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1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power
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The Imported Past
Foreign Sources of Power

Brought across the wide seas, carried over the wide oceans
To fall at our feet and be grasped by our hands
The stalk of foreign banana [papaya] now sits at our ancestral hearth
The sweet gourd from overseas is offered to our own forefathers
                From a Kodi song about imported heirloom valuables

Kodi is the kind of society that, fifteen years ago, when anthropology had a somewhat different orientation, might have been described as "isolated from history." Sumba remained in the backwaters of the Dutch colonial empire for several hundred years. Sporadically involved in the sandalwood trade of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and later in the export of horses and slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the peoples of this island were never integrated into the Indic kingdoms or mercantile sultanates that lay to the west of them. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, rather, they lived in relative autonomy, divided into many small feuding domains and without a centralized polity or a single indigenous ruler. In the west, each domain had its own language and its own stories of the origins of time and of the calendar, the acquisition of fire, and the development of agriculture.

And yet indigenous social institutions, particularly those that express ideas of hierarchical difference, are conceived of and legitimated in the terms of external political powers. The tension between ideas of local origins and imported authority in fact lies at the very heart of Sumbanese society, inscribing all Kodi social forms in historical space and time. The most important heirloom objects stored· in ancestral houses come largely from other islands, and even certain objects that could have been locally made (such as a wooden trough or drum) are traced to a faraway kingdom in the west. Present symbols of local political orders are given a foreign history; their power was "imported" it is argued, and realized anew on the shores of Sumba.

In trying to account for this tension analytically, we are caught between silences in the documentary record and a confusing series of contradictory


claims in the oral record. Written sources on precolonial Sumba are extremely scanty, with specific material on Kodi almost nonexistent. As the domain farthest from the administrative centers of Waingapu and Waikabubak, Kodi was the only region not visited by Dutch missionary writers such as D. K. Wielenga, Ten Kate, and Albert C. Kruyt, who traveled extensively throughout the island in the early twentieth century. Louis Onvlee, the missionary-linguist who spent over thirty years on Sumba, visited Kodi only once, for a few days in 1932, and confessed that Kodi was the only Sumbanese language he could not understand (personal comm.). Until the 1950s, when Kodi was visited by F.A.E. Van Wouden and Rodney Needham, there were no published materials specifically concerned with the region.

The history of events in Kodi thus remains largely obscure, at least before the beginning of this century. But we can glimpse certain larger processes, through which ideas of foreign authority were taken up and incorporated into notions of indigenous origins. The imitation and assimilation of incompletely understood foreign powers was sometimes accompanied by a disavowal of their real origins, with foreign objects redefined as "indigenous" and made the basis of local claims to rule.

My treatment of themes in the island's history will focus on the interactions between the Sumbanese and four foreign places, each of which had a significant impact on both the events themselves and the perceptions of the nature of power and its deployment. These are "Java" (more a mythical construct than a reference to the actual island), Bima (on the island of Sumbawa), Ende (on the island of Flores), and Batavia (the colonial capital of the Netherlands East Indies).

Origins from "Java"

The Sumbanese say that their ancestors migrated from the west, crossing over a "stone bridge" (lendu watu ) that once connected the island to lands to the west. There are many local versions of the shared mythic tradition of this migration. All of them agree that the first ancestors arrived at Sasar, a treacherous cape along the north shore whose name, in Malay, means "lost" or "off track." In some accounts, the two ancestors had a wooden ship that smashed on the coral reefs and left them stranded on the island. In other accounts only one of them, Umbu Walu Mandoko, traveled to the island by ship, and it was his descendants who settled along the banks of various streams. The other ancestor, Umbu Walu Sasar, often identified as Umbu Walu Mandoko's older brother, came down directly from the sky, riding on his horse; his descendants settled the drier areas


A Kodi woman displays her high rank by wearing imported wealth: ivory
bracelets, heirloom ceramic beads, and a bark-embroidered betel pouch.
1980. Photograph by the author.

inland (Couvreur 1917, 209). Both men were originally said to have come "from Java," and to have been driven from their homeland by mysterious circumstances (Wielenga 1916-18, 21:3; Kruyt 1922, 471). Warfare, quarrels between the two siblings, and disputes over their marriages are sometimes cited as reasons for their decision to leave.


These immigrants met an indigenous population, which they gradually displaced by means of a division of powers, a conquest, or the dying out of the original inhabitants. Early Dutch writers generally agreed with Kruyt's interpretation that an "originally democratic society" once existed all over the island. In the east, that society was replaced when a few noble families took power into their own hands, dislodging the traditional religious leaders who guarded the relics of their ancestors (Kruyt 1922, 467). In the west, the ceremonial leadership of a calendrical priest like the Rato Nale ("Priest of the Sea Worms") remained unchallenged, though warfare and political struggles between competing clans raged on. Wielenga noted that many Sumbanese domains are divided into two parts, one older and one younger; he explained this peculiarity by the fact that "one part represented the original inhabitants, who had ownership of the land, and one part were later-comers, who received, with the permission of their elders, a share of the land to live on, or else seized the land without permission through force. In both cases, the older part possessed spiritual powers" (cited in Kruyt 1922, 468). A final possibility was that the original inhabitants might have been almost completely wiped out, with few traces of their presence remaining.

In West Sumba, most domains are traditionally divided into two parts—for example, Lamboya and Patialla, Laura Marada and Laura Letena, Lauli Deta and Lauli Wawa, Kodi Bokol and Kodi Bangedo. It is not clear whether these in fact represent "older" and "younger" parts or are simply geographical divisions that were settled by different clans, with no disparity of rank or genealogical status implied. The names themselves distinguish "pastures" (marada ) and "mountains" (letena ), "highlands" (deta ) and "lowlands" (wawa ), and "larger" (bokol ) and "smaller" (bangedo ; lit., "founded by Umbu Ngedo") divisions. The division between "politics" and "religion" was less clearly established in the west, since there the title given only to a priest in the east (ratu ) could be used for a chief as well (Kruyt 1922, 469).

All West Sumbanese trace their descent from the ancestors who landed at Sasar, with the exception of the few hundred descendants of an earlier population, called the "Lombo" people in Laura and the "Karendi" in Balaghar. The indigenous people, who are believed to assume the form of wild animals or carrion-eating witches, are recognized as the original owners of the land. Before the migration from the west, they were said to have had no knowledge of fire or agriculture, living as hunters and gatherers of wild forest foods.

