How a Teacher Learned About Art, Culture and Nature in Bibinoi
Bayu Adi Persada
[Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches) is a volunteer-based educational
program that was started by Anies Baswedan, the rector at Paramadina
University in Jakarta, to send top graduates from around the country to
teach in rural areas. This is the story of how a Pengajar Muda (Young
Teacher) found his passion.]
I was stationed in Bibinoi village, population 1,300, in North Maluku’s
Bacan Island. When my feet first touched Bibinoi’s sand and I laid eyes
on local people’s faces, all my worries were washed away. Although I
could not find a single bar on my cell phone signal indicator and
electricity had been installed but hasn’t been stable, I was grateful to
My mission is not to find comfort and luxury; it’s to give these
disadvantaged kids a dream. A dream that they can hold on to their
No Rules in Teaching Art in a Remote Place
My students did not only have to learn math and science, they were also
taught art subjects. I tried not to ignore art in my teaching programs
as it would make for a more balanced curriculum. I fully understand the
importance of developing both the left brain (analytical capabilities)
and the right brain (creativity and imagination). Based on this, I
wanted to include subjects that used the left and right brain in
As it turned out, my 3rd grade students were immensely interested in
art. I wasn’t really an artsy type person, but as the students and I
made dolls using colorful paraffin, created origami birds and drew
together, my interest — and my students’ too, I believe — in art grew as
I can tell the kids learned a lot about things they weren’t familiar
with; art pushed and unearthed their creativity. It was very fascinating
to see the students express their imaginations on a blank piece paper,
whether through crayon scratches or paper folding.
After spending most of the time dealing with mandatory subjects,
creating works of art was definitely refreshing. Some of their creations
were extraordinary. They were capable of thinking outside the box,
which is the fundamental element of creating art. Without any
limitations or rules that could dampen their creativity, the kids were
able to create anything that sprung into their minds.
Cakalele: When a Visitor Dances Better Than the Locals
Cakalele is a traditional dance from North Maluku. It is a “war dance”
performed to greet honorable guests who visit the region. It is also
performed at traditional events. The male dancers use a large knife and a
wooden shield called “salawaku” while the women use a handkerchief
In practice, the male dancers shout quite loudly like they really are in
a war. The musical accompaniment — created by a big drum, or “tifa,” a
flute and large shells called “bia” — is unique, too, and the dancers’
movements must adapt to it.
I once performed the Cakalele dance in front of South Halmahera’s
district head. I had never heard nor learned about the dance before, I
had only seen locals doing it. It was very exhausting to perform it for
the first time as it needed you to work all your muscles, but I danced
Afterward, a 57-year-old senior local dancer, Anwar, came up to me and
said, “Your dance is better than many locals here.” Ah, that was enough
to take me over the moon.
Paradise at the Back of My Village
For us villagers, we did not have the luxury to choose our amusement.
Bibinoi does not have zoos, recreation parks or malls obviously, but we
had nature to boast of.
I redefined pleasure for myself the first time I stepped on Bibinoi’s
sand. The beach was just 20 steps away from where I lived. And you can
always ask any of the kids to climb a coconut tree and bring you a
And if I tire of the beach, I can always go to the back of the village
where a hidden paradise resides, as the locals say. I had never dreamed
that I could have a mountain, beach, waterfall and river in my backyard.
I could go to any of these places by foot. Wonderful.
Bibinoi’s waterfall is located at the west side of the village,
approximately four kilometers — a 2-hour walk — from my place. It’s best
to start going early in the morning so you can reach the waterfall
exactly when the sun is right above your head. No need to worry about
the heat because it’s cool and chilly in the area. Don’t forget to pack
your lunch and prepare yourself for the best lunch ever under the
waterfall. It wouldn’t matter what you ate: even noodles tasted like
You can also find shrimps or eels under the big rocks there. If you’re
brave enough, you can roast and eat them right away: a once in a
lifetime experience for sure.
Not quite satisfied with only one waterfall? Bibinoi has two. Walk along
the river bank for another 20 minutes and you’ll find yourself where
the second waterfall is. This one is unique as it literally has two
I have been there three times and have never gotten bored. I always
found it relaxing, even if the trip was undeniably tiring, especially if
you were with your students and the locals. Guaranteed, it will bring
ultimate refreshment to your mind and soul.
Now back in the Jakarta, sometimes I feel envious of those who have their own place to seek tranquility.
[Next week on Independence Day and Rumah Belajar Bibinoi]