The Lamaholot People of Flores

The Lamaholot People of Flores

The Lamaholot people are the indigenous people of Flores and smaller surrounding islands like Solor, Adonara and Lomblen. Even though they are referred to as the Lamaholot people, it is more a language than a distinct ethnic group. Because they live in various regions of Flores and neighbouring islands, there are numerous different variations of the Lamaholot language. Nowadays most people of the Lamaholot are Catholic and Muslims but traditional religious elements have not been totally wiped out. As for the language, most Lamaholot speakers are multilingual. They will learn Bahasa Indonesia as the official language of the Republic of Indonesia at school.

Even though the great majority is Christian, quite a few are staying true to their traditional faiths. This includes rituals and ancestors. Other important deities are Hari Botan, the god of the sea and Ili Woka, the god of the mountains. Although the Lamaholot people are scattered over different islands, they still share some of the same cultural elements.

One of those elements is the system of ritual leadership. There are four ritual leaders are also sharing governing power. The Kepala Koten is in charge of the internal village affairs while the Kepala Kelen is in charge of the external village affairs. The Hurit and Marang have advisory functions. Influential elders from the village would make sure that none of the leaders get too powerful and that everything would go fairly.

Lamaholot is not only well-known for its language but also for its traditional war dance, Hedung usually performed for the heroes who have returned home from the battlefield. It symbolises heroism and the spirit of not giving up. Escorted by traditional music, the dance shows movements which are similar to the movements at war.

Travel tips

  • Experience a Hedung performance.
  • Spend the night with one of the Lamaholot people to learn more about the culture.

Photo courtesy: http://baltyra.com/2011/06/29/lamaholot-in-contact/

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