Mark your calendar and prepare yourself for an exceptional cultural fiesta!
This coming November, some fascinating, rare cultural attractions and other splendors of the islands of Nias, off the eastern coast of North Sumatra, will be presented in the Ya'ahowu Festival 2017, which is scheduled to take place from 23rd to 26th November 2017, and centered at Gunungsitoli, the largest city on the islands.
Better known as a surf paradise with rolling barrels located in the Indian Ocean, Nias, in fact, hides an ancient megalithic culture that is still very much alive until today. Here are not only complete megalithic villages but its living culture still thrives until today. These will be the highlight of the Ya'ahowu Festival.
For 5 full consecutive days, intriguing art performances and cultural traditions from across the Nias Islands will highlight the festival. All district governments together with the people of Nias will showcase their finest performances. Among these is the legendary barefeet stone jumping tradition called Fahombo, as well as other unique folk games such as Rago Ue, Fafusi, Fabelugama, and Fabiri.
This year, for the first time, the Ya'ahowu Festival will be held jointly by the 4 regencies and 1 city comprising the Nias Islands. In previous editions, each regency staged its own festival separately. "The city of Gunungsitoli has been appointed as host in this year's festival following the agreement reached in the Forum by all administrative heads", said Sowaan Laoli, Deputy Mayor of Gunungsitoli who also heads the Organizing Committee of the Ya'ahowu Festival 2017.
Furthermore, Sowaa Laoli added, the festival is aimed to promote the unique culture of the islands to the rest of the nation as well as to the international world, and to attract more tourists to experience the astonishing wonders of Nias. Moreover,a special park called the Ya'ahowu Park , which will be the best vantage point from which place you will have a breathtaking panorama of the islands and the ocean to the far horizon, is now in construction to be ready for the festival.
The Ya'ahowu festival will kick off on 23rd November with an exhibition of best products, handicrafts, and some of the most scrumptious culinary foods. At the same time, the festival of traditional sculptures and carvings will commence featuring the best artisans from across the islands.
In the afternoon, a special cultural parade will take place from the Merdeka Field to the Ya'ahowu Park. The parade will feature an array of art and cultural attractions from all regencies and city on the islands, which will also be participated by officials and administrative heads of each district and city, who will be dressed in their best traditional Nias costumes.
The art and cultural performances will continue the next day. On Saturday (25th November) at the Merdeka Field ofGunungsitoli, folk games and competitions will be held as well as the traditional rowboats competition at sea. On Sunday (26th November), the special Gunungsitoli Night will be the pinnacle of festivities, which will close the festival with traditional, contemporary and popular art performances, featuring the long awaited popular national stars of the music world.
The word Ya'ahowu is a common greeting among the people of Nias. Wherever you travel on the island you will certainly be greeted with the word: Ya'ahowu, a typical greeting that is given in the morning, noon or evening or indeed, on any occasion. The person so greeted replies with the same word "Ya'ahowu". This is said at chance meetings, or even at the opening or closing of the mass or church service, since most Nias people are now Christians. This greeting was even officially agreed to be the hallmark of Nias which was decided in a meeting of chieftains, leaders and youth of the Balugu, Tahenori, Si'ulu, and Sala tribes in Nias, as archived by the Dutch East Indies administration in 1919.
In the explanation, it stated that the word Ya'ahowu is the hallmark greeting of the Nias ethnic group. It consists of two words, namely howu-howu meaning blessings, and when added with the word Ya, it means May God bless you. The word Ya'ahowu thus cares about the wellbeing of and blessing of the Almighty on the person so greeted. Y a'ahowu,consequently shows a person's respect and recognition of the other as a human being. Some take it to be similar to the greeting shalom aleichem (in the Jewish language) meaning "peace be with you" and "God bless you ".
Today Nias is most famous for its stunning stone jumping feats and its barreling surf. Stone jumping (lompat batu) is a skill required for boys to become men, so now visitors can watch local young men easily jump unaided over stone walls that are up to two meters high.
While the surf of Nias is famous around the world for its massive breaks and awe inspiring swells. Australian surfers in search for the perfect wave were among the first to "discover" Nias so that the island has now become home to the Indonesian Open Surfing Championship at Lagundri beach.
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