The original migration is recounted today in the paired couplets of ritual speech (panggecango ), a verse form that marks the most important


texts in the oral tradition. An invocation of the ancestral journey runs like this:

The ancestors of long ago

Ambu lama ulu

Came to the distant cape of Sasar

Na duki ela haharo malango

From another land, the foreign land

Wali la hambali cana, tana dawa

The forefathers of ancient time

Nuhi la mandeiyo

Came to the adze-shaped stone bridge

Na toma la kataku lendu watu

From across the seas, the strange land

Wali la hambali lyoro, tana ndimya

When dawn came over Gaura's coast

Ba na mahewa helu nggaru

When day broke on Lombo's land[1]

Ba na madomo a tana lombo

Off to Kodi went Lord Ngedo

Otu la Kodu umbu ngedo

And to Rara went Lord Wango

Mono Rara umbu wango

. . . to Ede . . . and Manola

Ede umbu Koba, lbbila Manola

. . . to Manekka . . . and Lombo

Kairo Manekka, Roto Lombo

. . . to Karendi, Bukambero, Weyewa

Karendi Bukambero, Pittu Waiwewa

. . . to Gaura and Lamboya

Nggaro Umbu Tola, Lamboya Patialla

. . . to Rua and Wanokaka

Rua wu Wungo, Yongga Wanukaka

. . . to Lauli and Lawonda

Lauli Anakalang, Lawondo Bolobokat

To Kambera of a different language

Kambera Heka Hili

To Kanata of different speech

Kanata Heka Taki

. . . to Melolo and Kabata

Talinjaka Malolo, Kabata Dola Ngapu

. . . to Laura and Tana Righu

Mboro Palamedo, Laura Tana Righu

Much of the passage cannot be translated, since it consists of a series of place names and names of ancestors, which blend into one another. The division of Kodi Bangedo is said to have been settled by the descendants of a Lord Ngedo (umbu being an East Sumbanese title for a nobleman, and Ngedo remaining a common name in the area), but little else is known of such an ancestor. The other place names are recited in a sequence that suggests an itinerary from Kodi into the highlands (Rara, Ede, Manola), across various eastern boundaries (Karendi, Bukambero, Weyewa), down to the south coast (Rua, Wanokaka, Lauli, Lawonda), and then, with a final detour to East Sumba (Kambera, Kanata, Melolo, Kabata), returning to the northern coast (Laura, Tana Righu). These verses must be recited at rites bearing on the distant past, when the souls of ancestors of the whole island are invoked· The "strange, foreign land" of tana dawa, tana


ndimya is usually glossed as Java and Bima (one of two sultanates on the island of Sumbawa), though it may also include Lombok, Bali, or Flores. A similar series of couplets recited in East Sumba mentions Malacca, Singapore, Makassar, Ende, Manggarai, Roti (Enda), Ndau, and Savu (Kapita 1976b, 13).

The "Java" that is evoked as the origin of the Sumbanese should not necessarily be taken in its literal sense. As one of the earliest chroniclers noted, "The Sumbanese call everyone who comes from overseas a foreigner (tau jawa ), so the category includes Europeans, Arabs, Chinese, Javanese and inhabitants of other islands in the archipelago" (Couvreur 1917, 213). The great lord who ruled over the foreign kingdom from which the ancestors came is ambiguously rendered as Rato Ndimya, Rato Dawa, and his kingdom is not so much Java or Bima but any distant land to the west. Sumbanese oral tradition contains many narratives about heroes who traveled to this distant land; the presence of Javanese krises, heirloom porcelain jars, Indian patola cloths, and other imported finery suggests that relations with these distant states took the form of trade and perhaps tribute.

Written records offer only a few scattered references to substantiate the existence of a tie between Java and these outer islands. In the Nagarakrtagama (conventionally dated about 1365), Sumba is named as a subject of the Majapahit Empire (1294-1478). A fleet of Gajah Mada sailed to Dompo, Sumbawa, in 1357, and apparently laid some claim to the island, though there may never have been any physical landing on Sumba (de Roo 1906, 185). It is not known how much contact there actually was with Java at that time, and no Hindu or Buddhist remains have been found. The main resource that attracted traders since the seventh century was sandalwood, whose fragrant bark was used to make incense, fans, and clothes chests and was much sought after by Chinese merchants. In 1522, Magellan's chronicler Pigafetta mentioned sailing past "Cendana" or the "Sandalwood Island"—which, later maps indicate, must have been Sumba (de Roo 1906, 187).

The sandalwood trade attracted other European powers to the Timor archipelago, prompting competition for control of the waters. In 1566, Portuguese traders settled on the neighboring island of Solor and built a fortress to protect Christian converts from Moslem sea raiders. The fortress was attacked and captured by Dutch forces in 1613, which sparked an intense rivalry (Fox 1977, 63). In 1636, a Dutch ship was wrecked on "the unknown island of Sandalwood," and some of the men were left behind, but no expedition was sent to look for them (de Roo 1906, 188). The Portuguese of Larantuka built a small fort at Tidas, on the southern


coast of West Sumba in Wanokaka, but its dates and use remain mysterious. In 1726, the government in Batavia recognized the presence of the Portuguese on the island; the fort itself, however, was not spotted until 1902 (de Roo 1906, 188).

Local legends often associate the ancestral migration to Sumba with the fall of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit. Mythologies of aristocratic origins are extremely widespread in Indonesia, and it can hardly be true that all the peoples of the outer islands were descended from exiled Javanese princes. Nevertheless, the legend of Majapahit does have a long history on the island. Coifs, writing in 1880, reported: "Every evening a light can be seen in the direction of Monboro: the natives there say that it is on the tombs from the Modjopahit period which are there" (cited in Needham 1987, 21). No actual tombs with Javanese inscriptions were found at that time, though, nor have any been discovered since. In Anakalang, Alfred Buhler was told that the ancestors descended from the sky to settle first at Majapahit, later migrating from there through Bima and Flores until they eventually reached Sumba (1951, 57).

Present-day speculations about the origins of Sumbanese ancestors often include "the Majapahit" as a category of the prestigious past. In Kapunduk, East Sumba, I was told in 1988 that the noble families of the eastern part of the island had immigrated from Majapahit, and this was why they still had so much gold. In Kodi, some people speculated that Pokilo and Mangilo, the brothers who founded the ceremonial system, were from Majapahit, but the members of other clans were not. When a film crew from Java filmed scenes of horse battles on Sumba using local riders as extras, there was additional speculation that the ancestors of the Sumbanese must have been from Majapahit, because they also were horsemen. Such conjectures, however, should most appropriately be interpreted as reimaginings of the past, and not oral tradition. As Geertz (1973, 398) has noted, Majapahit assumes the mythical status of illo tempore in much of Indonesia: a glorified time of origins that may not correspond to any actual historical time or place.

The Sultan of Bima

The sandalwood trade was administered by the sultan of Bima, whose claims to control the island appear in the records of the Dutch East India Company. In 1663, a merchant named Van Heijst reported that the sultan of Bima was having troubles delivering Sumbanese sandalwood because of the complicated political situation at the time. The sultan said that the Sumbanese had been his subjects "from antiquity" but "now it seemed


that they wanted to become independent." He then asked for assistance from the Company to crush the rebels so that the trade could continue. The Dutch were willing to help only on the condition that they be paid with the profits of the sandalwood, but they would not promise to build a fortress on the island. The planned military expedition never took place, however: the sultan had to travel to Makassar, and when he returned the Company ships were deployed elsewhere (de Roo 1906, 189).

In 1675, further correspondence from the Company to the sultan affirmed that "from ancient times these lands have belonged to the King of Bima and his viceroy Turilia Gampo, and the Company has no plans to interfere with this dominion, but simply wants its contract to be fulfilled." The sultan said that Portuguese Christians from Larantuka had been fomenting unrest among the local population, forcing him to wage war against insurrections on Sumba and in his other possessions, even though he realized that the Dutch and the Portuguese were supposed to be at peace. The authorities in Batavia answered that they would have nothing to do with such internal strife: "The ruler of Bima can do as he likes in the areas that he controls, but the Company can give him no help; however, the authorities recognize that he must wage war on Sumba, because he has enemies there" (de Roo 1906, 190-91).

