previous part
PART TWO EXCHANGE SEQUENCES AND STRATEGIES
next part

PART TWO
EXCHANGE SEQUENCES AND STRATEGIES


173

6
Exchanges over Time
Continuities Between Past and Present

Promises made by our grandfathers bind us to the land
But the land is often shaky
Commitments made by our forefathers tie us to the stones
But the stones are often shifting.
—A Kodi comment on the negotiability of exchange obligations


In part two, I explore the role that time plays in the determination of exchange value. Looking at data from the colonial period through the 1980s, I examine the importance of temporal intervals in individual and collective strategies of exchange in marriage, feasting, and funerals. I do so in order to offer both a critique of the "colonial perspective" on notions of interest and exchange and a contribution to contemporary debates about temporality. Bourdieu's axiom that the play of time transforms ritualized exchange into a game of strategies is treated critically in two different ways. First, I show its validity for understanding the tempo of various transactions and what is at stake in decisions to delay or speed up the schedule of payments. Second, I show its limitations for gaining a more complete understanding of the temporality of exchange. A perspective drawn from the perceptions of an individual actor reveals only part of the complex interactions that take in social groups as well as the objects that represent them. Two sorts of time must be considered in constituting exchange value: biographical time, the time span of an individual life; and intergenerational time, which includes the relations of ancestors and descendants. A temporal depth greater than that of the individual life cycle is needed to understand relations of spheres of exchange, monetary and nonmonetary markets, and the long-term strategies of the house and village.

To understand how time is involved in the constitution of value, I first examine exchange in its historical context. J.I.N. Versluys, a Dutch tax collector who did research in Kodi and two other districts, sought during his time there "to identify which aspects of social life money has started


174

to play a role in, and where the traditional household economy of exchange persists" (1941, 435). All people who paid taxes in West Sumba in 1940 were asked where they had received the money they paid in taxes: who had given it to them and what sort of relationship they had to this person, or what activities (trade, labor, market sales) they had undertaken on their own to get the money.[1] Respondents were also asked how long they had had the money that they paid as taxes, and estimates were made of how often the money had changed hands before being paid in taxes.

To a large extent, Versluys's study was designed to measure the success of Dutch colonial policy, since taxes were deliberately introduced not only as a means of obtaining revenue, but also to "stimulate independent economic initiative" and "sharpen economic insight" (1941, 453, 466) through the use of markets and to promote what were considered the "social benefits" of involvement in monetary trade. These "benefits" are explicitly identified by Versluys as greater individualism, entrepreneurial spirit, and movement away from the "structures of dependency" that tied large numbers of the population to "semifeudal" lords. Since at the beginning of the century, and still to a large extent today, money came mainly from wages and payment for services rendered to the government and the mission, liberation from one sort of dependency was replaced by a new dependency on these external sources of revenue. In effect, taxation was designed to introduce the Sumbanese to the view that "time is money" as was the practice of rewarding discrete periods of labor with precisely measured exchange values. The values of a traditional "moral economy" were to be deliberately transformed into a new system of wage labor (Scott 1976, 97-98)—a transformation, in effect, from a "pure subsistence economy" to a "cash economy."

Versluys, though, came to realize that the traditional Sumbanese economy was not one of "pure subsistence" at the time that colonial control became a reality on the island. It was in fact a complicated system with several spheres of prestige exchange, the use of livestock and foodstuffs (rice and corn) as measures of value, significant ways of protecting and storing value and creating boundaries around certain kinds of wealth that


175

Wife-givers and wife-takers are invited to all feasts and honored with gifts of
betel, rice, and raw meat, though they are usually expected to contribute pigs
or buffalo to the slaughter. 1980. Photograph by the author.

were considered "inalienable" (Weiner 1985). His account of Sumbanese forms of mutual exchange highlights a number of features of the indigenous economy that have remained constant over half a century; it fails, however, to perceive the significance of time in constituting value in ceremonial exchange. As a snapshot of alternate modes of defining interest and obligation, dependency and generosity, it provides glimpses of a style of life admired by Versluys even as he tried to dismantle it. As a historical document, it allows us to look into the past and discover an enduring pattern of relations not visible to its chronicler.

Hierarchy, Regional Differences, and Exchange

Versluys (1941, 433) argued that the process of shifting from a "traditional" to a "monetary" economy could not be studied as a simple progression because "it is necessary to consider local differences even in an otherwise fairly homogenous society." Sumba at the beginning of the twentieth century was divided into about twenty indigenous domains. Those in the eastern part of the island were ruled by a single lord, usually


176

addressed as tamu umbu , who was the head of stratified, autocratic polity. In the western domains, no such centralized ruler existed; instead one found a shifting, achievement-oriented competition between "big men" who established their power bases from ancestral villages but did not rule over their fellows:

In the east . . . life is centered on the big houses of the aristocrats, who live with their servants or slaves in a relatively autonomous fashion. . . Stock breeding is of great importance, and the population is sparse. . . In the West, on the contrary, we see huge plains of wet rice fields and a great many swidden gardens, often layered along the steep slopes of low-lying mountains, and a much denser population. There is greater economic equality, since livestock are distributed over a larger number of owners, and this accords with the total social structure, where the figure of the aristocrat who can live as a separate entity with his family and servants is much rarer.

The presence of servants as part of the household was "a strong reminder of the time the ownership of slaves dominated all life on the island in both the social and economic senses" (1941, 436). In the west, inherited servants were much less common, but there were many war captives.

The theme of slavery as a sign of "feudal" rule by local despots is frequent in accounts by Dutch colonial writers. Versluys presents an unusually nuanced picture, even suggesting ways in which new forms of dependency and "enslavement" were created by money. Many people in West Sumba, for instance, contracted a form of voluntary servitude to a particular noble because they were unable to fulfill certain economic obligations. Although they could be commanded by the noble, they reserved the right to buy back their freedom later with a payment of livestock (1941, 447). In the precolonial period, this form of debt bondage was primarily associated with young men who were unable to get the livestock to pay their bridewealth. When their sexual relations with a girl were discovered, they had to accept temporary servitude, either to her father or to a wealthy patron who received rights to the children produced from their union.

After the colonial administration was established, the need for cash on certain occasions became as pressing as the need for livestock to pay traditional fines or bridewealth. Verluys (1941, 447) says that in Wanokaka he heard of people who became debt bondsmen in order to get the money they needed to pay taxes, giving their labor to a wealthy man until they could achieve economic independence through the payment of one or two buffalo as a parting gift. In trying to eradicate old-style debt bondage to


177

the traditional lords, therefore, colonial officers universalized indebtedness to another, all-knowing higher authority—the state; in that way they may in fact have intensified the dependency of some members of the population.

Albert C. Kruyt was the first to note the ambiguity of the term ata , which means both "human being" (in many western dialects) and "slave" (in East Sumba and Kodi). He argued (1922, 507) that it can refer to the whole population, since "ata are . . . the paupers who put themselves under the guardianship of the rich to be protected and fed by them." Although his formulation conflates the idea of dependency with debt bondage, it does highlight the diversity of the senses in which the term is used on the island. As Reid (1988, 132) has noted, "most of the Southeast Asian terms which early European travelers translated as slave could in other circumstances be rendered as debtor, dependent or subject."

The social and economic meaning of this kind of dependency is visible in Versluys's statistics. In the domain of Umbu Ratu Nggai, which lies along the border between East and West Sumba, 46.6 percent of the people who paid taxes received the money from a "dependent" source: 10.2 percent from a relative, 15.7 percent from the sale of livestock by someone else, and 20.7 percent from a master-servant relationship (1941, 449, 453). The author notes that this "patriarchal system" also functions as a form of "poor relief" since it is a way of caring for those who are economically disadvantaged, but it does so only at a price. (As he notes, "here poor relief is not the same as philanthropy!" [1941, 453].) By contrast, the two western districts showed a much greater degree of economic independence: in Lauli, "dependent" sources accounted for 13.5 percent of all taxes paid, with master-servant relations accounting for less than a single percent (1941, 455); in Kodi, the percentage of "dependent" payments was only 6.5 percent, and master-servant relations were less than 1 percent (1941, 459). In those regions, markets and large-scale exchanges of traditional goods developed much more quickly.

Versluys describes the indigenous institution known as the paranggana , or "barter gathering" which existed in western districts and was deliberately encouraged and codified on a weekly schedule by the colonial government. These gatherings were arranged between two groups, usually one of them from a mountain area and another from the coast, with the meeting taking place at the intersection of two roads. Because such groups were intermittently at war, the meeting had to be arranged beforehand by intermediaries, and a buffalo was sacrificed on the first occasion to provide a commensal meal. On subsequent occasions, the gathering had no ritual marking but consisted almost entirely of exchanges of tubers from the mountains against salt from the coast (Versluys 1941, 463). After several


178

years a somewhat greater variety of products would be exchanged—coconuts, indigo, and lime from the coast, and beans, corn, and vegetables from the mountains. No prestige goods were exchanged, only subsistence products, the purpose being to avert famine.

