Saturday, September 21, 2013

Kajang, Bira and Bulukumba

Man of KajangWhat's UpKajang GirlReturn from the springKajang ManWelcome dance
How to wear Kajang sarongHow to tie the head dressWelcome to KajangEntrance of KajangEntering KajangDelegates of MATTA Selangor payhomage to Amatoa
Kajang DrumPabitte PasapuPabitte PasapuKajang men in formal costumeKajang men in formal costumeKajang man
Kajang MenVisitors in KajangKelong BassingMATTA Selangor in KajangBupati and Chairman of MATTA SelangorBupati Bulukumba & Chairman of MATTA

Kajang, Bira and Bulukumba, a set on Flickr.

Kajang is a community in South Sulawesi Indonesia who keep their pre Moslem tradition to life

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weaving for Life

Indonesians normally have the village of origin (Kampung Asal). Wherever they stay and whatever their profession are, the Indonesian normally can trace their village of origin. Sometimes I joked to my clients - when I was a tour guide - that there are two things made Indonesian different from other people. They are SARUNG and KAMPUNG (or Sarong and Kampong). If you find a friend who admit as Indonesian but have no Sarung and Kampung, then she or he for sure not a truly Indonesian.
Sarung is a woven fabric wore by man and woman.

Wikipedia describe sarong as: A sarong or sarung (pronounced [ˈsaɾoŋ] in Malay, and IPA: /səˈrɒŋ/ in English) is a large tube or length of fabric, often wrapped around the waist and worn as a kilt by men and as a skirt by women throughout much of South Asia, Southeast Asia. The fabric is often brightly coloured or printed with intricate patterns, often depicting animals or plants, more often checkered or with geometric patterns, or resembling the results of tie dying.

Whilst Kampung is similar to village term in English. As an Indonesian I have my Kampung of origin too. I am native to Flores Island (about 1 hour flight to the from Bali) but now live in Makassar on the Island of Sulawesi or Celebes island.  Education made me moved from my Kampung. There was no plan to live in Makassar anyway but after graduating from tourism college I just don't think that my village will give me job according to my latest education. Then I stayed in Makassar since.

By 1995 I decided to always celebrate Christmas or New Year in my village. It was by 2003 I noticed that the people in my village have difficulties in providing money to buy the rice from government. I got the case just by coincident. It was on a family meeting to prepare the wedding of one of my sister. When come to the rice item, one of my cousin suggested to buy RASKIN. I did not know what Raskin was, then I asked. Raskin is abbreviation of beRAS misKIN (beras = rice and Miskin = poor). It is the government program to provide cheap rice for the economically disabled families in Indonesia.

The price of Raskin is Rp. 1.500/kg. In comparison to market price of Rp. 3.500 - 4.500/kg, it is very - very cheap indeed. I asked, why we have to buy Raskin for the wedding party? It was for sure will violate the main mission of the government program. But then my cousin explained: the village has the allotment of several tons of Raskin which have to be distributed to the poor families, 15 kg each per month.

So, why we have to buy it then? The problem is many families could not provide the money when the Raskin comes. Then the chief of the village take a smart policy to sell the rice to those who can afford to pay it. I asked again: why the village administration could not provide cash to be lent to the poor families? No budget for such post.

I then realized how scarce the cash in the village is. For years I heard the story that the corn crop is failed to grow due to the lessened rainfall. The villagers have to plant even up to 5 times in a season but with a minimum possibility to harvest the corn. Yes, the people have other source of income from coconut, goat, chicken or pig but the cash is not always available at anytime. I just don't know how I have to help them improving their income. It took me 2 years to come to the idea to encourage them weave traditional sarong again.

My village is part of Riung society which produces sarong for the people in the villages in the mountains. They used to use natural dyes such as indigo but the practice of using indigo was stopped by about 1970's when the government start campaigning to stop harvesting corals.

Then government introduced chemical dyes. The campaign affect on the dropped market price of the sarong. Yes, the process is simplified as many part of sarung producing process was cut off. No more cotton spinning, no more long coloring process. Yet, it also made same parts of yearly cultural activities disappeared.

