Something I intend to tell after my visit to a small town in Painan, West Sumatra last month. I witnessed a ceremony around Independence Day in August.
They called it traditional dancing which, to be honest, I’m not liable to get excited about having seen enough traditional dances to do me a lifetime. This, however, I felt I should attend as I was helping out in a school at the time so it would be best to be seen taking an interest in the proceedings. It was, after all, a very rarely performed dance!
This episode started off with a lot of chanting of verses from the Koran by a circle of men. A two metre square of broken glass was created by smashing numerous bottles (large empty Bintang ones, which I found amusing in the circumstances!). As expected, guys started walking over the glass….OK I thought, seen this before, not too impressive although I’d run before trying it myself.
As the event wore on, the walkers took to rolling on the glass. By the end they were literally throwing themselves onto it, writhing and hammering their limbs on there. One guy heatbutted the broken glass a few times…..hell, I’ve never even seen that in Glasgow on a Saturday night.
Even women got involved. The only casualty I witnessed was one guy with a large wound on his lower arm. Why did the other 18 or so participants not get injured? I can’t answer that for sure.
Talking to local friends who were also present, it’s put down to magic and faith. A parallel to the Whirling Dervishes sprung to mind. I was introduced to the head guy who officiated over the proceedings – although I genuinely was full of respect, I did go out my way to be very polite. HE appeared to be honoured when I asked to have a photo taken with him!! He and his fellow “traditional dancers” soon departed the scene as if nothing had happened. The large crowd who’d assembled to watch it made their way home and that was it…..no applause, no signs of astonishment…..nothing!
During recent travels overland/local ferry from Painan to Jaco Island I’ve seen and heard of a few strange goings on but that took the biscuit!