Between 1920 and 1930, the colonial government organized twice-weekly markets in Bondo Kodi (attended by about six hundred people) and at three locations in Weyewa (Elopada, Waimangura, and Palla, attended by four hundred, eight hundred, and two hundred people, respectively) (Versluys 1941, 464). Market day came to play an important role in social activities, as it still does today. Versluys describes most of these encounters as occasions for barter, not monetary purchase. In fact, the idea of monetary equivalents had an influence mainly as a "measurement of value" rather than a "means of trade." A woman would arrange small piles of sirih piper or salt on a mat, for instance, and describe each pile as "worth one cent," but she clearly did not intend to sell them only for money. Instead she would exchange them against sticks of tobacco, jars of paddy, or groups of vegetables assessed in the same way. For small transactions, unhulled rice and corn were often used as equivalents, because they could be easily measured, though the fixing of prices was often inconsistent (1941, 465). Versluys (1941, 466) saw the effect of markets as salutary;

The opportunity to sell very small amounts of goods gives people a chance to use small surplus goods profitably. It appears that besides the large amount of money that is brought into circulation, the buyers and sellers are getting used to measuring value and countervalue accurately. Markets also create the opportunity to obtain daily necessities in an easy way. If for some reason the amount of money should diminish, thus forcing people back to the direct trade of barter for goods, one thing will remain: the fact that economic insight is sharpened —and this is caused by money, but does not depend on it. (my emphasis)

I will return to the issue of how economic insight has been sharpened (or dulled) by the presence of money later. For the moment, it is significant that Versluys interprets the results of his survey as showing the greater entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes of the people of West Sumba. In Kodi, he argued that one could already discern a "free trade market where people can buy and sell goods individually and handle their own money" (1941, 461). The degree of individual autonomy was in sharp contrast to areas like Umbu Ratu Nggai, where all the money went into the hands of a few persons who spent it outside the indigenous sphere.


179

Versluys (1941, 461) was careful to add that the money supply was still quite small in Kodi, but since it circulated, there was potential for economic development and a weakening of the structures of dependency: "A widely developed retail trade creates the possibility of reducing economic differences, and thus also the degree of social differentiation, because when the chances for single persons to obtain money are greater they can, with time, also gain power and influence."

Taxes were much higher (and money much scarcer) under the Dutch than is true at present. Versluys gives as an example a poor man asked to pay two and a half Dutch guilders for the head tax, an amount equivalent to half a small water buffalo, about one year old, or a calf of several months (1941, 480). It is likely that a poor man would not own any water buffalo, though he would probably have a horse and a few pigs and chickens. He would of course be loath to sell his only horse to get tax money; instead he might ask for credit from someone else who was selling livestock, either by giving him several chickens or a pig (the full value of his taxes) or promising to give him an animal as soon as he was able to get one (Versluys 1941, 439).

Most often, one among a group of brothers would sell a large animal, and the money would be shared among them to pay taxes in a given year. The next year, it would be someone else's turn. Versluys notes that "market exchange of livestock focuses on big and beautiful animals, in general used for breeding, which means that small animals have hardly any monetary value because they are only used for local exchanges. Money is of much less importance as an equivalent in smaller transactions, where payment is made with paddy or a local textile and a pig" (1941, 438). Livestock traders at the time were almost without exception also shopkeepers, and generally Arab or Chinese. In general circumstances, they were interested in offering payment in kind—store goods such as clothing, lengths of fabric, and bush knives. Usually when livestock were sold, however, they were sold for money, "for the simple reason that the seller wants to receive money, and the shopkeeper will not always be able to give goods of the same value as livestock" (1941, 428). Since most Sumbanese would not want more than a simple jacket and a length of cloth, only 20 percent or so of the purchase amount was paid in kind.

It can be argued that partly as a result of Dutch taxation policies, demand for money was of two kinds: either a large amount of money would be wanted, which was then used for a specific purpose, such as to pay taxes, or else a very small amount (one or two Dutch cents), which served as a standard of value and means of exchange at markets. Between December and April, the "tax collection season,' everyone had to find


180

some way to get money. In hierarchical areas like Umbu Ratu Nggai, large livestock owners would buy a number of smaller animals from many poorer people, profiting immensely from the exchange because of the very low rates at that time. In regions like Kodi, it was more common for a number of people of modest means to rotate in paying taxes, with a single group member selling one impressive animal to a Chinese shopkeeper and dividing the money with the rest, only to be on the receiving end for the next several years.

The average price paid for a buffalo in 1940 was 15 to 30 Dutch guilders, and for a horse, 20 to 50 guilders. West Sumba exported 1,163 buffalo and 367 horses in 1940, and probably sold about 600 more to the eastern part of the island (where they were not registered, though they did require a certificate of sale). The number of buffalo and horses that entered the money market, however, was still only a small percentage of those that changed owners in that year; moreover, the movement of animals and goods in the indigenous sphere was much more extensive than their movement to outside buyers. The rules of exchange for indigenous transactions were very different.

Even in the most "individualistic" and "democratic" areas of Sumba, Versluys described a series of institutions that constrained exchange and operated independently of the market or monetary sphere. Preeminent among these institutions were bridewealth, feasting, and funerals. Versluys argued that raising bridewealth was both a "stimulant for the circulation of values" and an area of "resistance to the spread of money" since nowhere on the island was money used in bridewealth payments (1941, 466). Fifty years after he wrote this sentence, the resistance of the Sumbanese to the idea of paying bridewealth with cash is still strong, even though almost all of them are aware that cash payments are now common among the Savunese (a significant minority population on the island) and in many other Indonesian populations (Sherman 1990; Singarimbun 1975; Rodgers 1981).

For a Sumbanese of simple means, payment of his own bridewealth remains the largest single transaction in which he must participate, and one that can keep him in the shadow of debt and obligation for most of his life. No girl can move to her husband's house without a minimum payment of ten "tails" of livestock (five horses and five water buffalo) and a gold ear pendant. The effective "social minimum" is usually the bride-wealth paid for the girl's mother, which can be augmented if the girl is educated, has special skills (such as weaving or dyeing thread), or if a punitive payment is made to compensate for a violation of the normal rules of courtship through elopement or broken promises.


181

It is often said that the value of the bridewealth should be equivalent to that of the countergift (lipyoko ) paid by the woman's family in pigs and cloth. The usual formula is for the groom to receive two large tusked pigs, one presented alive and one killed for serving to the guests, and pair of woven textiles, one man's cloth and one woman's sarung, to reciprocate his initial payment of ten head (five horses, five buffalo). However, only the bridewealth is publicly agreed on in a formal negotiation; the size of the countergift is determined by the bride's parents, who "look at the livestock" and examine their own resources and feelings to decide what they will give. If they want to be generous, they can include ivory bracelets, a bronze ankle ring, colored beads, a riding horse for the bride, or even one or two slave girls as servants "to carry her sirih pouch" (kaleku mboro ). But they can also easily fulfill the minimum with small pigs and cloths of poor quality. Hence, the "balancing" of payments between wife-givers and wife-takers is always a subject for comment and often for invidious comparisons. Versluys (1941, 486) provides some examples of strategic manipulation of the countergift:

In the case of a match that gets a father's full approval, the value of his countergift will be approximately equal to that of the bride-wealth, or sometimes even higher. But if his daughter insists on marriage with someone else whom her father does not like, he will show his disapproval of this son-in-law even as he gives in by demanding a very high bridewealth and giving almost nothing in return. This also means that he considers the bonds between him and his daughter to be broken. But if a father approves, and he still presents a countergift that is of much less value than the bride-wealth, he will be held in contempt by his daughter's in-laws [his wife-takers], and she, I'm told, will never hear the end of it.

The matching of the bridewealth and countergift is an ideal for prosperous families, and often the subject of boasts. In the 1970s and 1980s, some families started to give furniture, modern clothing, and other "household goods" as additional "signs of love" (tanda manawaro ) for their daughters. The gift of land on a usufruct basis has long been part of the wife-givers' "generosity." Poor families, by contrast, may be more accepting of a countergift that is less than the bridewealth; this, Versluys (1941, 468) noted, occurred often as "an exception that is tolerated in practice." Then too, the father might use a "moral" value to substitute for an "economic" one, arguing that he had taken good care of his daughter for many years, and this affection will have to take the place of a generous countergift.


182

A high bridewealth did not, therefore, mean a windfall for the bride's parents, but it did help to establish the social status of both parties. Many bridewealths in Kodi today run to thirty or forty "tails" and a few (those contracted with people from other regions) to over a hundred. In a strict sense, some people argue that anything over the minimum is not really part of the bridewealth but "trading" (Ind. dagang ); that is, it is linked to the wedding gifts but really part of a more extended system of credits and debts.[2]

Continued "trading" and mutual assistance was expected between the two groups for a great many years. A wife-taker should always be available to provide horses or buffalo for any ritual occasion at which they are needed, and will always be reciprocated with pigs and cloth. When payments were still being made on the agreed-upon bridewealth, these reciprocal gifts were figured as part of the countergift. If the bridewealth had been fully paid, the two parties could continue for as long as both had the means and the occasions to exchange. According to Versluys (1941, 469), the consensual nature of this continued trade assured that it remained equal over time:

Since it is a mutual exchange of marriage gifts which changes gradually into a trading relationship, one can assume that the value of given and received goods is neither onesidedly social nor onesidedly economic in structure. . .. Marriage is very important from an economic point of view because in this way a continuing relationship between families develops, or, if this relationship already exists (which, given the popularity of exclusive cross-cousin marriage happens quite often), it is strengthened.

