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Resistance and Tradition in Parangtritis

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When we hear the word ‘resistance’, we will come across its associations, like revolution and rebellion toward the old system and tradition. But in Parangtritis, resistance goes in line with tradition, and even support each other.

Short history of people’s resistance movement in Parangtritis

Parangtritis is beach side town on the southern coast of Yogyakarta. This area is one of Yogyakarta tourist attractions. It only takes more or less one hour to get to Parangtritis beach from the central part of the city. If we want to stay there for days, there are many inns, hostels and food stalls. Some of the local people earn money from its tourism potency.

In 2006 the government started to destroy the homes of the local poeple in the name of development. It is a result of the collaboration between foreign investors and local government to realize mega tourism project, since Parangtritis is a promising area for tourism industry. The local government has at least evicted 250 families and destroyed their houses since 2006.

Based on the old law, the government evict the poeple who live in Sultan Ground. However, it is contrary to the 1960 Agrarian Reform act that states that land that has been inhabited for more than 15 years belongs to the people who have lived on it. And the local people have lived there for more than 15 years old. This conflict is a consequence of Yogyakarta local system, in which the Sultan Hamengkubuwono is a king as well as a governor of Yogyakarta special province.

Some of the local people who doesn’t agree with the eviction organize themselves to resist the local government. They built a small house for meeting and discussing strategies to face the local government. They basically want to keep their land for their living, since they have rights for it. In their struggle, they are accompanied by a group of young people and student, and together with the local poepla created ARMP, an alliance of people to fight against eviction. With this alliance, they protested local regulation that supported eviction. For them it is their right to keep their land and their way of life without any intervention from foreign investors with their profit interest.

Local tradition and resistance
Many people in Parangtritis belief in the myth of ‘the Queen of the South’. Henceforth they conduct labuhan. Labuhan is a ritual of praying and throwing offerings to the sea as a manifestation of their grateful feelings toward nature and its guardian.

In December the 8th 2012, ARMP hold the Labuhan Ritual and Ketoprak Lesung performance. It was Saturday night and raining. Poeple started to come together in front of the ARMP secretariat. Some people have prepared a small stage on front of the ARMP secretariat. The background of the stage was a painting with a propagandist text that says that it is good to live with our own food strength. The ritual started with quite long prayer led by the local figure with javanese language. After praying, he told the short history of their resistance.

This ceremony is not only attended by local people. A group of peasants from Kulon Progo, who also fight against the eviction conducted by local government in their area, attended to show their solidarity. Eventhough it was raining, they still went to the coast to throw the offerings. While some people came to the coast for Labuhan, some others prepared for Ketoprak Lesung performance. Ketoprak is a popular traditional theatre accompanied by gamelan music with lesung. Lesung is a traditional instrument in processing rice. Its function is to separate rice from its skin. It is made of wood with a shape like a small boat. The rice put in the cavity is pounded with a wooden stick. From this process we can hear rythmical sound. In Ketoprak, the sound of lesung enriches gamelan music that accompanies.

In the context of people’s struggle over their land, Ketoprak is a popular way to communicate with people. All the people involved in Ketoprak is local people. They write their own story, they compose the music and they also make the performance. Ketoprak is media that can never be neutral depends on the people behind it. It can be used by the authority to sustain the power. But in Parangtritis, the poeple use it to connect each other. Ketoprak is a local tradition that side by side with resistance.

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