted because they would have a positive impact on preserving the environment.

"This way (by receiving visits from academics) we can share our insights and knowledge about the lives of local residents, especially in the use of natural resources, as well as introduce the customs and daily life of the Mapor tribe," he added.

A lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University of Bangka Belitung, Dian Akbarini, said during a visit to the traditional village that the people of Mapor tribe still truly preserve their own local wisdom by making the best use of the natural resources in their surroundings.

The local residents use various kinds of plants, for example, pandan mengkuang (Pandanus artocarpus) to make woven mats, pillows, rice baskets, seeds baskets, and other handicrafts.

People of Mapor tribe also do not use chemicals in cultivating their crops since they are quite skilled at using various types of plants to treat plant diseases.

These local wisdoms need to be implemented in environment conservation activities so that the preservation efforts can meet the desired results.

Hence, it is necessary to strengthen the commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders to maintain the cultural and tourism potentials, so that they can be further developed in a sustainable way.

Moreover, the existence of the Mapor tribe is one of the various assets of Bangka Island that must be preserved.

Conserving an indigenous culture can be a meaningful act, especially if we are successful in passing the heritage on to the next generation.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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