Alliance in fact defined the exchange pathways for "almost all trade" in East Sumba, and was "a very important part of the circulation of goods" in the west. Versluys suggests that the mobility of the goods needed for bridewealth—water buffalo and horses—was greater than that of all other items, even if these were also goods of great value. In several places he


183

asked how many times an animal had changed ownership over a period of two years. In Lamboya, one water buffalo had had nine owners, two of them for periods of almost a year and the rest for only one or two days. In Memboro, a water buffalo had changed ownership twenty times, and a horse thirteen times (1941, 469); in these cases, periods of ownership varied so greatly they could not be expressed in an average.

Despite the large markets developed in the 1930s and people's familiarity with the use of money, Versluys concluded that "the traffic in goods is doubtless much more important in the west than the monetary system" (1941, 480). He argued that the standard of value for all items worth more than a handful of coins—including land, gold jewelry, horses, and fine textiles—remained the water buffalo. As a result, the concept of "water buffalo" had been made abstract. The "normal water buffalo" as a unit of account, referred to a year-old animal, whose value Versluys estimated in 1940 at 5 guilders (1941, 480). When buffalo were used as a means of payment or exchange, adjustments were made on the basis of the buffalo's age, as measured by the horn span. Versluys says nothing more about the "sliding scale" of values given to livestock because of this calculation; I, however, will return to this important point later.

Wealth was measured in the number of water buffalo a person had, and buffalo were also the standard used in reckoning debts, loans, and interest. Versluys's notes provide insight into the tempo of transactions during the colonial period, as well as the economic value given to the passage of time.

Land could be purchased with buffalo, and small plots of garden land often changed hands. The most favored transaction involved a father-in-law and his son-in-law, for that allowed the daughter to live close to her parents. In such cases, no separate purchase was made; rather, the land was seen as the countergift to reciprocate the bridewealth, called "a pig that will not get sick, a cloth that will not tear" (wawi nja kapore, kamba nja ma diryako ). If a nonrelative wanted to buy land, however, a price was fixed based on the size of the field, its fertility, and its geographical position relative to water. Prices varied enormously according to the seller's needs at the time and what the buyer could afford to pay. In Kodi in the 1980s, land was often given over for use for a very minimal payment but with the expectation that buffalo would be provided to the owner of the land when he needed them on ritual occasions. Versluys mentions that a few large wet-rice fields were considered "family heirlooms" because rice from those fields was used to feed the spirits in the house (marapu uma ). Such fields were supposedly inalienable, but if a family was in desperate straits it might "pawn" the fields to a wealthy neighbor. A1-


184

though in reality this usually meant a final renunciation, the buffalo received from the buyer were formally considered a "loan" provided against the value of the land, with no permanent transfer of ownership involved.

The lines between "borrowing" "giving," and "buying" were indistinct; indeed, one term might be used to describe the first stages of a transaction (when something was only "borrowed"), while another, used retrospectively, would describe its final result quite differently. Euphemisms were also often used, which allowed relatives to assist each other without forcing the requesting party to admit the full extent of his need. The advantages of transacting with kin lay in the studied vagueness of terms:

When a Sumbanese speaks about "borrowing" he may often in fact mean "buying." If someone needs a water buffalo, he will "borrow" it, often from his sister's husband, but there is no strict rule. Both parties will then agree at that time on the day the countergift must be presented. The value of both things is usually fairly equal. But again and again one detects a certain vagueness in these agreements, and it is very common that the outcome of the agreement differs somewhat from what was originally agreed upon.
(Versluys 1941, 475)

It was very hard for an outsider to determine what the actual debt situation was between the two persons concerned, especially if they were closely related. All transactions between affines would be described as giving and receiving gifts, but that did not mean they did not know exactly who still owed whom. Furthermore, although affines were not supposed to charge interest, the presentation of many small gifts of cloth "to ask for more time" was common practice.

The strategic advantage in all exchange transactions lay with the person who stayed at home and received a visitor with a request. This pattern, taken from the situation of bridewealth payments, was also applied to other situations of borrowing or selling. The person who came with a request took full legal responsibility for following through on the transaction, since it occurred at his initiative. Thus, if a man needed to sell a buffalo and visited a prospective buyer, the price would be much lower than if the buyer had come to him to request the sale. The price of all livestock plummeted during tax collection season, simply because people needed money. The Sumbanese recognized this process in the popular saying "When the buffalo looks for cash, he is cheap, but when the money looks for the buffalo, he is expensive" (Versluys 1941, 438).

A more extreme example of this imbalance comes from a legal case


185

concerning an accusation of fraud when a gilded silver ear pendant was sold for the price of a solid gold one. The buyers claimed they had been cheated, but the sellers argued that the buyers themselves had come and asked if the pendant was for sale and then confirmed the agreement with a meal. The judge agreed that the sellers were innocent because they did not take the initiative and offer to sell the pendant (Versluys 1941, 475). Kodi commentators on this story told me that it showed you must "do your research first," gathering facts about any animal or valuable you might want to purchase before negotiations begin, because the initiator of any contract is liable to conclude it, even if it has involved misrepresentation or fraud.

Since money was a scarce commodity, it could only be borrowed from acquaintances, and the rules were usually strict in terms of amount but lenient in time. The normal rate Of interest was 25 percent per loan period, which could be a week, two weeks, or a month. In practice, it was common for the borrower to declare that he would pay the money back in six to ten days, or at the most a month. The short time limit was supposed to demonstrate his good faith, but in most cases repayment took much longer. The interest rate remained constant, however, and was not particularly high in view of the extended time period over which it actually ran (Verluys 1941, 27).

Paddy could also be borrowed—either seed paddy to plant or stored paddy to eat in times of famine. The usual expectation was that for one woven sack (sokal ) of paddy, two would be given in return after the following harvest, along with a bunch of areca nuts and a stick of tobacco. Sometimes, if the people were very needy and their supplier had adequate stores of paddy himself, paddy that was to be eaten carried no requirement of an interest payment. If the paddy was borrowed to use as seed, however, the price difference in selling rice before and after the harvest had to be considered; thus, the double refund was justified. Versluys (1941, 474) notes that "seed paddy is borrowed only in very poor times, since otherwise the person would have saved the seed for himself." During periods of great hunger, paddy would not be borrowed to eat, because it was considered a luxury food, appropriate mainly for feasting and receiving honored guests. Famine instead sent people off into the forest to look for wild tubers and root crops. Hence, "if paddy is borrowed in order to eat, one can safely assume that there is still a relative abundance left" (1941, 475).

"Interest" was levied only when the borrowing party sought something that was relatively rare. The amount was almost always determined by the giver, and the requester had to agree to his conditions or there would


186

be no transaction. Close family members were forgiven debts much more readily than outsiders, but the criteria varied, with the greatest amount of "forgiveness" occurring at funerals. Gifts of cloth that friends and neighbors brought to contribute to the dead person's shroud were not usually reciprocated, though ideally when wife-takers brought horses, goats, or buffalo for the slaughter they would be compensated. According to Versluys (1941, 476), the rule was that if the bereaved family simply accepted what their guests brought, their obligations could be forgiven at a later date; if, however, they specifically asked for a contribution—a pig or buffalo, say, to serve at the funeral feast—the debt would remain and require a countergift.

Less Than Revolutionary: Money and the Traditional Economy

Much anthropological writing about economic change has concerned the impact of money on traditional worlds. Paul Bohannan (1967), for instance, argued that the Tiv traditional economy comprised three spheres of exchange—which, following Raymond Firth (1965), he called the spheres of subsistence goods, of prestige goods, and of goods of "unique quality"—until the British forced the Tiv to abandon the use of brass rods for bridewealth in favor of coinage ("general purpose money"). At that point the distinctions between spheres were destroyed, "making everything exchangeable for everything else" (P. Bohannan 1967, 127). The use of money converted a multicentric economy into a unicentric one, in that this new medium of exchange provided a common denominator for all commodities to be compared and exchanged. Money, Bohannan (1959) concluded, "is one of the shatteringly simplifying ideas of all time, and like any other new and compelling idea, it creates it own revolution."

