On the edge of Youtefa Bay in Papua, the inhabitants of the village of Injors consider that the mangrove forest belongs to women, who are its venerable guardians. But this forest is now threatened by a mega-construction site.
Tonotwiyat. This is what the inhabitants of Injros call this intimate relationship between the mangrove forest and the women of the village. “Tonot” means “forest” in their local language, and “Wiyat” designates the incantation inviting all women to come to the mangrove to collect seashells. This forest is in a way their place of work and shared leisure.
Injros’ eldest woman, Adriana Youwe Marauje, confirms that her sisters in Youtefa Bay cultivate an intimate relationship with the mangrove. They go there to look for crustaceans, fish and bia nor (snails), which hide in thickets or the mud of mangroves. “Every time there is a celebration or a ritual, it is the women who bring back something to eat for the whole village”, says the grandmother nicknamed “Mama Ani”.
The reserved area of women
According to 2018 data from the Jayapura Central Bureau of Statistics, the village of Injros is populated by 104 families. The mangrove forest has always provided its inhabitants with the basic ingredients of their diet. Its access is reserved for women, who have the responsibility of preserving it. This tradition means that men do not have the right to enter or cut trees there.
This ban is also linked to the way women fish, explains Mama Ani. When the cool season comes, when the sea is calm, they set off on outrigger canoes to look for food in the mangroves.
Gabriel Wahyu Titiyoga
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