Held annually since 2008, this year’s Lake Sentani Festival in Khalkote, East Sentani district, Jayapura regency, Papua, kicked off on Saturday, with expectations that the event would help reinvigorate tourism in the easternmost province.
Speaking to reporters after opening the festival, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the government was expecting to see 35,000 international and domestic tourists attend the event, which will be held from June 19 to 23.
‘We are hoping to see 35,000 tourists visit the festival this year and 50,000 next year. That’s why we are inviting many national journalists from Jakarta [to the event] to help promote this festival to people in Indonesia and all over the world,’ he said.
The Lake Sentani Festival is one of three major festivals in Papua, besides the Baliem Valley Festival held in August and the Asmat Festival in October. This year, the eighth Lake Sentani Festival is held under the theme, ‘My Culture, My Prosperity’.
‘Culture not only gives happiness, but also life and prosperity. Papua’s main strength is its nature, followed by culture. These existing potentials must be explored to provide prosperity,’ Arief said.
During the event’s opening ceremony on Saturday, visitors were entertained by various artistic performances, including the traditional Isosolo dance that was performed by a group of dancers on board a boat.
At the festival venue, visitors can also browse dozens of booths that offer local handicrafts, including noken (traditional Papuan woven bags), tree bark paintings, wood sculptures and gemstones, as well as traditional food, such as papeda (sticky sago porridge), yellow fish soup and batatas (yams).
The tour of Lake Sentani, however, remains the festival’s main attraction, during which visitors can go sightseeing around the province’s biggest lake, which covers an area of 9,630 hectares in four districts and provides livelihood for more than 25,000 people.
Separately, Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) deputy chairman Angelberta Tokorok said the festival should become an entry point for the government to provide continuous support for improving the local economy. She, for example, urged the government to provide permanent shelters for local women who sell noken to visitors.
‘It doesn’t mean that the government’s relation with local residents ends after the closing of the festival,’ Angelberta said.