Wooden Carvings of Women and Life
My Lonely Planet for Indonesia is well-thumbed through and full of creases, circles with “must go here” and “what was the writer thinking? Jakarta and Bandung are great” comments. For better and most definitely for worse, the Lonely Planet guide from 2009 is one of the few, and the by far the biggest, guidebook to Indonesia that is easily found at bookstores abroad. Only one of the contributing authors for the Indonesian edition was a woman, which is one of my major complaints. I have heard many complaints from local guides that the Lonely Planet has created plenty of issues for them, especially the prices that are almost five years old and with inflation in Indonesia, completely outdated. So they have to deal with tourists demanding the price printed in the book. When Pak Ardi saw my Lonely Planet sticking out of my bag, he took it as a challenge. “I will take you places not in the book,” and thus began our day.
We drove to the village of Wologai and the first thing I saw was a woman in a bright red sweater who had bright red teeth from chewing betel nut. The village does get some foreign visitors, but as soon as people heard Pak Ardi speaking in Indonesian with me, they were very curious and wanted to chat. A village elder, Martinus Wuta, became our de facto guide.
I was immediately attracted to the wooden carvings on the traditional homes. In the photo above you’ll notice round carvings. They are meant to look like breasts. The breast carvings symbolize where life comes from: women. Villagers explained to me that you are born to a house and life comes from that house and from the mother you are born to. The carvings are prominently featured on the homes. In the local dialect, bahasa Lio, wolo means mountain. An intentional symbolism and connection or not, I thought it was beautiful.
At the same time, photos of men hang on the walls of some homes. I wish I could have spent a few days here to really learn about the carvings and traditions, so I hope some anthropologist somewhere gets inspired.
The one area I was not allowed to visit was the elevated platform in the middle of the village. It is used for ceremonies. Pak Ardi told me September is the month for rituals and ceremonies that unite the community and other neighboring villages are also invited.
If a family owns seven houses or more, it means they come from a large family and must also own land. The roofs of the traditional homes are made from palm, elephant grass and moss.
Martinus and Pak Ardi asked that I take a photo of them. So here it is, my two tour guides:
From Wologai we continued driving across ruggedly beautiful Flores. And for the third time, Pak Ardi picked an incredible little wooden shack, perched high up on a mountain above the sea for our coffee stop of the day.
We passed the Abu Lobo volcano, it means grandparents on top, during our drive. A reminder that Indonesia is located on the volcanic ring of fire.
We made one stop before the incredible coffee break and I was so taken with the place, that about 100 photos later Pak Ardi had to drag me away. It deserves its own post…coming soon.