It is not clear how the situation was resolved. In 1726, a Dutch merchant named Engelbert suggested there may have been an alliance between the ruler of Melolo, East Sumba, and the "Black Portuguese"—Portuguese-speaking mestizo Christians, later known as the Topasses (de Roo 1906, 193; Fox 1977, 63). The documents indicate that there was some strain in Sumba's tributary relationship with Bima, which was accepted in some regions but resisted in others. Each sultan claimed a much larger territory than he was really able to control, because he wanted to direct trade and impose taxes. Thus, the claim that Sumba belonged to Bima "from antiquity" was more rhetorical than real, even though it did reflect a long-established trading pattern. Yet the Dutch policy of using the coastal sultanates as intermediaries for dealing with distant islands had the effect of strengthening the sultan's hand, since he retained control of the export market. In 1775, Tekenborgh wrote that several domains along Sumba's northern coast had close relations with Bima, which included marriage alliances and gifts of "people" (i.e., slaves) supplied when needed to the Bimanese court (de Roo 1906, 228). The people of Memboro were most intensely involved in trade with the sultanate, and as a result appeared "more civilized" than peoples of the rest of the island.

Accounts collected from Sumbanese informants indicate that Bima and Java were associated with prestigious trade relations, titles, and imported


objects, but people did not see themselves as the subjects of a foreign power. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Wielenga heard that strangers from tana ndima had settled in Kodi and Laura and intermarried with local people (Wielenga 1916-18, 20:139). In 1920, Kruyt was told that the people of Laura still remembered paying tribute to the sultan of Bima. The eastern part of the island, his informants said, had been dominated by Bima much earlier, but the "more democratic" domains of the west had had only sporadic contact. The "more refined" and "articulate" people that he met along the northern coast were supposed by him to have developed these superior skills as a result of a long involvement with Bima (Kruyt 1922, 472).

As in the somewhat mythologized depiction of Java and Majapahit, Sumbanese accounts represent their relations with outside powers in terms that suggest relative equality, not subjugation. Indeed, a profound ambivalence is expressed in stories about both European traders and the Bimanese, as in this one, collected by Kruyt in Weyewa in 1920:

In the old days, the Sumbanese were friends with the "white foreigners" and the Bimanese. They crossed the stone bridge which went from Sasar to the other side. Both groups once came to visit a harvest feast, and followed local custom by engaging in a calf-kicking contest. The foreigners won the first time, and many Sumbanese suffered broken legs. When they moved to boxing, however, the Sumbanese defeated their guests, making blood stream down their faces. Finally, the Sumbanese and their guests started shouting insults at each other, and the foreigners left. A little later, the Sumbanese found an eel. They sent a messenger on horseback to invite the others, but he took so long that the Sumbanese went ahead and ate it up. When the guests finally came, the eel was gone. The Bimanese were furious and became violent. In the end, peace was reestablished, and they agreed to share a meal. The Sumbanese gave them meat that they would not eat (perhaps the Bimanese were already Moslem, and the meat was pork). They became angry again and went home. As they returned, they told their hosts, "We'll get our revenge!" The revenge came in the form of a smallpox epidemic, which killed many people.
(Kruyt 1922, 471)

The story cannot be interpreted literally, since it collapses a mythical time when Sumba was still connected to the other islands of the Lesser Sundas with an event of recent history, the smallpox epidemic of the late nineteenth century. Relations with these foreign groups are cast in the idiom


of contests, which later lead to quarrels and the angry departure of the guests. The Europeans did not return, and although the Bimanese came back, they were unable to share a meal. The final explanation interprets the epidemic introduced from other islands as a punishment for violations of the host-guest relationship: because of cultural differences, exchanges of food were not possible, and a reciprocal relationship could not be maintained.

In a somewhat similar vein, the East Sumbanese nobleman Oembu Hina Kapita has written an antiquarian folk history that contains an account of the fifteenth-century Bimanese viceroy Turelia Nggampo, who came to Sumba to establish a power base there:

This power cannot be compared with that of Dutch colonialism or the Japanese occupation, but was only a recognition of the superior power of the Sang Aji Ruma Mawa Ndapa, since the local rulers of Sumba maintained their own authority. The sovereignty of the Great Raja of Java and the Raja of Bima was not visible, but remained always in the hearts and memories of the people of Sumba, and became the stuff of myths and legends about the hanggula ratu jawa, hanganji ratu ndima , "the crown of the Javanese ruler, the hajji title of the Bima ruler." . . . These titles were given to local nobles, as synonyms that also preserved a difference in sense. The hanggula was the one who had been in power but was no longer active, while the hanganji was the one who was still ruling and still active. The prince who was no longer active was also given the title karaingu , coming from the word karaeng in the language of the Bugis or Makassarese.
(Kapita 1976b, 17)

It is interesting that Kapita here transposes the contrast between the two foreign sources of power to a differentiation of indigenous types of rulers: the distant but all-encompassing power of Java is presented as the senior, passive party and opposed to the closer and more immediately effective power of Bima. He also brings in a title taken from the rulers of the South Sulawesi kingdom of Goa, which was also used by the related rulers of Sumbawa (Andaya 1981, 164). The combination reveals the complex lineages of foreign powers who were evoked by Sumbanese nobles in claiming an authority legitimated by "great lords" who lived overseas.[2]


The people of Memboro claim the closest ties with Bima; indeed, a section of Manua Kalada, the ritual center of the domain, is still called Nggaulu Ndima ("the Bima enclosure"). The houses of Bimanese mercenaries who once served the raja of Memboro were located there; also, a number of Sumbanese were said to have migrated to Bima, where they guarded a great gun called Kambeku at the mouth of the Bima river (Needham 1987, 22). Kapita reports an encounter between foreigners from Bima and an indigenous wild spirit which has resonances with Kodi oral traditions: In the village of Sangu Mata, the Bimanese started to excavate a channel when they met a spotted snake with a human head. Terrified, they abandoned their undertaking and returned home (Kapita n.d., 10). The snake resembles Pala Kawata, a spotted python-man who is said, in Kodi, to have defended the island against intruders and even accompanied the culture hero Lendu overseas in the search for life-renewing powers, which resulted in his return with the sea worms (see chapter 3, text #1).

Both "Java" and "Bima" are often cited as the ultimate origins of titles, objects, and finery. Traditional political authority was legitimated by reference to gifts received from foreign powers. Javanese rajas made gifts of fine silk Indian textiles—the patola cloths—to subsidiary local rulers, including those on Sumba. Although few of the cloths survive today, they have been extensively copied on local ikat textiles. In the eastern part of the island, they shaped decorative motifs once restricted to the nobility (Adams 1969), and in Kodi they were the model of the man's loincloth and funeral shroud (hanggi wola remba ). Traditional rulers were called "lords of the silk headpiece and the patola cloth" (ratu hunda rangga, ratu ruu patola ), indicating that ownership of the textiles symbolized claims to office. In East Sumba, sumptuary rules made the double-dyed, rust-and-indigo cloths a noble prerogative. The more diverse textiles of the west expressed claims to rank through complexity of design, the icon of gold ear pendants, and the use of deep indigo backgrounds. Wearing an ivory-handled sword or dancing with a gold pendant strung around the neck likewise served as a statement that one had noble ancestors. These particular usages must be placed in the wider context of the archipelago in colonial and precolonial times.

Moslem Mercenaries: A Predatory Expansion over the Seas

The coastal sultanates of Sulawesi, Sumbawa, and Flores figured importantly in trade with the eastern islands from an early period and became intensely involved in local politics in the. eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many heirloom objects in Sumbanese houses are traced to contacts


with dawa ronda (literally, "foreigners in cotton sarungs"), a category referring to all the Moslem seafaring peoples who came to the island. The Sumbanese construction of the past is heavily vested in these "history objects" traded from the west, but before we can understand their involvement in local events we must examine the cultural heritage they represented.

