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Recording History
Public watch the Mandar tribe traditional vessel, Sandeq, when it crosses the finish line at the Festival Sandeq III competition in Polewali Mandar International Folk and Art Festival 2016, held in Bahari beach, Polewali-Mandar, West Sulawesi, September 3, 2016. TEMPO/Sakti Karuru
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Recording History

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Every time Muhammad Tom Andari recalls the first history tour organized by the Mandar Culture and Tourism Activists (Kompa Dansa), he cannot help laughing. Many of Kompa Dansa’s Facebook followers were surprised to learn that their first trip would be to the tombs of the Balanipa kings. The Balanipa people are ancestors of the Mandar tribe of West Sulawesi.

In 2013, tombs were not popular destinations for visitors. "Many members demanded to know: why tombs?" said Tom, a sharia banking student at the Mamuju Economic Institute. 

After having posted the announcement about the upcoming trip on the Facebook page, Tom took extra caution to tell the Kompa Dansa’s followers, most of whom were under 30, that the trip was not aiming to be a pilgrimage, but more a way to learn about the old leaders of the Balanipa kingdom. 

Some 30 people signed up, and Kompa Dansa’s first history tour got underway. 

Putra Ardiansyah, 22, at first was leery about whether the trip would be any fun. He and others of his age group preferred to visit West Sulawesi’s magnificent beaches. "I had just finished high school and visiting some tombs sounded boring as if there were no other destinations on hand," said Putra, a management student at the Indonesian Muslim University in Makassar.

Putra’s doubts soon vanished. During the tour, he found he learned a great deal from his fellow participants, many of whom were history students. Tom’s explanation on the meaning of the motifs carved on the gravestones-whether a particular motif was a legacy of the Islamic period or otherwise-kindled Putra’s curiosity. He also joined the group that went to the Mandar Museum located not far from the tombs.

After the excursion, many participants uploaded pictures on the community’s Facebook page, as well as posted their own personal accounts. "More people began to show interest in our tours," Tom said. Kompa Dansa’s Facebook page today has thousands of followers, even though only several hundred have actually taken an active part in the excursions. Some followers live too far away to join in. 

Wanting their activities to benefit a wider community, Tom and the Kompa Dansa team made a point of encouraging participants to write about their feelings and observations on the group’s blog. The blog later grew into their website. 

Tom feels that the original blog-writing period proved useful. Besides sharing historical information, they discovered that many people found they liked writing. Eventually, Kompa Dansa began inviting local scholars, writers, and journalists to facilitate writing workshops. 

For some, though, the writing ‘obligation’ felt like a heavy burden. Putra said at first he lacked the confidence to share his thoughts in writing. After joining several workshop sessions, he gathered up enough courage to write some short pieces. "We were exhorted to develop our own voice and style," he recalled. 

The Kompa Dansa members hailed from diverse backgrounds. Some were still in high school. Other were students, office workers, and even journalists, so the blogs posted showed highly contrasting writing styles. "Some wrote wonderful narrative essays; others wrote as if they were reporting the news," Putra said. 

Askar Al Qadri, another participant, also felt overwhelmed when badgered to write in Kompa Dansa’s blog. The student of Islamic studies at Polewali Mandar said he had previously never written about anything before. "Kompa Dansa was unique in that: getting participants to produce written pieces after joining tours," he said. Today Askar is a regular blogger.

Communities are usually formed before they have a social media presence. Kompa Dansa, on the other hand, was founded after a number of West Sulawesi youths stumbled upon Facebook in 2013. Their fascination with their own Mandar culture and history had brought them together. This made them create a Facebook account, which they filled with articles and pictures referring to the region’s culture.(*)

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