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Project November 15, 2022

The "Shaman" Spirit in the Remaining Forest of Bangka Island



Hundreds of years of tin extraction on Bangka Island left only forest on 32 granite hills. Mount Maras [705 meters] is the highest hill on this 1.6 million hectare island.

Based on information from a number of traditional leaders from three ethnic Malay communities, namely Mapur, Jerieng, and Maras, almost every hill on Bangka Island is a forbidden or sacred area. The main Mount Maras, designated as a national park, is the sacred, spiritual center.

If the forest in the hills is damaged, they believe there will be a big flood that will drown the mainland of the Bangka Belitung Islands and half of Sumatra Island. The hills are believed to be "earth nails" or land supports in the ocean.

In 2014, the forest area in the Bangka Belitung Islands reached 657,380 hectares. In 2015, there were 235,585.8 hectares, or a decrease of 421,794.2 hectares. In 2020, the remaining forest area is 197,255.2 hectares.

Over the six years between 2014-2020, the Bangka Belitung Islands lost 460,000 hectares of forest.

Deforestation in the Bangka Belitung Islands is in line with the loss of the role of traditional healers, or dukun, in society. In areas where the forest has been lost due to tin mining or large-scale plantations, the community gives the dukun a misguided and irrational stigma.

This attitude is also driven by the desire to eliminate the stigma that the Bangka Belitung Islands are a "land of black magic" which is feared by outsiders.

A number of academics and environmental activists in the Bangka Belitung Islands stated that there must be excavation and dissemination of various knowledge that is still stored or guarded by the shamans.

The various knowledges guarded by the shamans are human morals towards nature, especially the forest. The morals that humans need, which are currently dominated by human activity.