Given the importance of military conquest to many of these sultanates, it is hardly surprising that a great many of their sacred objects were weapons, most famously the Javanese kris, swords, spears, and even cannon. Some of these were captured from the enemy, others were acquired through trade, marriage alliances, or the miraculous "discovery" of an unusual and thus apparently spiritually potent object (Andaya 1975, 120).

In his study Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia , Robert Heine-Geldern describes the importance of regalia in Southeast Asian political life, including the idea that certain objects, such as the royal sword of Cambodia, had their own magical force. This attitude reaches its most developed expression in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, where it culminates in "the curious conception prevalent among the Bugis and Makassarese of Celebes, according to which it is really the regalia which reign, the prince merely governing the state only in their name" (Heine-Geldern 1956, 10). The regalia were conceived as immortal and immobile, defining the center of power and geographical space, while the ruler was mortal and mobile, serving, says Shelley Errington (1989, 129), as "a kind of mouthpiece" in contrast to the "stable silence" of the object. Only after his death did the ruler acquire the full sanctity of his objects, for then his own clothing, teeth, and personal effects could join the store of valuables that formed the heirloom treasure of the kingdom.

In the oldest Bugis kingdom, Luwu, royal objects served as placeholders for the titles and responsibilities the ruler could bestow on his subjects (Errington 1989, 124). Titles that included ritual obligations were attached to sacred objects and were given for the recipient's lifetime (Errington 1989, 200). Each family, noble or not, had its own collection of "leavings from the ancestors," which were passed on through the generations and cherished as talismans of the power of the past.

Errington's interpretation emphasizes the stability of local inherited objects both as representations of power and as assertions that descent and "white blood" qualified a ruler to claim authority through sacred objects (1989, 125). Writing about the southern Buginese state of Bone, Andaya (1975, 120) presents an image of much greater political turmoil and change, in which the transfer of sacred objects (gauking ) could legitimate usurpation or even conquest: "The ruler could be deposed at any time, but the gauking and the rest of the regalia would continue to be accorded the


highest veneration in the community. A ruler without the arajang (regalia) had no authority to rule whatsoever, whereas the arajang retained its power by virtue of being considered the representative of the gods on earth."

In 1666-69, the Company fought a war against the kingdom of Goa in South Sulawesi, then one of the most powerful and extensive empires in the history of the archipelago. Just three years earlier, Goa had conquered Bima, and a huge migration of Makassarese to Sumbawa began. A thousand men in twenty-eight ships arrived in 1664, followed a short while later by eight more (de Roo 1906, 243). Fearing the political campaigns of the Buginese prince and Dutch ally Arung Palakka, the refugees fled to the south. Some of them settled in Sumbawa and Flores, intermarrying with coastal Moslems in Bima and Ende, while others roamed the seas from one kingdom to another disrupting normal processes of trade and government (Andaya 1981, 217-18). In 1675, a large community of Makassar refugees was reported to have formed under a Daeng Mamanga at Ende on Flores, and roving bands of Makassar, Bugis, and Mandar refugees started to move farther eastward (Andaya 1981, 163-64). Invited by Arung Palakka, by then the conqueror of Goa, to return home, they refused, suspecting they would be enslaved by the victors (Andaya 1981, 217). Their presence had a great impact on the Sunda seas:

These refugees constituted an unstable element within the area. They cast their lots with one or another factions within a particular kingdom, thereby creating unnatural or transitory governments which survived at the pleasure of the refugees. Such arrangements bred resentment in the local populace and the eventual expulsion of the refugees. They were then cast adrift once again seeking a home and an ally and making every ambitious leader in a kingdom vulnerable to the attractions of such a powerful group of armed warriors.
(Andaya 1981, 217)

Sumba at the time was a tempting target: since the early fifteenth century, traders from South Sulawesi had visited the island, and by the early 1600s there was a steady market on Sumbawa for products obtained on Sumba.

The character of trade in the Sunda Seas had changed significantly by that time. Although Sumba continued to be called the "Sandalwood Island" by European mapmakers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its supply of the white fragrant wood quickly dwindled, and most trade interest shifted to Timor (Fox 1977, 61). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the island's main exports became living things: horses, buffalo,


and human slaves. The new "commodities" involved foreign traders much more intensely in local politics and colored perceptions of outside powers with a new dimension of terror.

The Makassar-Endehnese appear in colonial documents relating to Sumba in complaints about "pirates" who raided Dutch ships and competed with them for control of trade in the Sunda Sea. Company officials soon realized that their own chances of exploiting Sumba for slaves depended on the exclusion of these rivals from the area. De Roo (1906, 195n.2) presents the Dutch perspective clearly:

The Makassarese power in those times made the waters of the Timor archipelago unsafe not only because they committed piracy and captured slaves, but also because they sold imported goods more cheaply than the Company and paid higher prices for local products, as well as selling gunpowder, lead, and rifles to the enemies of the Company. . . . These Makassarese over the years caused great pain and suffering to the Company. Now and then, when their actions got completely out of hand, military expeditions were mounted against them, which would temper their outrageousness for a while but were not enough to stop it completely.

Sumba, in fact, was to remain an intermittent battleground for the two competing forces for the next 150 years.

In 1750, Van den Burg concluded an oral contract with Sumbanese rulers along the northern coast, binding them to trade exclusively with the Dutch East India Company, and not with the Portuguese or the Makassarese. Presents of weapons, beads, gold, and a flag and staff were distributed to those who consented, from ten different regions of middle and East Sumba (de Roo 1906, 196; Kapita 1976b, 21). In 1755, a second written contract was signed with the raja of Mangili, East Sumba, in Kupang, and the Dutch sent an official named Beynon to investigate conditions on the island. He described it as very large, sparsely populated, and disrupted by constant regional warfare; the export of sandalwood, cotton, slaves, and livestock, he concluded, would not be safe until the whole region was pacified (de Roo 1906, 204-5; Kapita 1976b, 21).

The year 1753 saw an intensification of Makassar slave trading activities, and a large raid was conducted in 1758, with hundreds of people captured in the eastern areas of Melolo and Kanatang (de Roo 1906, 196n.2; Needham 1983, 38). The refugees also began to work as mercenaries for local rulers: they supplied forces to the raja of Lewa in central Sumba, for example, for an attack on his enemies in Melolo, accepting fifty-five slaves in payment (Needham 1983, 20). By 1775, fleets of thirty


to forty Makassarese praus came into Sumbanese ports each year; the island had become their "general rendez-vous or nesting place" (de Roo 1906, 227; Needham 1983, 21).

