Flores Island Unique Culture
Flores is one of the main islands of east Nusa Tenggara which are consist of Flores, Sumba, Komodo, Solor Alor, Roti and west Timor. There are many small islands on the water of flores such as Rinca, Ende, Adonare, Tomblem, Pador, Besar, Pomana, Babi, Pamana, and Palu. At the beach of West Flores, north sea of Komodo there are group of small islands consist of Sebayur Besar, Sebayur Kecil, Tataba, Siaba Besar, Mapean, Papagaram Besar, Papagaram Kecil, Panakia, Pimpe, Boasala, Kaaba, Kalong, Kelor, Bangko, and many specs of atols.
Administratively Flores is under East Nusa Tenggara Province separated from Bali around 1950s, and now has the center of administration is at Kupang city on West Timor island. There are 8 sub-ethnic group live on the island including it’s small island ; (1) The Manggarai, (2) The Riung, (3) Ngada, (4) Nage-Keo, (5) The Ende, (6) The Lio, (7) The Sikka, (8) Larantuka. Sub no 2,3,4 and 5 culturally shows slight difference, yet compare to Manggaraian shows significant difference including physical traits. The Manggarai people has the market physical characteristic of Mongoloid-Malay, but some small characteristic showing the other group above.
The skin color of the Manggaraian is brighter like other Western Indonesian people with more people have straight hairs. The other ethnic groups shows great similarity of Malanesian people, although their skin color is not as dark as the people of West Papua. At the east tip of Flores there is a sub-ethnic living at Larantuka town showing great mix of people. this probably has been caused by the fact that Larantuka has become the center of Christian missionary from 17th century. So inter marriage have been taking place.
The number of people recorded in 1930 around 250.000 people, and more better census in 1964 recorded 1.582.200 people. With this figure Flores and it’s island showing small density of population which is 41 person per square km. Their village for Manggaraian are constructed on the highland or foot of mountain, and each village formed circular, divided into 3, front, center and back.
In the past at each part of this settlement had special holy place which was considered the place of the guardian of the village. This holy places are assemblages of natural stones with stepped pyramid with flat on top. At the front is banyan tree and the village meeting hall. In the past this meeting hall also place to preserve a drum, a music instrument which is considered a holy tool. This type of stone altar also known by people of Ngada at central Flores. In the past the villages were fenced with strong bamboo, and the outer part still protected by plants having sharp stings, yet today this type of villages are left already, but traces can still be seen at some places.
The people of Ngada has started to cultivated the land with irrigation system since 60 years ago where they could manage more stable life. But some people are still moving from one place to another clearing and burn forest. The main crops they grow are corn and rice. Besides cultivating land for crops the Floresian also grow buffaloes, but it is not for their economic value, only for feast, religion, status symbols, gift of marriage is also important beside horses. Horse also use for transporting people and goods.
Marriage tradition of Floresian, especially among Manggarai, happened naturally as a result of the relation between youth and girl, but this type of marriage required big amount of gift to be given to girl’s parent. So the ideal marriage to avoid this high requirement is marriage between a youth with the daughter of his mother’s brother, and also marriage by fledging from home with the approval of both sides. Like other ethnics of Indonesia the procedure of marriage is almost the same, initiated by youth’s parents and relatives will come to girl’s parent to request their girl for their son. It is often that a man has married a woman but still can not give the gift to woman’s parents, so he has to work for some days or months to pay this at wife’s parents. Other type of marriage in Manggarai or Floresian is general is monogamy very rare of case polygamy like in Java, furthermore Floresian are already Christian observer. Kinship system of the Manggarai and Ngada is a big family base on patrilineal leanage, living virilocally, called a “Kilo” some kilos form a small clan or minimal leanage called “Panga” which traces their generation up to 5 to 6 generations. Today the relation within the Panga is not clear anymore except for the name tradition. In the past the unit of Panga will be bound by the traditional ceremony such as death ceremony, building public places and others. The bigger group of Panga is called “wa’u” who has a complex of same traditional elements, folklore, totem, and common ancestors, and ceremonies which all have been forgotten today.
In 1761 the kingdom of Bima in Sumbawa was taken over by Makassar from Karangasem kingdom of Bali with the help of Dutch on the area of Manggarai, but this was not long, as Bima was shocked by great explosion of Mt. Tambora in 1815. From the report of Bima kingdom staff at Manggarai it is known that the center of Manggarai kindom was at Cibal. The original structure of Manggarai kingdom can still be seen until today. The kingdom was consist of units called “Dalu”. It were 39 Dalu, each Dalu consist of some Glarang, and each Glarang consist of some villages or “beo”. Every Dalu usually controlled by a clan or by a wa’u. The head of a Dalu is called a “Kraeng Adak”, while the most important Dalus such as Todo and Bayo, their head is called “Sangaji”. Important officers in Manggarai are “tu’a tana” a person who expert in land ownership, and “raja bicara” a diplomat. These officers were present at head level of kingdom, Dalu and Glarang. 5 social layers is also introduces based on originality of their place on the society or in more clear tense is seniority. The Kraeng in Manggarai, and Gae Meze in Ngada are the borjouise, while “Ata Leke” in Manggarai and “Gae Kisa” in Ngada is common people, and the group of slaves which is not exist anymore. The traditional belief of Floresian is general by concept is the same as other ethnic groups of Indonesia, basically they respect the ancestors, plus holy souls of nature. In Manggarai and Ngada they have highest god called “Mori Karaeng”, while Ngada called “Deva”.
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