Applying Bohannan's terminology, we may call the traditional Sumbanese economy multicentric, and given Versluy's evidence we can safely say that it consisted of several ranked spheres: the subsistence sphere, consisting mainly of foods (rice, corn, tubers, beans) that were transacted by barter and later by market exchanges; the prestige sphere, in this case livestock, and especially water buffalo, which served as a medium of exchange, a standard of value, and a means of payment; and the sphere containing goods of "unique value," by which Bohannan meant rights in human beings, in particular rights in marriageable women, but which for Sumba should be extended to heirloom valuables. The vast majority of exchanges were what Bohannan would call "conveyances" within the sphere; these were morally neutral, as in the exchange of buffalo for pigs


187

and cloth between wife-givers and wife-takers. But "conversions" between the spheres could occur as well, as when an individual was forced by acute hunger to exchange livestock for food.

On Sumba, however, the impact of money was not at all as significant as it was among the Tiv. In the final report submitted by A. Couvreur, Sumba's controller from 1911 to 1914, the colonial administrator who presided over the first tax collection describes its effects (1914, 10):

Small silver and copper coins were unknown a couple of years ago on Sumba. The Sumbanese knew only barter, and didn't need money, so merchants out of self-interest did not do much to introduce money· No specific measures were taken to introduce Dutch coins, but by introducing the tax system in 1911 this came of its own accord .... In 1911 the first tax collection was very difficult, because of the lack of coins and people's unfamiliarity with them. . .. By 1912 the situation had much improved, and nowadays payment in kind in West Sumba is not found anymore.

Although it seems naive to say that the transition to at least partial use of money "came of its own accord" when the government was in fact creating a need for money with taxation, it is a fact that in just a few years (1911-14), coins and change became widespread in West Sumba. In eastern domains like Umbu Ratu Nggai, only the nobles interacted with merchants and foreign persons, so they controlled the flow of cash and took on the responsibility of paying taxes for their dependents· In western domains like Kodi and Lamboya, more people were forced into interaction with merchants and with the newly established markets. People grew accustomed to using money, the cent became a unit for things of small value, and money came to serve as a medium of exchange for small trade.

Versluys (1941, 481) concluded his study by saying, contrary to Bohannan's predictions, that "the use of money did not have a revolutionizing effect" except to stimulate retail trade, "for it created a unit for things of little value, and also made the people aware of the opportunity to sell or exchange small surpluses at markets." He added that other changes—the effective establishment of the Dutch colonial government, the settlement of Chinese merchants in certain regional centers, the arrival of Protestant and Catholic missionaries—were much more important, and had an "enormous impact" but there was an apparent continuity in the traditional economy.

Since making this argument, Versluys has been joined by many other recent commentators on such processes. Several have pointed out, for


188

example, that Bohannan did not give enough weight to the British outlawing of the favored form of marriage (patrilateral exchange), which challenged the authority of the elders and destroyed the impermeability of the highest sphere, that of the exchange of women (Sherman 1990, 294-95; Bloch and Parry 1989, 14). Thus it was not money in itself but a disruption of traditional exchange boundaries that had a "revolutionary" effect. The continuities that Versluys observed in Sumbanese exchange after the beginning of the colonial era (which I also observed some fifty years later) can be attributed in part to the preservation of the forms and categories of indigenous exchanges and also, I will argue, to an indigenous notion of value which Versluys hints at but did not fully discern. What is most important in his study, besides its documentation of internal exchange at a crucial point in history, is his observation that money was a unit of value only for things of little value , and all animals and objects of greater value were negotiated for in separate contexts. This principle holds true in present practice; the locus of greater exchange value, namely, lies elsewhere, in an investment of time rather than coins.

A View from the 1980s

Although the end of the colonial period, the Japanese occupation of 1942-45, and the creation of the independent state of Indonesia all had far-reaching effects on economic practices, at the time of my field research it was the convergences with Versluys's description of traditional exchange, not the departures, that were most striking. Throughout the 1980s, less than 10 percent of the population had any regular cash income, and it could be said that money still remains scarce and excluded from many transactions. It is not used for any large traditional exchanges (feasting, bridewealth, funerals, or land purchases); instead the favored model for all negotiations involving the transfer of substantial wealth is still taken from alliance, with the two transactors cast in the roles of wife-giver and wife-taker.

Taxes are no longer the most important occasion for which people need money. The increasing presence of both retail trade and government services has made the demand for cash greater and more various. People need small amounts of money to pay school fees and buy uniforms, since almost all Kodi children now go to elementary school for at least a few years. Money is also needed to pay for routine medical care; to buy shirts, plastic sandals, plates, and glasses at markets; and to pay for rides in a truck or minivan that links the region to Weetabula and Waikabubak. Large amounts of money are needed occasionally to leave the island for operations or to


189

Pigs with long tusks (at least ten years old) are the obligatory gift presented by
the mother's brother at a marriage negotiation. 1984. Photograph by the author.

send a child to college on Java or Timor. So when I tried to follow Versluys's example and ask at tax collection time where the money had come from, people found the question somewhat quaint. They had enough money to pay their taxes, since they knew they would need money for that purpose and had been able to sell goods at the market to obtain it. But they did express anxiety about their ability to raise enough funds for educational and medical expenses. They also said, in a virtual chorus of unanimity: "It is not the need for money that is the heaviest burden; it is the requirements of traditional exchange."

To understand the processes of exchange and investment from the perspective of the actors involved, in 1988 I conducted a detailed survey of exchange activities (including those that involved substantial amounts of cash) among fifty-two households over the five years 1983-88, as well as collecting background information on important exchanges before that period. Since I lived in the area for thirty-seven months in the period 1979-88, I had attended many of the events I interviewed informants about, and had heard of others.

The interviews were conducted as long conversations held in a relatively private place, usually the informant's home. I had printed up a list of questions which I brought to show each head of household, but none of


190

them filled out the form and few addressed it directly. Familiar with somewhat similar government surveys, most only glanced at it briefly. It described my purpose as understanding the forms of cooperation and obligation in the traditional economy (ekonomi adat ) and offered them assurance that although I noted the names and categories Of relationship for each exchange, the results of the survey would not reveal personal names or assets.[3] I also asked my informants to interpret the sense of the strategies used in the exchange process, to comment on whether they had "lost" or "won" in particular transactions, and to tell me when they thought notions of investment, interest, and return were useful in analyzing their activities. The questions on the form were in Indonesian (in which most informants had some basic literacy), but I summarized them in Kodi, and most of the interviews were conducted in Kodi, with lapses into Indonesian to permit comments in a more "distanced vocabulary." (I will return to the interesting question of differences in self-description and the representation of relationships in the two languages, since many informants made statements in both.)

A Slice of Time: Exchange in the Period 1983-88

The sample was not intended to be representative in a statistical sense, but more one in which a wide range of possibilities would be displayed. Because I conducted most of the interviews in Bondo Kodi, the district capital, I did not include the most isolated families, which in any event were often not extensively involved in ceremonial exchange. To get detailed histories of contributions at large-scale events, I interviewed a disproportionate number of prominent older persons, several of them very wealthy. This intentional bias weighed on the statistical data, but allowed me to make an analytical distinction between the different perspectives of households at all levels of wealth and achievement. "Simple folk" who could not afford to play prestige games made up about 40 percent of the sample, but in fact represent some 60 percent of the total population. Three of the households I interviewed are among the most active in


191

feasting, but in addition they have extensive networks among "simpler" relatives; this fact made their comments particularly valuable.

I asked informants to tell me about their own exchange careers to the best of their recollection, and I would note down the livestock they had contributed and received under each event category (feast, funeral, bride-wealth). Most informants initially adopted my groupings, and responded by listing the amounts they had contributed first to bridewealth, then to funerals, feasts, and so on. In the course of the interview, however, many slipped into a more chronological narrative, Or one that showed a pattern of gifts and reciprocation between specific households ("I contributed a horse to his bridewealth, and when my father died he brought me a long-tusked pig"). Since these occasions moved across event categories, keeping careful track at the time of the interview often proved problematic; I therefore taped the conversations or noted them in longhand in a notebook, and later filled in my forms with the totals.

The households in my sample included members of twelve different patricians, a total of 302 persons, or almost six persons per household on average. The most significant differences between households were related to their place in the domestic cycle, which temporalizes family relationships in relation to crucial exchange transactions. The largest households had been established some ten to twenty years earlier, and these tended to have over ten members. Newly married couples ("new" households) and those in which many children had already married out ("older" ones) were usually smaller. Twenty-one people included in the survey were "dependents": though "attached to" households, they were not part of them, falling rather into the category of servants or former slaves. These people do not have property of their own and do not participate in traditional exchange.

Of the households surveyed, virtually all were known to me over the previous decade, and in all cases I was able to recall having attended at least some exchange transactions in which they participated. Nineteen of the households had been established for less than a decade; usually, the head of such households was between twenty and forty years of age and had children still under ten. Ten households had been in existence between ten and twenty years, and the head of household was generally between thirty-five and fifty-five years old. Twenty-two households were older—that is, established for over twenty years—and two of these were headed by widows. All of the older households had some children who had already married. Finally, four single people were included—one widower and three who had never married but were self-supporting.