The holdings of the Company passed into the hands of the Netherlands East Indies government in 1800. In 1820, the Dutch ship Pamanoekan , under the command of J. Batiest, was on its way from Java to Makassar and became stranded on Sumba's western coast, in the region of Lamboya Patialla. Taken prisoner by the local people, Batiest and his men stayed on the island for many months, until an Endehnese ship passed by and took them to Makassar (de Roo 1906, 240). The captain's description of his time on the island, recorded by J. D. Kruseman, trade commissioner of the Timor area, provides the earliest glimpse of daily life in West Sumba and the shifting political situation. The Sumbanese that he encountered drew a very sharp distinction between outsiders—people from beyond their own island or domain—and insiders—those who shared their feasts. The members of the Pamanoekan crew seem to have experienced both states, one when they first arrived, the second after they had spent some time in a single village. In the words of Batiest:

Concerning honesty and faithfulness, the people are prone to great extremes. Men who not only robbed the survivors of the Pamanoekan of everything they could take, and even cut their clothes off their bodies and led them as slaves to the mountains, would not steal even so much as a piece of firewood from a neighbor, even if he needed it very badly. At and during harvest time, the homes are often empty for months, and although nothing is hidden, nothing is missed. . . . If they can steal something from a foreigner, they will boast about their skill and delight in their accomplishment; but once the same foreigners have become united to them as members of the clan, sharing a meal of goat meat sacrificed to the deity, then they will have nothing more to fear, and they and their belongings will become just as safe as the life and goods of a native. The people are in fact very friendly, so much so that their goodwill seems almost a contradiction of their fierce appearance. They would not kill a foreigner or enemy lightly, and would never strike an ally or friend.
(Kruseman 1836, 70-71)

Batiest reported that West Sumba had "a society without kings or chiefs" led by elders of the hereditary nobility who gained their followers through skill in speaking and daring in warfare. Slaves were kept in noble households, but they "ate from the same dish as their masters" and worked and rested beside them. He described his hosts as brave, generous to a fault,


and very impressive orators, who ruled through persuasion at large, consensus-based tribal councils and did not coerce others to accept their authority (Kruseman 1836, 72-74).

The hereditary nobility was recognized primarily in council meetings, where their speech was granted the most authority and their eloquence could be demonstrated: "Such meetings always take a long time, even when the case at hand is relatively clear, because a speaker must always be answered by someone else who interprets his words, and the people believe that no important issue should be resolved too quickly. Large gatherings also give them a chance to display oratorical abilities, and this is a society in which rhetorical skill is a source of great pride" (Kruseman 1836, 74). Celebrations were held for the rice harvest, coconut harvest, and alliances with neighboring districts, but there is no mention of the swarming of the sea worms or the pasola jousting (see chapter 5). A lunar calendar is suggested, however, by references to the "fasting month" of October, in which sacrifices are dedicated to a spirit who protects ancestral graves (Kruseman 1836, 82).

Domestic life was characterized as "a truly rare example of morality and chastity among Orientals as is found nowadays only in the most remote corners of the world" (Kruseman 1836, 70).[3] People were industrious and kind, if a bit cowardly by Batiest's standards. Although he found Sumbanese warriors strong and cruel in their appearance, their wars seemed "almost child's play" involving much strutting and shaking of spears with relatively little bloodshed (Kruseman 1836, 74). Each side carried swords and spears in a battle formation, but stayed at such a distance that their weapons rarely struck anyone. When someone was injured, the battle was immediately stopped and sacrifices were made to compensate those who had suffered losses.

Relations of traditional hostility between domains did affect travel and communication, however, even if they rarely resulted in the conquest of territory. Heads were taken in wars waged against neighboring domains, in a pattern of continuing enmity for which there was no historical explanation:

The Sumbanese do not know much about their own history. The current generation is even ignorant of the cause of the wars between


Laboya and Manukaka [Wanokaka]. But there is such enmity between these domains that whenever someone crosses the borders set by the ancestors, armed or unarmed, man, woman, or child, they must be captured and are put to death immediately. . . . The only exception is made on the occasion of death feasts, where relatives in the enemy territory may be invited with a white banner to join in mourning for a shared ancestor.
(Kruseman 1836, 75-76)

Respect for the dead and for the spirits of the deceased was the primary idea behind all of the traditional feasts, which were led by the elders of the clan in the center of the village. The sequence of events was much the same as is still found on Sumba: guests were greeted with offerings of betel nut, entertained with singing, dancing, and oratory, and fed large platefuls of rice and shares of the sacrificed pigs, goats, and water buffalo. The description of elaborate shared ritual celebrations prompted this early observer to a nostalgic evocation of the vanished world of antiquity:

One can hardly imagine the feelings a civilized European has when he sees all this! One sees a mixture of manners, customs, and habits which bring to mind so many past eras and make one go back to the time of our own ancestors, when men lived in a state of natural happiness, such as the era of the Romans, who celebrated in their camps, hanging their weapons in the trees as they tired of victory, removing all memory of war and destruction from their minds while they gave themselves over to the innocent pleasures of a sacrificial celebration under Italy's warm beautiful sky.
(Kruseman 1836, 81)

The account appears idyllic, especially when contrasted with reports from East Sumba in only a slightly later period—the late nineteenth century, after 1860, when slavery was forbidden in the Netherlands East Indies and the Dutch forces tried to regain control of the Sunda seas. At the time of Batiest's visit, however, isolated western districts like Kodi and Lamboya, many days away from the centers of trade, were to remain sheltered from the most intense raiding for only a few more years.

In 1843, an Arab horse trader, Sharif Abdulrahman, founded the port town of Waingapu at the best natural habor on the north coast of Sumba. He was "an extremely enterprising but sinister character" (Needham 1983, 24), well connected to both the Dutch resident Gronovius and the Endehnese. Authorized to develop the export of horses from Sumba to Java,


Flores, and Sumbawa, he was soon also involved in the burgeoning slave trade (de Roo 1906, 248).

Endehnese communities rose up along the northern coast and soon were deeply involved in local politics: in 1860 Etto, the crown prince of Ende and married to the daughter of the Sumbanese chief at Patawang (de Roo 1906, 245), sent ten ships and five to six hundred men to help the raja of Kapunduk wage war against his enemies in the interior. The Dutch resident attacked and sank the ships at Kapunduk, then signed an agreement with four local rulers who said they wanted to be freed from the oppression and molestation of the Endehnese. Sharif, though married to Etto's sister, advised the Dutch to expel the Endehnese in order to stop the slave trade, perhaps because he feared them as trade competitors and a challenge to his own supremacy (de Roo 1906, 266; Needham 1983, 28).

In 1861, the export of slaves to Lombok and Sumbawa was reported to be dying out because it was no longer profitable, but the Endehnese were now plundering the interior, burning villages and capturing people to sell them to Sumbanese rulers on the coast. "The spread of the Endehnese plague not only outside Sumba but now into the interior has become even worse than it was before" lamented a Dutch report on the slave trade (de Roo 1906, 245). Because the Dutch were stronger on sea than on land, this new development threatened their already unstable control of the island's politics.

The Makassar-Endehnese have been presented as the villains of the island's history, "the scourge of Sumba" who caused tremendous suffering wherever they went. Needham (1983, 39, 49) shares the interpretation of many Dutch writers when he says:

It does not call for great imaginative powers to conceive how the Endehnese domination of Sumba would have proceeded if it had not been forestalled by the Dutch intervention, or what would have been the condition of the island if the Endehnese had wreaked their will without restraint or limit. . . . The history of Sumba presents the example of a land formerly ravaged by the slave trade but eventually liberated from the terror of forcible transportation to distant countries.

It is useful to remember that the Dutch also participated in the slave trade until 1860 and were not sharply distinguished from their rivals by local populations, who suspected all outsiders of coming as robbers and marauders (penyamun ). The leverage exercised by these outside groups depended on warfare, slavery, and island instability, which created conditions


ideal for ambitious local leaders to form alliances with the Endehnese, Dutch authorities, or Arab horse traders to further their own political goals.

