Celebrity couple Raffi-Nagita pose wearing Papuan headdress as part of the campaign of the upcoming National Games. Courtesy of @rans.entertainment/Instagram

Calls rising for more participation of native Papuans in National Games committee


Merauke, Jubi – The Indonesian public has called on the 20th National Games (PON) Committee to include more Papuans in the event planned to take place in West Papua on October 2-15. The games will be held in four locations, namely Jayapura City, Jayapura Regency, Merauke, and Timika regencies.


Merauke Legislative Council lawmaker Kosmas Yem asked the Merauke Sub-regional PON Committee to involve Indigenous Papuans in all stages of the event, such as working or volunteering at the committee and selling handicrafts as the event’s merchandise.


“This is very important to create more nuance in the upcoming National Games held in Papua. Papua is the host, therefore, Indigenous Papuans should actively be involved and not just become spectators,” Yem told Jubi on Thursday, June 10, 2021.



Yem said that in Merauke, where athletes of six sports will compete, the echo of the National Games was still unheard of. “In fact, I’m not sure if the Merauke people knew when will the event occur because the atmosphere is not so festive here,” he said.


Earlier in April, Papua head of the Alliance of Student Executive Body (BEM) Nusantara Unas Ginia refused deployment of more troops to secure the National Games. Ginia hoped the committee would recruit volunteers from local residents to handle security matters.


Meanwhile, the Indonesian public recently protested against the appointment of Jakarta-based celebrity Nagita Slavina as an icon of the 20th National Games. On April 25, the national media featured a photo of Slavina posing with a traditional Papuan head accessory. The PON Committee argued that Slavina was only a part of the campaign to promote the event.


The public, however, disapproved of the idea. An online petition demanding the committee to replace Slavina with Indigenous Papuan woman was launched last week and has been signed by more than 11,000 people as of Thursday.


Stephen Wally, who made the petition titled “Petition Against Cultural Appropriation in 20th National Games”, said he wanted to gain public support to fight for the Papuan culture. “I think the ambassador for the 20th National Games, which will be held in Papua, should be Papuans. The appointment of Nagita Slavina as an icon does not reflect the diversity of the nation and could encourage cultural appropriation” he wrote.


“I believe that Papuan women are independent and able to represent the people, the homeland of Papua, and their culture in the event,” he added.


Previously, comedian Arie Kriting also criticized the naming of Nagita Slavina as a PON icon in his Instagram account. “Papuan women should be represented by a Papuan woman herself,” Arie wrote while mentioning several names of famous Indigenous Papuan women. According to Arie, presenting an image of Papuan women through a non-Papuan woman was a form of cultural appropriation.


“The National Games is indeed a national event. However, Papua becomes the host of the event this year. Think about the Asian Games, wherein the participants are from Asian countries. When Indonesia becomes the host of the Asian Games, it would be unconventional if Indonesia appointed a Japanese or Korean figure as an ambassador of the event, right?” the comedian wrote on Friday.


Susan Scafidi of Fordham University defines cultural appropriation as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from another’s culture without permission”.


“It becomes dangerous when the community whose culture being taken is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in a certain way,” Scafidi explained.

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