Destinations in Indonesia
The Historic Soya-Soya Dance of Ternate
The epic Soya-soya Dance is more than simply a dance or just a part of the culture, but rather a story that tells of the historic events of the struggle of the people of Ternate against the Portuguese colonial powers in South Halmahera. The dance reenacts the heroic actions of Sultan Babullah when he stormed the Portuguese fort of Paolo Santo Pedro to reclaim the body of his father, Sultan Hairum, who had been cruelly murdered at their hands. This progressed into a 5-year siege before the people of Ternate finally defeated the Portuguese and drove them out of Ternate forever. After liberation from Portuguese rule in 1575, the Sultanate of Ternate moved on to become ruler of 72D islands including most of eastern Sulawesi, the Ambon and Seram Islands, Timor Island, parts of Southern Mindanao in the Philippines as well as Parts of Papua.
This dance has been around for hundreds of years and was performed to welcome the troops returning from the battlefield. The word ‘soya-soya’ itself means ‘spirit of abstinence.’In the region of North Maluku, all children from every town and village are taught the steps to this dance from a very young age.
During performances, dancers are clothed in white linen with a wide sash of red, black, yellow and green. Each dancer also wears a yellow tagoa on their head, which is the symbol of a warrior. The dance is enlivened with props such as the Ngana-ngana, a bamboo sword decorated with palm leaves, and Salawaku, which are shields. The dancers display moves that reflect battle; attacking, dodging and parrying.Their motions are displayed to the beat of the traditional Tifa (drums,) Saragai (gongs,) and Tawwa (smaller gongs.)
The number of dancers featured in a performance can range from anywhere between just 4 people to thousands. In April 2011, 8,125 dancers from many schools around the island gathered in the square in front of the Sultan’s palace to perform this dance and thus set a world record for the largest number of dancers in a show.
The dance is only performed when welcoming guests of honor or during the Legu Gam Festival. Legu Gam is an annual celebration in honor of the Sultan’s Birthday. This is a cultural and artistic festival which is enjoyed by the local community as well as tourists and visitors to the island.