External and Internal Slavery on Sumba

Slavery seems to have had a rather different meaning in the closed, indigenous context described by Batiest in Lamboya of the early 1800s relative to the "open market" in which human beings were traded as commodities along the northern coast at the end of the nineteenth century. Samuel Roos, the first Dutch controller sent to the island in 1862, wrote that slavery was an indigenous institution "so deeply ingrained in the Sumbanese character that it would be hard to bring it to an abrupt stop" (1872, 11). He noted that a ruler's power depended on his control of slaves, who provided a fixed pool of labor for the cultivation of wet-rice fields and whose status was marked by ritual and legal subordination. A very large number of people were slaves: Gregory Forth (1981, 462) found that nearly 38 percent of the population of Rindi was of slave descent, and of them over 90 percent had been attached to the noble clan. Village heads from Kapunduk and Lewa estimated in 1988 that fully 75 percent of their populations was descended from slaves.

Slavery in the eastern part of the island resembled the "closed systems" of other parts of upland Southeast Asia (Reid 1983, 161-63). Slaves were inherited, connected to noble houses, and identified with those houses' paternalistic power. The nobility themselves were called the "mother moon and father sun" (inya wula ama lado )—those with dominion over the area—and their hereditary servants were the "feet of the sun, the feet of the moon" (wisi wula, wisi lado ). This form of slavery implied an obligation on the part of the master to assist his subjects, by finding them wives and homes, paying their bridewealth and (in the colonial period) their taxes, and providing clothing and food as "a kind of poor relief" (Versluys 1941) when times were hard. Hereditary slaves (ata pa helu or ata memango ) were never sold, sacrificed, or used for hard labor, and they could be transferred from one house to another only if they accompanied a noblewoman as the "bearers of her sirih pouch." Referred to as "children in the house" these servants were often invested with important ritual duties. At funerals and important ceremonies, hereditary slaves were dressed in gold, fine textiles, and ivory, and they paraded the finest ornaments of the house.

Quite different was the fate of war captives, outsiders who were taken prisoner and could be used for ritual sacrifices. Called the "feet of wild


pigs, paddy gathered on horseback" (wisi wari ruta, pare pa mandara ) (Versluys 1941), they were treated as casually acquired plunder or booty. Reports from precolonial times say war captives were killed at the funerals of important nobles in East Sumba (Kruyt 1922, 540). In West Sumba, some domains were linked in gruesome exchanges of sacrificial victims for ritual purposes. In Anakalang, a Weyewa girl was purchased and sacrificed so her skin could be used to cover a sacred drum; and in Lauli, a Wanukaka captive was strangled as an offering to a python spirit (Kruyt 1922, 540-43). In Weyewa, captives were sacrificed whenever a sacred house was rebuilt (Kuipers 1990, 20-21). In Kodi, I photographed the skulls of sacrifice victims buried under the pillars of the headhunting house (Urea Katoda) in Ndelo (see p. 313) and was told about the sacrifice of young slave girls to cover the "drum with human skin" (Hoskins 1988a).

The demand for victims for ritual sacrifices, however, could never have been as great as that for live captives in the late nineteenth century. Certainly, the development of an export trade in human beings changed the nature of raiding and regional warfare profoundly. In oral histories, my Kodi informants recalled the 1880s as a time of escalating violence and attacks between one domain and another. Headhunting, a ritualized form of traditional enmity between domains, was accompanied by a new greed for captives as sellable property. A nobleman traveling to the coast to sell some of his own captives risked ambush and decapitation himself, as in the locally famous case of Rato Malo, whose head was stored in the Kodi village of Ratenggaro for thirty years before his son negotiated for its return (Hoskins 1989a). Other cases I heard of concerned raids on Weyewa and Tana Rio, from which prisoners could be transported to Wai Kalo to be sold to the Endehnese. Headhunters who traveled along the south coast, to Gaura and Lamboya, were more isolated from the trade and were locked in a cycle of vengeance killings that seems to have been linked to patterns of political achievement within the society (Hoskins forthcoming [1]).

The intensification of slave raids and the export of human captives in the second half of the nineteenth century arose because of the mercantile rivalries of Endehnese traders, Dutch colonial officers, and corrupt middlemen like the Arab Sharif. While they did not invent the sale of human beings in the area, they certainly seem to have developed it to an extent unimaginable in the precolonial context. The impact of slave raids was felt most heavily along the northern coast, which Resident Gronovius claimed in 1855 had been almost totally depopulated by slave raiders (cited in Fox 1977). In the more fertile interior and southern coastal areas, the impact was more one of destabilizing local politics, since a few indigenous warlords


obtained monopolies on gunpowder and firearms, which they used to raid others.

The peoples of West Sumba, organized into ceremonial confederations but not under the rule of a single noble lord, were more successful than those of East Sumba at defending their autonomy. Although the Endehnese traveled throughout the interior, they were never able to establish permanent bases in the west or make alliances with important local rulers. One Endehnese soldier told the Dutch controller A. L. Couvreur that the bodies of people of West Sumba "could not be pierced" and that special magical preparations protected them, produced by their "secluded priests" (ratu sepi ) (Couvreur 1917, 213, 215).

Moslem mercenaries were both admired and feared for their control of a superior technology of war and sea travel; consequently, some uneasy alliances were formed despite cultural differences. Two ancestral villages in Kodi, Manu Longge and Wei Hyombo, were founded by Moslems and contain Islamic burial stones in their centers. The descendants of these early ancestors later "converted to paganism" by eating pork with their fellows at marapu feasts. A great many other villages have a house called the Uma Dawa, or "Foreigner's House" where people from other islands lived and intermarried with local families, eventually becoming officially adopted. One Florinese visitor, a man remembered only as Rato Daing,[4] became the brother-in-law of the first Kodi raja, Loghe Kanduyo, and the father of the second, Ndera Wulla. He sailed away from the island before his son was born and never returned, but left behind a legacy of alliances with foreigners that his son was to repeat.

At the start of the twentieth century, when the Dutch tried to dissolve the Endehnese communities of the northern ports of Waingapu, Memboro, and Wai Kalo, a number of Endehnese moved into Kodi, establishing the village of Pero (Needham 1968). Now four generations old, the community of six hundred Moslems is distinguished by its architecture (Bugisstyle wooden bungalows instead of tall thatch towers over a bamboo frame), Islamic cemetery, and involvement in sailing and trade. Most men make a living from fishing and livestock sales, while women weave sarungs with commercial dyes, not the traditonal Kodi indigo. A few wealthier merchants own motor-powered boats that can travel as far as Ende. There is a small mosque, and in the 1980s eight of the most prominent family


heads had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Like their predecessors, present-day dawa ronda are suspected of transporting contraband and violating government regulations on dynamite fishing, but they have been able to negotiate compromises with local authorities that allow them to continue in these activities as long as they are not overtly disruptive.

Batavia and the Dutch Colonial Project

Dutch traders and colonial officers remained a distant presence for the Sumbanese until the beginning of the twentieth century. Like the early rulers of Java and Bima, they claimed dominion over the island but for a long time made no moves to impose state control. When the colonial army finally arrived to enforce rules against slave trading, regional warfare, and the plundering of foreign ships, they were greeted as "the foreign mother and stranger father" (inya dawa, bapa ndimya ), whose paternalistic power was conflated with that of earlier kingdoms that had intermittently legitimated local rulers in return for tribute. The Dutch came bearing prestigious gifts, gold and silver staffs of office that were conferred on prominent Sumbanese, to create the offices of raja or bestuurder (ruler) and raja kecil or onderbestuurder (subruler).

