Woman performing rain-stopping ritual becomes unlikely MotoGP star

MotoGP Indonesia Rain Shaman

Rain Shaman Rara Istiani Wulandari works in heavy rain ahead of the MotoGP Indonesia Grand Prix at the Mandalika International Street Circuit on March 20 in Lombok, Indonesia. Photo: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

The stakes were high. Indonesia had not hosted a MotoGP motorcycle race for 25 years. In the sweltering tropical country, rain is a constant threat to such outdoor events, and if there’s a way to hold it off, then why not give it a shot?

Enter Rara Istiani Wulandari, a pawang hujan, or rain shaman, whose job it was to delay or divert the rain – or make it rain, if that’s the requirement – so the MotoGP Pertamina 2022 grand prize of Indonesia which was held on Sunday on the international street circuit of Mandalika could take place without incident.

Hiring rain shamans at big outdoor events is pretty common practice in Indonesia, where fees can range from $100 to the reported $7,000 or more paid to Rara, a 38-year-old pawang hujan from Bali, by local MotoGP organizers. She has quite an impressive resume and would have proved his abilities at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, and in a 2018 AFC U-19 Cup football match.

She was supposed to work behind the scenes, from a tent just outside the buzzing circuit, away from the eyes of onlookers. But at the end of the final race, it wasn’t just the winners who had the world talking, but Rara as well.

Since it was raining on the big day, the rain shaman had to be summoned to the racetrack. The sight of a drenched Rara dramatically pleading with the heavens to calm down has Indonesians either cheering or jeering, amazed or embarrassed by the display of indigenous culture on the world stage.

Some of Rara’s compatriots praised her on social media, calling her “a badass“and saying they were”proud“of her to be the”contemporary national hero.” Others lamented that she had “become a laughing stock.” A tweeted disparagingly: “Sports spectacle is all about entertainment, and who needs all those silly dancers when we have pawang hujan.”

A high official said it was a showcase of Indonesian culture. “It’s part of the appeal of local wisdom, a culture that has its own charm. But of course Allah destined the race to be delayed for an hour and it happened,” Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said on Monday.

Rara’s stint with MotoGP had gone according to plan in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. She claimed she managed to hold back the rain to keep the Mandalika circuit in central Lombok region dry from March 6-8, when it was paved for the race.

“The foreign organizers were satisfied with my work as rain manager. I was even nicknamed ‘Ms. Pawang’ or ‘Ms. Prayer’,” Rara told the local newspaper. Souara.

It had rained on the Mandalika circuit on Friday and Saturday during the preliminary races for the Grand Prix. “But only in the morning, so the afternoons were overcast and the runners were comfortable,” Rara said, explaining that some rain to extinguish the heat was part of the Characteristics race organizers.

The goal, she said, was to strike a balance between wet and dry, so the bikes wouldn’t slide on the asphalt but the riders wouldn’t burn out in the sun. But around 3 p.m. Sunday, when the main race was due to start, a tremendous downpour hit the Mandalika circuit. It was a job for Rara.

Donning a construction helmet, Rara walked barefoot around the racetrack holding incense sticks and a brass singing bowl in her left hand and a mallet in her right. A live TV broadcast showed her pacing the circuit with her arms outstretched, singing to the sky. She alternately ran the mallet around the rim of the bowl, then struck it, its reverberations inaudible through the din of the impatient crowd and the patter of the rain.

The ritual lasted for over an hour until the rain finally stopped. The track was still wet and it was risky, but the race started at 4 p.m. Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira finished first.

“It worked”, official MotoGP report tweetedpunctuated with praying hands emoji, in response to a video he posted Rara performing her ritual, which he captioned, “The master…”

Others weren’t so friendly. MotoGP Twitter account of broadcaster BT Sport tweeted, “Go home Shaman, we’re not paying you for this” with a laughing emoji next to a video of Rara praying at the racetrack. He later tweeted sarcastically, “When we needed her most (praying hands emoji). Thank you, Shaman (goat emoji)” – a reference to GOAT, the “greatest of all time”.

Fabio Quartararo, the second usher, mocked the ritual. A video showed him impersonating Rara by running a plastic spoon around the edge of a paper bowl and hitting it, laughing when it fell out of her hand. MotoGP then tweeted side-by-side photos of Rara and Quartararo, with the caption: “Thanks for stopping the rain!”

This annoyed some people. Twitter user @bebekmelon666 responded to MotoGP’s tweet: “Respect the local culture, it’s not difficult is it?” with a screenshot of BT Sport’s “Go home Shaman” tweet.

It was an unmistakably unique turn of events worth discussing, and some Indonesians pointed to the “dualityof the incident – ​​an indigenous tradition in a modern global sporting event.

Many tweeted their “the respect“for Rara for presenting the”local wisdom.” Still others criticized Rara for performing rituals that were inconsistent with Islam, the predominant religion in Indonesia. Twitter user @indiratendi was incredulous that Indonesians “still believe” in pawang hujan.

Rara brushed off the reviews. “I don’t have a problem with it because, like I said from the start, I’m doing this for Indonesia,” she said. Recount journalists after the race.

Either way, it looks like the MotoGP gig is turning out to be a good career move. In one Tweeterthe Isle of Man TT Races, another motorcycle race, asked Rara: “Can we book the dates from Sunday May 29th to Friday June 10th?

Follow JC Gotinga on Twitter.

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