To produce natural dye, people need indigo and the white powder made of the burnt fresh coral harvested from the sea nearby. The tradition of coral harvesting is done for generations in my village. They do not ruin the corals but only harvest as much as they need to provide powder to be mixed with indigo. Coral harvest is done once a year only. But the government totally ban the tradition as to protect the coral garden.

My village is part of Riung Nature Conservation Park which covers large part of Riung District (9.900 ha) mainly to protect the coastal ecosystem included the small islands off shore which known as Taman Laut 17 Pulau in Riung.

The park is now one of the must visit destination in Flores after Kelimutu colored lakes and Komodo National Park. Unluckily the visitors never stopped in my village but drive through to Riung which is just 11 km to the west of the village. There is no reason for tourists to stop in the village as there is no hotel or even small guest house. And the main point is, there is no point of interest in the village which is worth seeing.

As the tourism practitioner I come to conclusion that the village need to attract visitors. Then the village potentials have to be dug. What I found:  (1) People are friendly and the social bond within village is strong. (2) There are many woman weave traditional sarongs although use chemical dyes. (3) There are still many woman know how to produce natural dye. (4) The village has beach boundary with the Riung Natural Conservation Park and traditionally most of the islands off shore which is claimed by the government as part of Nature Conservation park are belong to the village. (5) People accept the presence of Riung Nature Conservation Park. (6) The village is located on the main road connecting Riung (11 km to the west) with Kelimutu Colored lakes in the east. (7) People in the village are very co-operative and eager to find alternative sources of income.

Recognizing the fact, I invited the villagers which are all have family relation with me to have an informal meeting at my parents home. It was on Christmas Day of 2005. I discussed with them about my concerns and what I could help them. The discussion come to the agreement that the ladies in the village will form a group who will: (a) weave regularly, (b) Find a way to find and collect the old weaving utensils which has been abandoned for years since the introduction of chemical dyes. (c) Reproducing natural dye starting by planting indigo in their respective "kebun" or dry field starting this season.

The group will be assisted by (1) Chief of the village who graduated from university, (2) Vocational High School Master (have passed away last year, I suffered a loss on his death). And I on behalf of my company I gave them initial cash. The money is a donation from my company (3) I wish I could give them more but the company still needs more cash to grow). I promised them that I will give them chance to make such a comparative study to some destinations I am specialized in.

It is now three years already. 4 persons have been invited to make a comparative study to Larantuka when I handled cruise ship visits. The last one was on January 31, 2008 when MS Columbus visited Larantuka. Our last meeting was after Christmas 2008 as shown in the picture. The meeting was held at a house of the member of the group.

I wish to made this village a kind of tourism village. So, they could earn the living from tourism too. To be part of tourism industry development in the area. On our last discussion I persuade them to actively invite government officials to stay in the village. I also suggest them to invite church organizations from the neighboring parishes to stay in the village if they would visit Riung Nature Conservation Park. I also discussed with Kepala Desa and others to plan to provide one room in each houses for visitors. Of course there is not enough resources in every family to do so but by recognizing the income potentials any effort could be done. No matter how small it is.

Lots of work have to be done. My resources are limited as my company is now just a small institution. I wish my company would grow bigger and I work hard to make it happen. Although inbound tourism is a fragile business. Bird flu, international terrorist threats and now global financial crisis. Anyway, people in the village says: there is not always good harvest, you have to experience the bad seasons too.

I wish there are volunteers who could come to the village to teach them simple English for daily communication. To teach them how to make pancake, how to build their overall capacity in developing their own economic potentials, etc.

What I normally do is to talk and discuss with them whenever I visit my village during Christmas holiday or at other occasions. People in the village believe in Mata Bo Ngapongi, literally translated as Dead by Talking. It actually means: sit together, talk and discussion could solve problems and produce positive results.

Want to participate? Click here

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lamaholot in contact

Arranging on shore program for cruise ship visiting Eastern Indonesia is part of my job. Last week, January 31, 2008 - MS. Columbus visited Larantuka on East Flores - Indonesia. It is common that on shore program is short yet needs accurate arrangement.