The goals of Dutch colonial policy for Sumba were not articulated until the late nineteenth century because the island was judged to be of little economic value, remaining "scantly regarded and neglected" (Fox 1977, 164). In the provincial capital of Kupang, the first person to pay much attention to the island was Resident Gronovius, who wanted to expand the horse trade and bring Dutch planters to settle the land, giving them land on credit to cultivate coffee, sugar, cotton, pepper, and tobacco. Although the project was never realized, his suggestion that Christian Indonesians from other islands be encouraged to migrate to Sumba was prophetic:

To the idea of colonizing the Sandalwood Island, I still remain devoted. My stay there and my travels through the island convince me that such an undertaking would be crowned with success. There would be great blessings in this for the development, civilizing and protecting of a dumb but good-natured population, who are now the prey of usurious traders, pirates and insignificant but vexatious rajas. I would hope that if the Government agreed to such an undertaking, a colony of Rotinese and Savunese would be transferred to Sumba.
(Gronovius, cited in Fox 1977, 164)


Christian Savunese began to settle on Sumba in the 1800s, though not initially because of Dutch policy. A royal marriage alliance between rulers on the two islands was the reason for the first colony, established at Kadumbu on the northeast coast in 1848 (Wijngaarten 1893). Only a few Rotinese ever came, but later in the nineteenth century a considerable number of Savunese mercenaries were brought by the Dutch to help "pacify" the island and control wars between local rulers.

Dutch policy at the turn of the century was based on an assessment of the "character" of different populations on the islands and their usefulness for carrying out the colonial project. The Savunese had developed a reputation for bravery and skill in battle and so were recruited into the army. It also seems the Christian converts on Savu may have been pressured to leave the island and seek their fortunes elsewhere (Fox 1977, 172). Although armed and often uncooperative, they appeared to the Dutch more controllable than the Moslem Endehnese. But the Savunese settled only in the region of Melolo, where they maintained a bounded, endogamous community, while the Endehnese continued their predatory expansion throughout the western parts of the island, cementing military alliances with local rulers by intermarriage.

The Sumbanese of this time were often depicted as naive victims of the two invading forces. The Dutch resident Humme in 1876 described the Sumbanese as "timid and cowardly . . . never having left his island, [he] considers any foreigner a dangerous wild animal from which he quickly takes flight" (cited in Fox 1977, 171). Unfamiliar with firearms, the local population was quickly terrified into leaving the territories conquered by the Savunese and was unable to take them back. Soon, however, Sumbanese were purchasing firearms from both the Endehnese and Savunese, as well as hiring foreigners as auxiliary troops in wars between domains. The Sumbanese rulers were described as living "mainly from warfare which they conduct in an inhuman fashion," intent on capturing slaves for export (Koloniaal Verslag 1877, 37).

The Dutch policy of encouraging Savunese migration after 1890 should be interpreted as part of the wider Islampolitiek , which aimed to produce a buffer between Dutch-dominated areas and areas where Islam had diminished Dutch influence (Bigalke 1984; Kipp 1990). The Dutch feared the political power of Islam and did not trust any of the Moslem seafaring peoples in the region. They therefore allied themselves with the Savunese, defending their presence on the island with military power. In 1875, the ruler of Batakepedu tried to drive both the Dutch and the Savunese from his territory. After an attempted negotiation, the Dutch gave the Savunese ruler a gunboat to transport armed men and weapons; they crushed the


Sumbanese rebels, forcing them to accept the presence of foreigners along the coasts (Fox 1977, 172).

The Savunese settlement in Melolo carved out an ecological niche on the parched northern coastline by tapping the sap of the Iontar palm. Associated with Christianity and education, the "Savunese foreigners" (dawa haghu ) traveled to the western part of the island as schoolteachers and village evangelists, bearing a religious message in the form of the Malay Bible. Local Kodi perceptions were that the supernatural arsenal of the Savunese included black magic and witchcraft (marango ). Because of these suspicions, to this day few Sumbanese will eat the small brown patties of lontar sugar produced by the Savunese. Their link to an alien faith practiced by white people also supposedly gave them access to magical procedures that made the skin invulnerable to bullets, caused abortions and miscarriages in one's enemies, and involved sacrifices to the spirit of wealth.

Mistrust, however, is combined with a recognition of a shared cultural heritage and a long history of contact between the two islands. Of all the foreigners, the Savunese were and still are the closest to the Sumbanese. Savu is also often referred to as the "younger brother" of Sumba, for it is said that after the ancestral migration across the stone bridge at Sasar, one junior member of the party continued on to Savu. It should be noted that the younger brother in these narratives is usually more clever and more enterprising than his seniors. While Sumbanese commentators acknowledge the industry and ambition of the Savunese, they often disparage their relative deficit in honesty and loyalty. Haghu, the local designation for Savu, is a common name given to Kodi children; it is also the name of the hero of a series of entertaining tales about a crafty younger brother who makes his own fortune, rising from abject orphanhood to great wealth.

In Kodi oral tradition, the arts of metalworking and indigo dyeing were brought to the island from Savu as part of a complex of occult techniques passed down through the generations. A number of Kodi ancestral villages contain a house named Uma Haghu ("Savunese House"), where Savunese ancestors are recognized and metalworking and indigo dyeing are practiced. The spear used in divination is addressed as mone haghu , or "Savunese man"; it is told to "cut through" to the source of trouble and root out the reasons for ancestral displeasure (Hoskins 1988a). The secret combination of dyes used to make the darkest form of indigo is a heritage from a Savunese woman, whose "blue arts" included knowledge of herbalism, contraception, and infertility cures (Hoskins 1988b).

As they gained a greater knowledge of Sumbanese society, Dutch visitors began to speculate that the power of the wealthy warlords was coun-


terbalanced by that of an indigenous spiritual authority, the ratu . Several hundred years of more intensive involvement in the related polities of Flores, Timor, and Roti had prepared them to encounter the recurrent social phenomenon of dual leadership and established a pattern for incorporating it into local administration:

A common feature of many of the political systems of the Timor area is dual sovereignty—a division between a person endowed with spiritual authority and one or more persons who exercise political power on behalf of this spiritual authority. . . . In the signing of treaties, therefore, it was often the executive figures of these various territories who obtained the recognition of the Dutch as rulers and legitimate representatives of their states. Not infrequently, these recognized rulers did not have the authority to command the recognition of inhabitants of their own territories, who either opposed them or recognized some higher traditional figure. Local legends to this day abound with stories about this kind of confusion over legitimate rule.
(Fox 1977, 68)

Reading the accounts of the earliest administrators, Roos and Couvreur, in fact, we often see them struggling with local categories and trying to understand how they could be used for the purposes of colonial administration.

Both Roos and Couvreur were concerned to determine the relationship between military power and genealogical precedence as bases for leadership, and each provides a somewhat different view of the raja as either the head of a descent group or a master of force. Roos (1872, 8-9) argues that descent is an important criterion for social and ritual status, but real leadership must be achieved through conquest:

The rajas should be considered not so much as kings but as the most important person in the domain, where the aristocrats and wealthy warriors remain the main actors, as long as they can remain in power through the control of slaves. The Raja of Tabundung, the head of the so-called royal line from which the most important rajas are descended, is poor. He lacks the power to enrich himself at the expense of others; he is not feared. But the rajas of Batakapedu and Kawangu (Sudu), who rule through robbery and murder, are feared and obeyed, and there are many others like them.