192

Table 3. Exchange Survey: Gifts Given, 1983-88

 

Households Participating

Total Gifts Given

Average no. of Gifts Each Time

Five-year Average

Own brideprice

11

160

14.5

14.5

Relative's brideprice

34

148

1.2

4.3

Funerals

31

149

1.1

4.8

Feasts

26

100

1.1

3.8

Stone draggings

6

21

1

3.5

Matching partner

2

13

1.8

6.6

Statistical Data

Each exchange was recorded as a single transaction for the giver and a single transaction for the receiver; thus, separate data sets were compiled for animals or exchange valuables that came in and went out of the household.

Many small gifts are exchanged between kin and affines that are not subject to the rules of reciprocity but only to standards of politeness and consideration. The loan of sarungs, blankets, and mats, or gifts of coffee, sugar, and a chicken when guests are received are not part of the "traditional economy" and so were not included in the survey. In explaining the project to my informants, I asked them to remember only those things that were "of value" (ha pa wali ; Ind. berharga ) and could create debts. In effect, this meant that people cited only large animals and gold valuables. As the parameters of the indigenous notion of value became clearer, I ascertained that it included buffalo and horses of all ages, but pigs only after they had begun to grow tusks. Younger pigs brought as contributions were counted as simple gifts of food, not as part of the exchange reckoning.

In compiling statistics, I tried to determine the frequency and directionality of prestigious gifts. I have thus counted them as single units, although each unit here could represent a horse, a buffalo, or a long-tusked pig, with cash equivalents ranging from 25,000 to 350,000 rupiah. The numbers in tables 3 and 4 do not necessarily reflect indexes of value, therefore, only of transactions. Other objects of some value, especially fine textiles, moreover, do not figure in these statistics; people told me they had to give cloth so often that they could not remember all the occasions, so strict enumeration became impossible. In traditional exchanges, the formal presentation of a long-tusked pig is always accompa-


193

Table 4. Exchange Survey: Gifts Received, 1983-88

 

Households Participating

Total Gifts Received

Average no. of Gifts Each Time

Five-year Average

Own brideprice

14

191

7.1

7.1

Relative's brideprice

3

18

1

6

Funerals

10

95

1

9.5

Feasts

4

21

1

5.2

Stone draggings

3

16

1

5.3

Matching partner

4

16

1

2

nied by the gift of a man's cloth and a woman's sarung. My informants did, however, remember giving or receiving eleven gold hamoli pendants, which have a standardized equivalence in the exchange economy of a mature buffalo. Because they function as "substitutes for livestock" in bridewealth contributions, they are reckoned in the head count in this survey.

More livestock and valuables circulate in bridewealth than any other kind of exchange, although funerals come a close second. It is useful to break down the statistics according to event categories and to examine the rules and strategies used for each.

Bridewealth

The Kodi say that the wife-takers should bear the brunt of raising bride-wealth, and clearly they do. Of the 308 head that people reported giving in bridewealth payments, only about 30 percent (92 head) came "from the family corral"; the rest had to come from gifts from clan mates or sisters' husbands, exchange partnerships, or cash purchase (table 3). Of the 148 head that were reported in the survey as contributions to another person's bridewealth, 103 (71 percent) came from persons in the category of nobovinye , or wife-taker; others came from married brothers, cousins, and schoolmates. In seven cases, gifts of livestock that were presented to the prospective groom's father reciprocated earlier gifts he had made. Livestock presented by nonrelatives required more immediate reciprocity, and indeed, half had been reciprocated within the span of five years.

Eleven households, all of them "new" were still paying substantial parts of their own bridewealth during the period of the survey. For the largest sums of bridewealth (fifty to a hundred head), even major contributions from the family corral required some outside purchase. One young


194

man from a very prominent family (one of the sons of the former raja) who wanted to marry outside his district was asked to pay a bridewealth of one hundred head. Although he received eighteen head in contributions, he still had to buy twenty head with his own cash savings. One-fifth of the initial bridewealth payments enumerated in the survey required that some of the animals be bought with cash, but the others drew on extensive networks for this initial payment. In one case, a bridewealth of thirty head required only three animals from the family corral because of the great number of outside contributions.

Bridewealth was received by fourteen households during the period covered by the survey, at a bit more than seven head each, on average (table 4). The figure may seem small, considering that bridewealth sums in fact ranged from ten to one hundred head; it must be remembered however, that the actual number that come into the corral is considerably diminished by the need to redistribute animals received to those who helped on earlier occasions. In one case, for example, eighteen head were given immediately to others who were owed a swift return gift.

Funerals

At the news of a death, almost everyone who is related or even acquainted with the deceased will bring a gift of cloth to express sorrow. The heaviest burden of funeral gifts, however, is again on the wife-taker. The death of the wife's father (ghera ) will require the best animal that he can find. Sons and brothers must also contribute substantially. In my survey, the ten households that had funerals during this period received a total of ninety-five head of livestock in contributions, or just under ten head apiece, on average. Significantly, the size of the funeral sacrifice is often less than the number of animals received—perhaps one or two large animals to the dozen or so that may be bestowed; in that sense, funerals "turn a profit" in the exchange system, bringing in more animals than are required to serve to guests during the funeral itself. The "profit," however, is consistent with the aim of these gifts, which is to replace life lost with new life · and to compensate the grieving family for their loss. As Versluys noted earlier, the bereaved family should reciprocate funeral gifts, but if they encounter continuing hardship (especially if the family member lost had contributed to household expenses), these debts are most likely to be forgiven.

Feasts

Funerals come unexpectedly, if inevitably· Feasts, by contrast, require the commitment of the group, and their occurrence is far from inevitable: no


195

organized feasts take place without consensus. The larger the feast, the larger the number of people who must serve as sponsors. A single night of singing (yaigho ) in a garden hamlet, for instance, will be put on by only the immediate members of the sponsoring house. They provide a pig for sacrifice the next morning, as well as two ritual specialists, a singer (tou yaigho ) and a diviner (tou parupu kaloro ), to pray on their behalf. These feasts are usually rites of placation (Kuipers 1990) to beg the spirits to forgive an infraction. If important ancestors are concerned, however, the singing ceremony must be conducted in the ancestral village. All the households descended from the ancestor should participate, each bringing pigs and chickens and witnessing the negotiations with the ancestor conducted by the singer and diviner. Other orators (tou ta liyo ) may also join the nightlong dialogue with the singer. The words of the orators and diviner are taken up by the singer and set to the rhythm of the drum, so that they can travel up to the spirits (Hoskins 1988a, 1988b).

The largest feasts, called woleko , are held to celebrate the completion of a major project: the rebuilding of an ancestral house or a megalithic tomb, or the final stage in a sequence of feasts promised to the ancestors. They involve several days of singing and dancing and culminate on the last day with a buffalo sacrifice. A complex cast of priests is involved: one to scatter rice in offerings (tou wiha ), one to circle the sacrificial animals (tou kanikingo ), one to pronounce the invocations (tou ka'okongo ), several to serve as orators, and one to sing (tou lodo ). A woleko in a garden hamlet requires the participation of each household in residence; hence, the sacrificial count will range from five or six to thirty buffalo. A woleko in an ancestral village should draw together all the members of a single patrician, which can be over a hundred households and thus may involve over a hundred buffalo.

The woleko is organized by a single man, called the "master of the horse, owner of the boat" (mori njara, mangu tena ), who calls the others together and convinces them to accept his leadership. Ceremonial leadership is evaluated along a ladder of seven stages, marking the gradual progression of an important man toward the title of rato , or "great feast giver." The title belongs not to the living man but to the ancestor. It is attached to his first name in respectful reference to him by his descendants. (The Rato Nale is the only living man addressed as rato , and for a very different reason: because of his ritual office, he represents an ancestral presence that walks in the light of day. Other important priests may be addressed as rato marapu , "the lords of the spirits," or with the respectful term kabani , "honored men" but never as simply rato .)

To be recognized posthumously as a Great Man, the feast-giver must


196

complete the following sequence of ceremonies: sponsor a singing ceremony in his own hamlet (yaigho mori cana ); sponsor a singing ceremony in his ancestral village (yaigho la parona ); rebuild his ancestral house (dari uma ); drag a tombstone for a megalithic grave (gharu watu ); sponsor a buffalo feast in the garden hamlet (woleko mori cana ); sponsor a buffalo feast in the ancestral village (woleko la parona ); and sponsor a two-day feast in the ancestral village (woleko wongo weiyo ). Only four or five men alive at the time of my research had completed this full sequence. Although wealth is a prerequisite for the holding of many of these feasts, the ability to summon followers and secure their participation is even more important. The sponsor of a feast must be an impresario, a dynamic speaker and negotiator who can convince others to join his own pursuit of glory.