The vessel arrived at about six o'clock in the morning. After the custom and immigration clearance the participants of Larantuka half day program disembarked. It is about 8.00 AM. The vessel anchored about 1 km off the pier it is possibly the pier was not suit for MS Columbus to dock in. The visitors have to use tender which can load up to 90 passengers.

The visitors was welcomed by a group of Larantuka dancers accompanied by a small orchestra a consists of violin player, guitarists and drum player. The dancers wear "Kebaya" and Selendang together with the skirt which is actually sarongs woven locally. More details on Larantuka just click

The main program of the Larantuka on shore visit is not to see how the Portuguese influence the locals since 17 centuries but how the locals behind the Mount of Ile Mandiri can resist such influence and keep their centuries old tradition up to present time.

The participants board on 12 local buses each accompanied by our local guides plus translator from the ship. The village to be visited is Riang Pedang in the territory of Desa Ile Padung - Leworahang. It is only 20 km away but the drive is slow due to the bad road condition in half end of the distance. The drive took about 50 minutes.

The village was discovered about 10 years ago. It was when I persuaded Pak Kamilus Kedang and Pak Thomas Boro (both of them passed away in 2008) to find me villages which have to be interesting according to tourism point a view. With them I visited several villages but none was qualified. Then by late afternoon, they remembered of one village. OK go there "Pak" who knows the village is worth visited, I confirmed.

Yes, indeed the village is culturally worthy. There are monuments and syombols of Lamaholot civilization. There is a Korke - it is house like construction but with no walls. The roof is made of Lontar Palm leaves. The stillts representing the supporting clan of the village. In front of Korke there is Namang, Beleda and Menato. Namang is a flat small field where the supporting clans gather during festivals and ceremonies held in Korke. Whilst Beleda is a stone construction in about a basketball square size. The stones are stucked in such a way that it formed a half meter high stone fence with Menato stucked on it. There are about 12 menatos which represents the supporting cland of the village.

Inside the basketball square field there is a stone costruction where the anymist prayers normally give offering to the ancestors. The offerings is given in the form of animal blood and some parts of liver. Next to it stands a huge banyan tree and small stone arrangements laid next to the root of banyan tree, it is the place where locals give offering to the Gods.

The people in the village is part of Lamaholot ethnic who occupy the eastern end of Flores island and neighboring islands (Adonara, Solor and Lembata). All the people in the village are active Catholic devoters but yet they still hold the genuine Lamaholot "religion". The Lamaholot believe there is a God who they named as "Ama Lera Wulan Ina Tana Ekan". If we translate into English it means Father Sun Moon and Mother Earth of Land. It is the prime God who creates everything in this universe.

So, there are three important "beings" important in the life of Lamaholot. They are: (1) Ama Lera Wulan Ina Tana Ekan, (2) Ancestors (Kewoko) and (3) the Ghosts (Nitung). The Lamaholots have to keep these three important "beings" friendly to them through ceremonies and animal sacrifices. Thourgh blood and meat.

The ceremonies in rituals in Korke are held regularly. I once was invited by the people of Lewokluo - about 3o km away from Riang Pedang. I arrived in the village about an hour before midnight, I then lead by a man to the spring outside of the village. It was down in the rafine just walking distance from the village. About 20 men already gathered there. They sat in the ground whilst an old man holding his knife about to kill a small pig. The pig then killed, he then open tear off the pig and take the liver away. Soon he asked a person to get the torch closer. He looks reading something with his finger pointing to the structure of the liver. He then said something to fellow men who take attention to him seriously. He of course talked in Lamaholot language which I dont understand. I asked my friend about what the old man said. It was about his reading on the liver which tells the future of the village.

The liver and some parts of the pig, which included small cut of pig's ear, the leg meat and some other parts of the sacrificed pig put on the flat stone next to the spring. Yes it is the offering to the gods who take care of the spring where the villagers collect drinking water from. The rest of the pig then cooked. While waiting the cooking ready, all the man chant songs and dance all the time until the meal time comes.

