Ten-year-old Jomu Nainggolan held a piglet he just caught, his face alight with pleasure and pride. After going through three rounds, he’d become the first champion of the pig catching competition—one of a series of activities at the Pig Festival in Muara, North Sumatra, held in October 2019.

Another attraction of the festival was a race which required participants to catch pigs with their eyes closed. “Hey, it’s not a pig, it’s a person!” shouted someone from the audience, laughing, when one of the participants grabbed the other participant’s feet. More hilarity ensued when a pig escaped and ran into the lake, swimming as fast as it could. Two committee members managed to catch it and return it to its cage.

The event, known as the Pig Festival 1.0 or the Pig and Pork Toba Festival, was organised by Togu Simorangkir, a literary activist. The idea for the festival came about as a response to comments by Governor of North Sumatra Edy Rahmayadi in September 2019 that had triggered concerns of the introduction of halal tourism to the area. In order to bring as many tourists as possible to Lake Toba, the North Sumatra provincial government announced a ban on slaughtering pigs in public. This immediately caused contention as residents felt that the initiative was culturally inappropriate.

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Tonggo Simangunsong

Tonggo Simangunsong is an Indonesian journalist based in Medan, North Sumatra. His work has appeared in New Naratif, the South China Morning Post, VICE, ChinaDialogue, JakartaPost and more, covering environmental issues, culture and identity.