The frequency of feasting responds to two different pressures: pressures from spirits and ancestors, who require feasts to placate their anger and remove sources of misfortune, and pressures from ambitious individuals, who use the feasts as ladders to the achievement of renown (ngara ). When people perceive that a feast is performed to alleviate suffering they may contribute willingly; if they believe it is done only for self-aggrandizement, they may be more reluctant, but can still be persuaded that the event is necessary to maintain a collective sense of honor and enhance the shared reputation of the ancestral village. The weeks and days preceding a feast are a time of extensive bartering and trading of smaller reproductive animals in order to procure the oldest long-horned buffalo in the region. Most often, the rule requiring consensus works to delay feasts; that is, one finds sponsors constantly pushing the members of their village to act, while most villagers prefer to wait for an opportunity to make a more impressive contribution.

Contributions to feasts vary widely. Some are reckoned according to the usual networks of kin and affines, with gifts being given in the expectation of a delayed reciprocity. Some may also involve outsiders, those not linked through blood or marriage, who will require a more immediate reciprocity for the presentation of prestige gifts. To assure a large number of mature buffalo for the meal, the sponsor may ask wealthy outsiders (including Chinese shopkeepers and Moslem horse traders) to bring long-horned buffalo to the feast. He will specify the size of his countergift in advance and present it immediately. This practice of immediate "matching" in value still follows the principle that exchanges must be in equivalents and not identities; thus, a large buffalo may be "matched" with a long-tusked pig, two cloths, and a fine horse. In an important contrast to other transactions, the obligation begins and ends at that event. Because


197

the "match" is specified in advance, no "interest" is allowed to accrue that will "lie on the back" of the animals offered.

Exchanges that involve immediate reciprocity are still relatively rare in Kodi. I call them "matching partners" in the survey, and heard of them only in the context of large feasts. At the woleko in Wei Lyabba in 1985, for example, the sponsor asked four wealthy men to present him with animals, which they did, receiving instant reciprocation. I also witnessed and recorded matching transactions at a stone dragging and a garden feast. The emergence of this phenomenon in the last decade or so reflects two influences in particular. One is the relatively individualistic style of feasting that exists in neighboring districts, where not all members of a village or hamlet are expected to contribute to a ritual slaughter. The other is the rarity of mature buffalo, and the fact that many of them are owned by a few wealthy men. If strong affinal ties have not already been created to allow for the transfer of these animals through traditional exchange channels, the use of this new "outside channel," which compresses the time scale of reciprocity and makes the exchange "almost like a purchase," becomes necessary.

While funerals are part of the prestige economy, they do not "count" in the same way feasts do, either in the reckoning of temporal investment or in the determination of "big man"-style generosity. The visible, enduring signs of an impressive funeral (the buffalo horns and pig's tusks) are taken out of the dead man's house and given to his "village of origins," to pay them for ritual services rendered to remove the pollution of death. They do not serve as prestige counters, but as a final reckoning of debts.

Reflections and Evaluations

The effect of grouping exchange events into "contributions" and "receipts" stimulated many informants to figure out whether they seemed to be "ahead" in the exchange game over the past five years. Most claimed that they had been more generous than others had been with them. Of the fifty-two households surveyed, in fact, thirty-five had a plurality of outgoing gifts, while fourteen had a plurality of incoming gifts, with only three balancing out exactly. Significantly, of those who had received more than they gave, all but two were older households and they included the six wealthiest households that I interviewed. The two new heads of households that seemed to be "ahead" benefited from a temporary imbalance: one had just received contributions to a bridewealth but had not yet delivered the animals, while the other had received gifts for his father's funeral.


198

The perception that exchange obligations weigh heaviest on younger families seemed accurate, though in time these families, too, will be able to collect on the debts incurred. Because the most compelling reason to ask for assistance in the exchange system is the death of a close relative, older households are more likely to receive generous gifts. They are also more likely to have given gifts to others that require reciprocation, and of course only longer-established households will have daughters old enough to bring in bridewealth payments. The imbalance in gifts given and received may also be partly due to a reporting bias. The memory is always better at retaining losses than gains, both because they hurt more and because remembering them can work to one's advantage—that is, a gift or favor must be remembered to compel an act of reciprocation.

The interviews presented an occasion for many people to reflect on their own position within the exchange system, the rise and fall of family fortunes, and whether the balance of payments seemed fair or unfair. Most bitter were members of more recently established households, who felt that their way was barred from success because of the structure of exchange expectations. From these actors' perspective, strategies were possible only once certain earlier conditions had been fulfilled. Here is what one younger man had to say:

I had a hard time raising bridewealth, bringing funeral contributions, keeping our name good. Everyone gives credit to a wealthy man, but no one is generous to a poor man. Generosity is always linked to the expected repayment. I paid one bridewealth, then my first wife got sick. I had her treated by local healers, I paid hospital bills, but she still died and I had to bury her. My children are still small and I want to marry again, but no one is helping me this time.

His feeling was that a pattern of misfortune had made him into a lost cause, before he even had a chance to show his capabilities.

Actors' impressions of their standing in the exchange system do not depend on a simplistic calculation of what has been given and received, however. A relatively young man who headed one of the "established" households noted cheerfully that in the past year he had brought many more pigs and buffalo to feasts than he received. He was optimistic about the future: "People know that I can play the exchange game. My name is good, my credit even better. My corral may be empty now, but the animals will come when I need them. When I visit people who received animals from me, they serve me with their best glasses, treating me as someone who will soon be receiving a reciprocal gift." His early generosity put him


199

in a position to collect later on debts, and his confidence in the benefit of giving helped to buttress his social credit.

Biographical Time, Exchange, and Rival Scales of Value

In evaluating the different exchange profiles of these various households, we need to consider two other factors: first, the relation between the biographies of household members (what used to be called their place in a domestic cycle) and the age of its domestic animals, especially buffalo; and second, the way the traditional exchange system has been affected by the introduction of a market for the purchase of horses and buffalo with cash, as opposed to their acquisition through exchange. These factors allow us to "historicize" different forms of exchange by locating them within local or larger time scales and at the same time acknowledging the ties that exist between an indigenous historical consciousness and postcolonial entanglements.

Looking first at the linkage of human and animal ages, we should remember that for a Sumbanese man the negotiation of his own marriage obligations and the payment of bridewealth to his father-in-law summon resources and debts for his own newly formed household. A formal requirement of the bridewealth is that it begin with the presentation of a cow and her calf (ihya bei mono ana ) to the bride's family, so that the new herd will be at least potentially reproductive.[4] The first buffalo cow that a young man acquires is called the kapunge pote , "the trunk of the herd" and is of great personal and even magical importance. It is often said of a wealthy man that his kapunge pore was a "sacred buffalo" (karirnbiyo marapu ) that was able to reproduce at supernatural rates and mystically attracted other animals to the herd. The first cow is usually inalienable: she cannot be sold (especially not for cash), and can only be sacrificed on an important ritual occasion—usually the first major feast that a man gives in his life—through a special dedication. Kodi folktales contain accounts of the curses of misfortune that have fallen on men who did not respect the special value of their "trunk cow" and carelessly agreed to exchange her or slaughter her.

Since most Sumbanese men marry between the ages of twenty and twenty-five (and seem to have done so also in the past; Versluys 1941,


200

469), and the "trunk cow" is ideally a young, newly reproductive female, she will continue to bear calves until her master is in his forties. At the age of about fifty, those men who have been reasonably prosperous will begin to plan their own feasts. (Usually, the first such feast follows the death of one's father and is in part a reciprocation for contributions brought to his funeral.)[5] At about the same time, the "trunk cow" becomes barren, and thus suitable for sacrifice. If her owner plans to launch himself into a competitive cycle of feasting exchanges, he will have to have kept a number of her calves, which should by then have grown into mature bulls with horns of impressive length.

Because the bridewealth of a young man's sister forms the basis of his own exchange career, it is understandable that as they both grow older he has a continuing obligation to assist her and her family by contributing to ceremonial expenses. These contributions, though modest at first, will escalate as his fortunes rise.[6] Over the course of the domestic cycle, that is, we see a pattern of young households contributing smaller, immature animals, while older households supply larger, more mature ones. The reasonable expectations of this system become problematic when we consider the exchange needs that emerge with feasting, especially given the "sliding scale" by which buffalo are assigned value according to their horn size. Even a young man may need an older animal for an important ceremony, and he will pass on this request to his sister's husband. One young man told me:

My brother-in-law's village was having a feast, so he asked me to bring a buffalo. It would be his first public sacrifice, with his whole family bringing animals for slaughter, so it had to be a mature bull with long horns. Where could I get such a bull? The oldest animal in my corral had horns only a wrist length long. For a month, I visited relatives to look. When I found a bull, I had to trade three smaller animals, one calf and two fertile cows. We brought the bull


201

in a great procession. I danced at the gates, and everyone saw how big he was. My name has stayed good, but now we have nothing to exchange for school fees.

The trade of three healthy young animals for a skinny older bull was perplexing to me. "Why" I asked, "didn't you try to buy a bull from the livestock traders in the city? They might have given you a better price."

