Papuan ‘mop’: Comedic storytelling from the East

Mr Chiko, tampil di Papua TV dalam acara Mr Chiko Show
Mr Chiko, tampil di Papua TV dalam acara Mr Chiko Show

Oleh: Jessicha Valentina

American writer Mark Twain once said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” His wisdom is proven right by Papuan mop, a traditional form of comedic storytelling from the East.

Mop, also known as mob, is a staple form of entertainment for Papuans. The stories usually revolve around social life with popular anecdotes and slang as the punchline.

Papuan film director Irham Acho Bahtiar has vivid childhood memories of mop.

Born in the Muting district of Merauke at the southeastern tip of Papua, Irham remembered the Saturday nights he spent in the village, gathered around a bonfire and watching people performing mop.

“There is a tradition called baku bayar mop (paying with mop). It does not literally mean that we make any payment, instead people compete [in a mop race] to tell the funniest story,” said Irham, who founded the YouTube channel Epenkah Cupentoh. Epenkah is an abbreviation of a Papuan colloquialism emang pentingkah? (is it important?) and its response cupen, short for cukup penting toh (fairly important, right?).

Bacaan Lainnya

For many Papuans, mop is a way of life. The tradition has been around since the Dutch colonization and has been passed from generation to generation. There is always a place for mop among Papuans, either during formal or informal occasions.

“There is a saying [about mop]: that if two Papuans meet they will share stories about their villages, if three Papuans gather they will talk about politics and if four Papuans come together, they will tell mop,” said Papuan writer Andy Tagihuma.

Andy explained that mop was previously performed verbally with topics that usually covered daily life.

“Even near-death experiences can be a topic,” he said.

Ummu Fatimah Ria Lestari, author of Mob Papua: Dalam Perspektif Sastra Lisan (Papuan Mob: Through an Oral Literature Perspective), said in a virtual gathering hosted by Komunitas Sastra Papua (Papuan Literature Community) that mop was presented to entertain others.

Papuan ‘mop’ in the digital age

As a Papuan cultural heritage, mop fortunately remains popular among the people.

Research conducted by the Education and Culture Ministry’s National Center for Language Development (PPPB) in 2016 discovered that mop had successfully passed to the younger generation and around 85 percent of Papuans were able to tell or present mop.

Its popularity can be traced back decades.

Andy said that mop had become really popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and it was even performed in schools. In the early 2000s, late Papuan comedian Mr. Chiko brought mop to a local television station.

In 2009, the YouTube channel Epenkah Cupentoh began to present mop in a visual medium, marking a significant milestone for Papuan mop on a digital platform.

With 771,000 subscribers, Irham said the channel’s viewers had come from all across the globe. Indonesia has the most viewers, while Malaysia has second-largest number of viewers.

In 2015, the comedy sketch show was adapted into a feature film Epen Cupen the Movie. The following yearthe series aired on national television station Global TV.

Thanks to Epenkah Cupentoh, Klemens Awi, popularly known as Celo, and Nato Beko gained recognition.

“Since Papuan mop became popular on digital platforms, we use it to speak about justice and rights. We also collaborated with UNICEF [to provide content] on education and health,” said Irham, who also directed Melody Kota Rusa (The Melody of Deer City, 2010) on Papua.

Irham said they had expanded the channel and created Epen Cupen Edukasi (Epen Cupen Education) to share moral lessons.

He mentioned that based on the collaboration, mop was proven to be effective in educating people.

Following Epen Cupen, Irham also noticed that many new comedy channels from the East began to surface, such as Komedi Raja Ampat and Lampu Satu Comedy, saying that it showed the development of local comedy.

Amid its popularity, Irham noticed that not all Indonesians were familiar with mop.

Mop is even more popular overseas,” he said.

He said the lack of knowledge about the tradition was one of the reasons.

“When we performed Epen Cupen sketches in other cities [in Indonesia], some people felt that it was strange,” he said, adding that some people might not be familiar with other cultures.

He hoped that through Epen Cupen, other provinces would showcase their local forms of comedy as well. (wng)


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