The Myth of Manarmakeri and the Koreri Movement in West Papua

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In West Papua, there is a movement called the Koreri movement. Koreri can be explained as the behavior of refusal to any external influence.  It also consists of a messianic belief that one day, a Messiah will come to West Papua to bring the people towards a better life and immortality.

The promise of the Messiah may happen only if the people are living in a better manner without any killings, corruption, or any other demeanors. The movement and belief started by a myth in Biak, Biak Numfor.

Manarmakeri the Messiah

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In Biak, there is a myth of Manarmakeri the Messiah. Once upon a time, there was a man named Manarmakeri. One day, he saw a wild boar eating on his plants and quickly aimed his spear to kill the creature. The wild boar did not die but run to a cave instead.

Manarmakeri followed the wild boar into the cave only to find that the creature was not there. His spear was stored on one side of the cave with no blood in it. Suddenly, he heard a noise of people who sounded like they were celebrating something. He also heard a voice talking to him.

Manarmakeri was curious and asked to see where the noise is coming from. Unexpectedly, he had the vision of a blissful village where everyone lives peacefully. What Manarmakeri saw was Koreri, the secret to joyful and immortal life. The voice then demanded him to leave because it wasn’t the right time for Manarmakeri to see the Koreri yet.

Days after the event of the Koreri vision, Manarmakeri realized that the people in his village had made many mistakes in their way of life. He was disturbed by the fact that the Koreri way of life was the right thing to do.

Out of disappointment, he left his village in Biak and said never to return again. He went to the West and promised to come back only if the people have found a better way of life. Since then, the people of Biak believe that one day, Manarmakeri would come back as a Messiah, bringing them the secret to a perfect and immortal life – the Koreri.

Upon his journey, Manarmakeri suffered from skin diseases. He suffered for years and lived alone before he met The Morning Star spirit who told him to create a fire from ironwoods and dive into it. He did what The Morning Star spirit said and indeed, he was healed.

To some people, the story was a metaphor of how human needs to suffer before he is reborn to be a better person. Just like Manarmakeri who dared to dive in to the fire without knowing whether he was going to be healed or die instead, human need to have faith to what he do and sacrifice.

Angganitha Leadership in Modern Koreri Movement

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In 1938, the myth came to a reality when a woman named Insernsowek in Insumbabi, Biak, suffered from a skin disease and was thrown into exile. She was then baptized and received the name “Angganitha”. The story was biased with the influenced of Christianity and the colonialism that was making impacts on many areas in West Papua.

Angganitha came back to her village, healed and beautiful. She admitted that she was cured by Manarmakeri who came from the West. The story took back the people to the myth of Manarmakeri the Messiah. Soon, the people believed that Angganitha was a goddess sent by Manarmakeri especially when her prophecy about the World War turned out to be true.

However, the existence of Angganitha has validated the story of Manarmakeri. This has brought new confidence among Biak people that they don’t need the lead of new religion or even the colonial government. They believe that Angganitha leadership would bring them to Koreri – the righteous way of life.

The Koreri Movement, a Biased Synchronization between the Myth and Political-Religion Movement

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The messianic movement was taken as a rebel by the Dutch colonial government. In 1941, to stop the movement, Angganitha was imprisoned in Manokwari. This has brought an end to the first step of Koreri movement. However, the movement was continued by some of Angganitha’s loyalists but has never arrived at a constructive result.  Rebels and protests were happening sporadically and created chaos in some part of West Papua.

The Koreri movement was a struggle coming from the Papuan people to actually keep their traditional beliefs. They rejected the idea of new religion and culture coming from the colonials. The rebels were occurring on both political and religious sides even after the declaration of Indonesia’s independence and had taken many lives of Papuan.

The spirit of Koreri movement might be a good way to maintain Papuan tradition and culture. However, irrational rebels and protests are no longer a suitable approach to reach those goals. Often, a biased movement – not only Koreri movement but also other movements around Indonesia – creates more problem than reaching for a solution instead.

A myth may be a reliable way to understand the essential morals of the story, but never a good reason for a rebellion movement.