Couvreur (1917, 215), by contrast, argues that the power of the conquering rajas was balanced by a different kind of hidden, supernatural power


exercised by the ratu , saying colonial officials had to be especially cautious in dealing with this figure:

The ratu . . . performs ritual offerings that can bring calamity to the community, so it is necessary to treat him as a friend. . . . In everyday life, he is completely ordinary, a poor little man whose appearance gives no clues of his importance. . . . But the ratu can, if he wants, act as the medium of mystical power in its supreme form, exercising a great influence, greater even than [that exercised by] the chief of the domain; hence, if the chief seems personally weak, or the times are troubled, one should keep a close eye on the ratu's actions. During these periods, colonial authorities on Sumba have discovered that it was not the weak chief of the domain but another person, who never showed himself and was always in the background, who had the greatest influence. That was correct; the authority had simply stumbled onto the ratu's existence, since the ratu in West Sumba is always isolated or in seclusion.

The power of the "hidden ratu " was mysteriously associated with the power of the indigenous population to resist outside domination. The conventional interpretation, presented by the missionary Wielenga and endorsed by Couvreur in his colonial policies, was that there had been a diarchic division of powers between the "priest" (ratu ) and "noble" (maramba ):

The ratu was originally the sovereign. He was the authentic ruler, but then the spiritual and worldly functions became split. The ratu was obligated to live in mystery and isolation, and thus lost his worldly power. He delegated it . . . to another related family or descent line, but in the same clan. . . . So the marapu of the ratu mangu tana are found in a subordinate house in Middle and East Sumba, but in the west they are not subordinate.
(Couvreur 1917, 217)

In the end, though, it is difficult to reconcile this version with the diversity of ritual divisions found in Sumba today, where a clear division between "spiritual" and "worldly" functions is not so clear.

The role of the ratu was, even in these early accounts, concerned not so much with "spiritual" affairs as with agriculture and the calendar. His office expresses the concerns of the whole population to avert plagues, provide rain, and assure the success of the rice crop. He was opposed to the warrior, the master of force, who was not purely "worldly" in his orientation, since he used a vast array of magical weapons, potions, pray-


ers, and charms to enhance his skill in battle. What distinguished them was the fact that the ratu's power was based on concerns shared by everyone, having to do with fertility of the land and crops, while the warrior had the differentiating attributes of a conqueror, who stands out from his companions by his skills in battle.

An important difference between the eastern and western halves of the island, which operated with fundamentally different political institutions, came into play here as well. In Kodi, an independent priesthood maintained a certain autonomy alongside the various military leaders. Because the smooth operation of the complex calendrical cycle was essential to the well-being of everyone, the Rato Nale retained the highest ceremonial rank in the domain—if only by means of a relatively fragile and diffuse form of ritual authority. In the eastern domains where the Dutch had had greater contact with local rulers, this independent priesthood had largely been incorporated into the political power of the nobleman. In Umalulu, the ratu retained only a few shreds of their former autonomy (Kapita 1976b); in Kapunduk, they were assimilated to slaves (Adams 1974); and in Rindi, the priestly function had almost completely merged with other duties of the nobility (G. Forth 1981).

The program to bring "civilization" (beschaving in Dutch) to the island had to begin, therefore, with a change in its leaders, who had to become convinced of the necessity to submit to a central administration and cooperate with it in efforts to control the local population. As Couvreur (1917, 219) states, "Once we know who and what these leaders are, we understand that we can only rule with and through them. The rajas, noble chiefs, and heads of descent groups (kabisus ) must have our full attention, and also the ratu . The first three to be used in governmental administration and information, the ratu only as a source of information, since he can play no direct role in government." The Dutch decision that the authority of the ratu was not "governmental" despite its great importance, was crucial to future interactions with figures such as the Rato Nale, who controlled the center of the Kodi polity through control of the calendar.

As the first civil administrator to take effective control of the western part of the island, Couvreur implemented a colonial policy that shifted the meaning of diarchic terms and brought them more closely into line with Western notions of the division of church and state, religion and politics. As the origin narratives of chapter 3 show, the precolonial division had a quite different foundation, for the ratu was the guardian of important objects and the passive center of the cycle of time. In Kodi, the polarity was established between the passive ritual authority of the rato marapu , the priest whose seclusion within the village protected the crops and the


rhythm of the seasons, and the rato katoda , the war leader who used his magical powers to raid neighboring peoples and appropriate their vitality for his own people. The competition for life and political power was played out between domains through the taking of heads and the capture of prisoners. The power of the Sea Worm Priest was centrifugal: it spiraled outward from him, the unmoving center that held together the round of seasons and agricultural activities. The power of the headhunting leader, by contrast, was centripetal: it turned inward to the center, bringing the trophy heads back into the domain and placing their fertile, vital energies at the disposition of the victors.

In making contact with the peoples of West Sumba, the Dutch tried to displace the value of the ratu and the "founding objects" which represented the indigenous polity, by offering their own alternative: the gold staff of the office of raja. In doing so, they were implicitly playing upon a contradiction that existed within the ritual objects controlled by the ratu —for many of them were imported, appropriated objects, taken from an acquisitive, conquering power, then used to contain the threat of external domination and reabsorb its charismatic power into the center of the polity.

Distant Wealth and Its Distribution

The relations of the various foreign populations on the island to the sources of wealth and power are evident in a Kodi version of the "money tree" story: In the "foreign land" (tana dawa ), a tree grows that bears fruit of gold, silver, and copper. Since the Dutch were the first to gather this fruit, they got the gold pieces. The Moslem sailors were the second, gathering many silver rijkdollars . The Savunese were the third, collecting copper coins which they ate in the form of lontar sugar. When the Sumbanese came, the tree had already been stripped bare, and they were told to travel back to their own island to "work the land and weed the grass" (dari cana, batu rumba ), because the riches of those who do not labor had already been plundered by others.[5]

Before Dutch control of Sumba became a reality in the early twentieth century, foreign powers were seen primarily as sources of wealth. Trade was the paradigmatic form of the precolonial encounter, and when efforts were made to establish political alliances through signed contracts with


local rulers, the local perception was that they were bound to a new trading agreement, not to a sovereign political state. The legitimation of foreign powers was sought by means of gold and silver objects, some conferred directly by the Dutch on local people, some stolen from shipwrecks.

A story I heard about a sword with a golden handle illustrates this theme. Sometime near the end of the nineteenth century a ship anchored off the bay at Rada Kapal to trade food for metal and cloth. A man from the hilltop village of Ratenngaro spotted one of the sailors carrying the sword and decided to tempt him by sending his beautiful daughter bare-breasted to greet the newcomer. She offered him her betel bag, and the sailor immediately grasped at her breasts. Then her father and brothers grabbed the man and took him prisoner. "According to our custom, he has committed a great offense and must pay a fine" they insisted. The Endehnese ship captain agreed and forced the man to give up his sword. It was called katopo huhu ana , the "sword of the daughter's breasts" and remained as an heirloom in the village for many years. At the time of my fieldwork, it had been pawned to the former raja to pay a gambling debt. "If I still had the sword in my possession, I could have been a raja too" the family of its former owner insisted. "The glimmer of the gold was as bright as that of the raja's staff."

Whether its acquisition is legitimate or illegitimate, accomplished by delegation or by conquest, an important foreign object conveys power and represents an ability to command, or at least to exert a certain mystical influence over events. In the following chapters, we will see how objects become attached to narratives, to ritual offices, and to social action, through a process in which the object becomes an actor in history and history itself becomes embedded in the object.


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1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power
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