"What, them? They don't know value." Seeing my confused expression, he then repeated the same phrase in Indonesian, asserting that there were two kinds of value (harga ), one defined by traditional custom (harga adat ) and another corresponding to monetary value (harga uang ). When an animal is bought for exchange, the price is specified in terms of other animals, the criterion being the age of the animal as measured by the tusks. When an animal is sold for export, "the price is only for the meat" (harga daging )—that is, it is set according to size and weight.

This man's shift into Indonesian from a conversation thus far carried on in Kodi signaled a change in perspective: he moved from a personal point of view to a more general description of the system in order to make it comprehensible to an outsider. The shift was necessary so that he could clarify the difference between the Kodi term wali , designating a "price" determined by negotiation and often comprising several different components (animals, cloth, etc.), and the Indonesian term harga uang , which denotes a monetary price set by external agents and complexly entangled with a wider market economy beyond the island of Sumba.

To make this distinction clear, I turn to the complex relation between human lives and animal lives, and how the passage of time is measured in horns—the "biological clocks" that animals wear over their ears. The next chapter explores how local constructs of value are formulated in opposition to much larger historical and economic forces, which define a very different form of value, one that contrasts and conflicts with a distinctively Kodi notion of time.


202

7
Time as Value
Taking the Bull by the Horns

The daily timepiece is the cattle clock, the round of pastoral tasks, and the time of day and the passage of time through a day are to a Nuer primarily the succession of these tasks and their relations to one another.
Edward Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer


If you want to see my life, the lives of my ancestors, the things that they did, look at the row of horns in front of my house. The greatness of the past can be measured there, the size of our feasts and spread of our name.
A Kodi comment


The visitor to any of the great feasting houses in Kodi is immediately confronted with buffalo horns on display. Climbing from the ground level to the first bamboo veranda, the horns serve as steps to the inner sanctum of the cult house. From the open doorway, a "ladder" of horns is visible, stacked vertically along the main house pillar up to the roof. Other horns hang from the ceiling beams in the large interior area used to receive guests and perform divinations, or serve as hooks on which to hang baskets and cloth. The small rafters under the thatched roof have rows of pig's jaws, each one marked by the curl of tusks from a sacrificed animal.

As the visitor is seated and served with betel and glasses of tea or coffee, she may ask the history of these horns and tusks. The host will proudly detail the Origin of each group as his guest admires them: "These horns on the pillar are from a feast we held three years ago, which five hundred people attended. Twenty buffalo were killed, four of them from this house, as well as fifteen pigs. The ones higher up were from the funeral of Wora Rehi, an important man in Bondo Kodi who died fifteen years ago. His mother was from this village, so we claimed the buffalo heads. The tusks hanging near the sacred corner are from the feast held to consecrate this house when it was rebuilt eight years ago."

Each sacrificial event is marked by preserving a remnant of the animal killed. The buffalo horns and pig's tusks are hung in the same part of the house where human scalps were once displayed, the skulls having been hung to dry on the skull tree. The horns and tusks are not mere aids to


203

memory, ways of "visualizing history" so that it will be retained by the descendants of these ancestors. Nor are they simple trophies, ways of "counting coup" in a competitive game of sacrifice. Their significance in the sacrificial economy is more precise: they show the temporalization of exchange value. The worth of animals in the sacrificial economy is reckoned in relation to their age , the time spent raising them, and the "biographical" investment made by their owner. The horns represent a part of his own life, given an enduring material form and guarded as a family heirloom for generations to come.

The Kodinese give us clues to this process when they say that "the name of a man rides on the horns of his buffalo" or "his reputation is tied to the horn span." Although they recognize the connection between a man's biography and his store of horns, they cannot articulate the full system of rules and strategies that lead them to make these statements. This system emerges only in contrast to the very different assumptions that underlie the market economy, cash transactions, and standards of value, which tie time to money and not to value.

Horns, Tusks, and Value

In the last chapter, we saw that horn length is used to evaluate the age and worth of a buffalo offered for sacrifice at a feast. This worth, however, seemed disproportionate, both to the amount of meat on the animal and to the number of other young animals offered in exchange. The logic of "horn counting" must be explained in greater detail, for in fact it does represent a relatively precise measurement, not only of the age of the animal, but also of its value in terms of an investment in time.

In buffalo, horns begin to grow toward the end of the first year and continue at a fairly even rate for twenty or thirty years. The Kodi term for a yearling does not refer directly to age, but to the newly budding horns: it is "the budding of a bull" (kamboka ghobo ) or, in ritual couplets, hanjoko wu kawallu, hinjalu watu kamba —"just a candlenut bump of horn, one node of cottonseed." A yearling is also referred to as hinjalu mete mata , "one node with black eyes" marking the darkness of eyes that grow paler with age.

Horn size is measured along the right arm. An outsider watching two men bartering the exchange of buffalo or discussing a feast slaughter might assume that they were talking about glove lengths instead of livestock, as their hands keep moving up and down their arms. The index finger is placed at various points between the fingertip and the armpit, usually preceded by an apology in Indonesian ("permisi ") for the indelicacy of


204

pointing. Common measurements are at the finger joint, the base of the thumb, wrist, mid-forearm, elbow, mid-bicep, and the armpit. When a promised animal is finally presented, the estimated horn length may be verified by stretching the arm along the horns, fingertips resting at the skull and the tip of the horns determining the final measure.

The practice of using horns and tusks to indicate value of some sort is quite widespread. In other areas of Indonesia where buffalo sacrifice is highly developed, such as Toradja, the display of the horns is also commonplace (Volkman 1985)· In the "pig-loving" areas of Melanesia, where prestige exchanges center on that animal, a similar cultural significance is given to pig's tusks. Special "tusker" boars are created by invulsing the upper canines and allowing the lower ones to grow unimpeded, so that the animal's tusks form a perfect circle (Jolly 1984).[1] Sumbanese perform a related operation on gelded buffalo (mandopo ), whose horns subsequently make the most impressive house decorations. After gelding, a buffalo's horns grow so long they may threaten to pierce the skull; hence, the horns of a gelded yearling are heated and forcefully twisted away from the head to form a large arc like that of long-horned cattle. The Sumbanese, who find aesthetic pleasure in contemplating an impressive spread of horns, boast that after this operation some animals' horns grow all the way to the ground, forcing them to walk about with permanently bowed heads. Indeed, many older gelded animals cannot be taken to pasture and must be hand-fed with grass at the back of the house.

Gelded buffalo form a special category in Kodi sacrifices. Although the most prestigious gift is an older bull, the distinctive mandopo may be preferred when the donor wants his gift to be singular and unforgettable. In theory, a very long-horned buffalo can be reciprocated only by another rnandopo . Horn length used as a criterion of value in buffalo is paralleled by tusk length used to determine the value of pigs.


205

A young man dances as he leads a long-horned buffalo, around twenty-five
years old, onto the slaughter field at a large-scale feast. The gift of the buffalo
fulfills an affinal obligation from a wife-taker. 1984. Photograph by the author.


206

From Livestock to Pigs: Equivalences and Conversions

The small, dark, and somewhat swaybacked pigs raised on Kodi are part of a race that has been on the island for several hundred years. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Dutch introduced a race of fatter, white pigs, known as "foreign pigs" (wawi jawa ), which now are interbred with indigenous ones. The females are raised as breed animals, while the males are destined for exchange and eventual sacrifice. Boars begin to produce tusks when they are a little over a year old, but these are not of impressive dimension until the animal is at least three or four years old. When the tusks reach the length of half a man's finger, the animal becomes appropriate for prestige exchanges. Until then, a pig's value is markedly less than that of a buffalo or horse, and it is assimilated with chickens in the category of "food animals." As one person put it, "Without tusks, a pig is just good to eat. But once the tusks have grown, he is also good to trade or to sacrifice."

The emergence of tusks also establishes a form of equivalence between calves and pigs that is important in determining the appropriate size of counterpayments. On ritual occasions where a wife-taker comes bringing a buffalo of six or seven years—that is, with horns just past the wrist— his gift should be matched by a long-tusked pig and two quality textiles, a man's loincloth and a woman's sarung. It is the age of the animals that forms the basis for the evaluation of comparable value.

The problem of value determination is complicated by the separation of pigs and buffalo according to gender categories. On Sumba, the routine care and feeding of livestock is entrusted to men, while that of pigs is entrusted to women. This practice follows an extremely widespread pattern, which brings together aspects of African cattle complexes and Melanesian pig complexes. In an article comparing patterns of inequality, political competition, and political subordination in Africa and the Pacific, Andrew Strathern (1972, 130-31) argued that key determining factors were the diverse demands of tending different animals and the sexual division of labor. Pigs, for example, are domesticated by small household units, not in large corporate corrals. Pigs are sources of food only after death, when they offer up their flesh, whereas most pastoralists also "eat their animals alive" by draining them of blood and milk. Pigs reproduce prolifically and quickly exhaust available resources; livestock, by contrast, are free to roam to greener pastures and so require a less regular cycle of slaughter.

