West Sumba

The western part of Sumba is green and fertile in the wet season. It has a mixed population with two different languages; many still live in their traditional thatched huts. While East Sumba attracts tourists due to it’s lovely ikat-textiles, can offer more exotic traditions with unique houses, ceremonies and tombs. A traditional village typically consists of two rows of tall houses, with a square between. In the middle of the square there is a flat stone with another flat stone at the top of it. Here offerings are made to the spiritual forces that protect the city (marapu). Similar stones can be found in the fields where offerings are made in relation to planting and harvesting. On the open square there is often stone slab tombs of important ancestors. In former days the heads of killed enemies would be hung in a dead tree in the village square, called ‘andung’. It is common today for tourists to visit some of these villages, preferably with a local guide to avoid any offending behavior. We will often be asked to donate a small amount of money; another custom is to offer betel nuts. It is a big offence to say no if we are offered a betel nut, in former days this was a declaration of war. Just accept it and put it away if we don’t like to chew it like the locals.

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