‘Jember’ — a new identity through ‘engrang,’ ‘batiks’

By Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Mohammad Angga, 13, the son of a migrant worker from Ledokombo village in Jember district, East Java, Indonesia, was standing upright and walking on bamboo stilts along with dozens of other workers’ children on the playground of the Tanoker Learning Community of Ledokombo to practice their skill.

“Playing engrang needs balance. Many of us have fallen and sustained injuries, but we’ve got to rise again and assume an upright posture so as to be firmly looking ahead,” said Angga to The Jakarta Post recently. Engrang is the Lampung word for a pair of bamboo poles at least 2.5 meters long with foot supports used for walking. Already existing since pre-independence Indonesia, this game is called tengkak in West Sumatra, ingkang in Bengkulu and jangkungan in Central Java. “Originally we only played the game for leisure while waiting for the news of our parents working in Malaysia and the Middle East,” related Angga, who has been familiar with stilt-walking for more than five years.

Ledokombo, where Angga and 300 other Tanoker Learning Community members live, is a village of migrant workers. Poverty is one of the reasons for their overseas occupations.

The Central Statistics Agency data put Jember on the list of 10 Indonesia districts with the highest poverty rates in 2013. Jember’s recipients of rice for the poor totaled 192,000 households and 930,000 people were beneficiaries of its health care security program. Jember is among the big five contributors of migrant workers from East Java to Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Middle East. East Java and East Nusa Tenggara constitute the largest foreign exchange earners among Indonesian migrant workers. Tanoker means cocoon in the Madura language, which is spoken by villagers in Ledokombo.

Farcha Ciciek, a founder of this community, said tanoker was born to provide an appropriate means of learning and playing for migrant workers’ children so they could grow into beautiful “butterflies” and bring fame to their village. ‘Common awareness,’ Conservation “Engrang is one of the media of learning and playing for children to build their common awareness of developing their village in order to be free from poverty,” Ciciek said.

In the community, the 300 village children also get free instruction in mathematics, English and photography, besides being taught life values through the traditional stilt-walking game. “With engrang they can be attuned to national character and tradition, while also learning how to achieve equilibrium in life in the way they control their stilts, which requires balance,” added Ciciek.

Now with its popularity among children in Ledukombo, engrang festivals are annually held by the district administration as an icon of tourism to attract visitors to Jember.