The old man (he is a priest in local religion) then took some cooked meats and give offering again to the gods of spring. He then lead a prayer which I thought was Catholic prayer - but then I noticed it was not. It looks like litany in Catholic church, the man says some prayer and the participants answered. It took quite a long time until then the same person say in Bahasa Indonesia (because of my presence of course): Let us pray in Catholic, then he lead the prayer of "Our Father...."

After the eating ceremony we returned to the village. The following morning a complete ritual of Lamaholot religion taken places in the village. Started by a ritual in a house where a rooster is sacrificed then it cooked to be distributed to all the ritual participants with rice. But first the candle - made of grinded candle nut mixed with cotton which is glued on a stick - lit by a man who belongs to the clan of sinajawa. The candle is as big as grown up boy's arm. He then distribute the rice mixed with a bit of chicken meat. Only men attend this ritual. We sat inside of his house all by turn has to take the rice with the meat right from the hand of the ritual leader. Once you get the rice you have to stack it all in your mouth.

My turn comes, I noticed the man have a serious infection on one of his finger; I am sure his hand is not that clean uuugh take or not take the rice... but then I have to respect the villagers. So, I took the rice and with my eyes all closed I let the rice together with the meat enter my mouth.

The ritual then continued with a procession to the Korke lead by the man from Sinajawa clan with the torch on his hand. Upon arrival at the Korke the same old man from last night's ritual greet us all. Then a small pig is sacrificed, soon after that the chest of the pig is opened to take the liver out. The man with his hand grabbed the liver and read it in front of hundreds of eyes. After sometime he shouts in words which I dont understand. And all the people shouted cheerfully. I then asked a man on what is all about. He said that this year will be good harvest, good health for all the clan member. The liver then put in a flat stone together some raw rice and old coins. It was the offering for the ancestor.

The man then take a candle nut put in a holder made of "Lontar" palm leaf and in one move he strike the candle nut onto that same flat stone. Once again a good sign as the candlenut shell is teared open without breaking the meat of the nut. He then chew the candle nut together with "sirih pinang" (arecca and betel nut). To my surprise, all the people - hundreds of them - stand in a queu in front of him to let the man mark their forehead with the juice produced from the chewing "sirih pinang" and that candle nut. Although I am native to Flores island but I never see such a ritual in my village which is about 300 km west of Larantuka.

The first people who get that mark was a couple of local business person who reported that their car got accident repeatedly in just two months. They hope by attending the ritual they will got blessings from the ancestors. Those who do not attend the ritual will get that "juice" from their relatives who collect it in bamboo tubes.

The ritual then concluded by sacrificing hundreds of goats and pigs in various size. Most of them are full grown up beasts. There was only one man act as an executor. People bring their pig or goat to him and with one move he cut the head of the animals off at once while the animal keep standing for a while. Blood spread all around and people cheered happily.

The sacrified animals will not be consumed right away. But all of them will be hunged in Korke. The cook of the meats will be done in the afternoon on following day. Of course the meats are not fresh anymore. But I think they prefer to feed their Gods, ghosts and Ancestors first before consuming it for themselves.

The passengers of MS Columbus of course will not see the sacrifice ritual. They visited Riang Pedang for a cultural show. The village elders greet them in the entrance of the village. Sirih pinang, tuak (distilled palm wine) and local cigar then offered to the group's leader. The visitors walked to the Korke lead by Hedung dancers and then Soka dancers. In that short visit the participants of Larantuka on shore program entertained with dances and the complete wedding ceremony according to Lamaholot.

The visit in the village is just about 1 hour. With 164 participants (morning program + 89 in the afternoon) and crews plus lots of government officials, the total understanding on local cultural values will be very limited. It would be much better if the visitors stay longer in the village. Yes, all the participants are happy with the visit. They managed to inspect Korke, Langobelen - the communal house of the village and its ritual stuffs. Some of them got the chance to walk around in the village.

On return, Pascale - shore excursion manager mentioned that my organization of the visit was just perfect and the clients are all happy. I discussed with her and the lecturer together with other team member that next time the visitors must stay longer in the village. Not to rush and rush to visit market and so on. To stay longer in the village then the chance to mingle with locals to comprehend more on local values will be then maximized. At least the locals is not just cultural performers but a complete civilization with genuine local values.