Masked warriors: Indonesia fighters wield whips in traditional duels

Bouts of Caci typically involve two men wearing shields, masks and whips made out of rattan. (AFP pic)

SURABAYA: Dressed in bright colours and lunging at each other with long, looping whips, martial arts fighters in Indonesia were cheered by spectators as they dueled during a traditional festival on Sunday.

A martial art practised by the Manggarai people from southern Indonesia, Caci bouts typically involve two men wearing masks while wielding shields and whips made out of rattan.

A fighter wins by hitting his opponent in the face or the head.

The duels are full of symbolism — the leather-handled whips represent masculinity and the sky, while the round shields stand for femininity, the womb and the earth.

The festival — which took place in Subaya, Indonesia’s second largest city — aims to preserve and promote Caci and the Manggarai culture, the organiser said.

It is held so “the tradition won’t be eroded by time and the modern life”, said organiser Tarius, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

In ancient times, the fighters — in the Manggarai peoples’ province of East Nusa Tenggara province — were men from different villages who competed against each other to celebrate the harvest season.