The Sumbanese economy, however, combines pig and chicken keeping


207

with stock raising in a way that assimilates both systems: all animals— pigs, chickens, buffalo, and horses—are owned on a household basis, even though the larger ones may be housed in a communal corral. The blood or milk from buffalo is not drunk, and in Kodi the animals are rarely used in agriculture because there are so few wet-rice fields. Livestock, rather, are raised for sacrifice and exchange. The hot, dry climate with its fresh sea breezes is particularly suited to promote the fertility of buffalo, which produce one calf a year in this region, but often only one every other year in wetter inland areas. This still cannot compare with pigs, which produce litters of five to six piglets. Even so, heat and periodic water shortages are harder on pigs than on buffalo. Pigs do not sweat, so they cannot reduce their body temperature without access to mud. A buffalo can survive the long march to a distant feast, but a pig, carried on a litter under a cloth banner, may die of heat prostration on the way. Cattle rustlers and disease have long endangered livestock, but unfavorable climatic conditions make the pig population as vulnerable to death and destruction as the buffalo herd.

Both pigs and buffalo are raised for exchange and increase in value as they grow older. Both are exchanged against more purely economic commodities and against the values of human life that we summarize under the notion of kinship. Both are prized for their "mediative capacities," in that they serve to mark and organize the relations between groups and between men and women. In ceremonial contexts, many of the cultural tensions inherent in the notions of male and female are represented by the buffalo and pig.

In bridewealth payments, funeral sacrifices, and feasting contributions, pigs and buffalo are matched against each other as complementary gifts. The symbolic femininity of the pig and the masculinity of the buffalo are balanced in a requirement that they offer equivalent, but not identical, values. The baseline determination of value comes from the age of the animals, as measured by the length of tusks and horns. Since buffalo can be considerably older than pigs, the gift of a pig is usually "completed" by the additional gift of one or two textiles.

Although it would be unthinkable to exchange a buffalo calf for a piglet, once the pig has grown tusks (and been fattened to impressive dimensions) it can be exchanged for large livestock. No exact equivalence in years is reckoned, but informants do cite the relative ages of animals when they compare them:

I had been raising that pig since my first child was born. He is now nine. Someone offered me a calf for him. But the calf was just a


208

yearling. My pig had tusks as long as this extended finger. It was clear that it was worth more than a knuckle length [of buffalo horns]. I said no, it had to be a bull with horns as long as your hand. [How old is that?] It had to be an animal of equal value, at least seven years old. When they came back with a buffalo whose horns matched the side of my hand, I accepted, and gave them a cloth to seal the deal.

Bridewealth equivalents are always figured by the wife-givers, who reserve the right to judge the value of the livestock they receive from prospective wife-takers. The counterprestation for a bridewealth of ten "tails" is conventionally two pigs of equivalent value, one given live and one killed for the guests. The two pigs must have tusks that "match" the age of the buffalo received and are presented along with a pair of men's and women's textiles.

Equivalences can also involve several younger buffalo and horses given to secure a single large older animal appropriate for a feast:

My mother's brother sponsored a feast in Wei Lyabba. He asked me to bring him a buffalo, a good one with long horns. I had one cow in the corral, fat and fertile, and two of her calves, one with horns just budding, the other with about a knuckle or two of growth. I went to someone in my matriclan to barter. He let me buy his best bull, but I had to give all three younger animals, along with two horses, in order to get him. His horns were as long as a whole arm, all the way to the armpit.

[How old do you think he was?] He must have been eighteen or nineteen. He wasn't even slaughtered. My mother's brother got another large animal from his wife-giver, and he gave him as a counterprestation.

A calculus of total value was derived from the sum of the ages of the animals transacted for, including horses added to complete the deal.[2]

The complex combinations of different ages and sexes used in traditional exchange are negotiated in relation to the time invested in raising the animal. Before a pig has tusks it is not a prestige animal and can be given as a contribution tò the "vegetables" (roghe ) served along with the


209

meal, but it is not appropriate for formal sacrifice. It can, however, be part of a combined equivalent offered in recompense for an older animal:

My brother-in-law went to a feast and "borrowed" a pig to give to his wife's family there. We let him take it because he said it would be replaced in a few months, by the time we were harvesting rice. The pig was five years old, and its tusks had just appeared. When he came to help with the harvest, he had two piglets, but neither of them was much over a year old. "What are these worth?" I said to him; "neither of them could be taken anywhere!" We made him take them back. Later, he returned with a sow and a pig with budding tusks. We accepted them.

Young animals can be brought to simple ceremonies like village yaighos , where many pigs are killed for a shared meal, but they cannot be matched with buffalo and horses for larger feasts, bridewealth, or funeral exchanges.

The struggle to find an animal that can match others of considerable age often proves ruinous:

We got the news that my father had died, and as his oldest son I had to bring a long-horned buffalo for the funeral feast. I wanted a bull, but no one would give one to me, not for anything. So I found a cow who had become sterile. She must have been twelve or thirteen. I gave them three animals from my own corral—one was a bull with wrist-length horns [about four years old], another one with thumb-length ones [about three], and finally a cow who must have been four or five and could still bear more young. That was how much I had to pay in order not to lose honor at my father's funeral.

Although this person's corral later became well filled by the contributions of others, the high social importance of the son's sacrifice made his immediate need intense and justified the losses he had to assume to pay this final act of respect to a deceased parent.

The use of an animal's age to determine its value is a principle of "temporal investment," but it is not a measure of labor as a Marxian model would suggest. Pigs and chickens require more attention per animal than do horses or buffalo because they must be fed carefully prepared meals of house scraps and cannot simply be taken out to pasture in large numbers or led docilely to the water. Since buffalo are tended in herds by young boys, the total number of man-hours devoted to each head of buffalo is certainly much less than the woman-hours invested in fattening a single pig. Does a cultural bias give greater importance to man-hours than


210

woman-hours in reckoning labor costs? Perhaps, but pigs also require a certain amount of men's work in building pens and protecting crops. The key lies not in labor, but in temporal links and the social meaning of exchange intervals.

The great value of older animals is due to the way their lives are tied to their master's biography and come to serve as metonyms for his identity. Because a man begins to raise animals on his own as soon as he establishes his own household, his animals represent the temporal moment in which he achieved adulthood. One animal, perhaps a favorite calf, may at that point be specially dedicated to a ritual purpose that lies in the still-distant future—such as the dedication of a newly rebuilt lineage house, the funeral for the owner's father, or a feast in which the household head takes a new horse name, thus establishing his renown. As he raises the animal, it is identified with these plans and with the owner's own career in the ritual arena. The animal must be protected from disease and drought for its master to obtain social recognition. Sacrificial identification, in short, builds on a long association in which the life of the man and the life of his animal run parallel courses.

The argument I have made can be summarized in four related propositions: (1) The meaning of horn and tusk length is a measure of the animal's age, with the result that "prestige value" is in fact a code for "temporal value"; (2) the visual "record" of a feast displayed in the ancestral house in the form of horns and tusks indexes temporal investment; (3) temporal investment is measured along a man's own life span and has its origins in the idea of sacrificial identification between man and beast; (4) the respective ages of animals provide a standard for equivalence and exchangeability and can allow for conversions across species.

The Meat Market Versus the Exchange Market

The special characteristics of sacrificial animals bring us back to the second factor that was mentioned earlier (see chapter 6): the existence of an alternate market for livestock based on cash. Why couldn't the bereaved son have decided to purchase a long-horned bull with money? How are the rules for determining value different in feasting and in cash sales?

There are two parts to the value of an animal in the traditional economy. The first is its value alive, as part of a herd that can reproduce and increase in numbers. The second is its value in sacrifices, where it will provide both a measure of the sacrificer's prestige and a gift to the invisible ancestors who bring new resources into the hands of their descendants. Both of these values assume that an animal is never completely lost; it is simply


211

moved to a place in another cycle of meaning. The sale of an animal to a meat merchant, however, does involve a loss. And that loss is justifiable in local terms only if what was acquired in compensation for the animal is of enduring value.

For several hundred years, Sumbanese have sold some of their livestock to merchants who shipped them to other islands. Payment for horses and buffalo was presented in an imperishable form: Dutch guilders and English pounds sterling were melted down to make gold jewelry; metal knives, swords, and gongs were stored for generations in cult houses. The development of a cash market for Kodi livestock did not come until the period of independence, when road improvements allowed merchants to transport animals from the more distant areas of the island to the port towns. The cash market is still irregular and unreliable, with merchants generally coming to buy before large Moslem feasts such as Hari Idul Fitri, When the demand for meat on Java goes up dramatically.

New market transactions have established a different standard of value, the "commercial" standard based on the amount of meat on the body. At the ports of Waikelo and Waingapu, buffalo are weighed on a scale, and their price is determined by a set per-kilo rate. For village purchases in Kodi, the animals cannot be weighed, but they are measured and estimates are made of the amount of meat on the body.

Livestock are sold only rarely in Kodi; in essence, they are a protected domain of stored value (Ferguson 1985) because of their importance to the community. Whenever an owner thinks of selling an animal, many people will try to discourage him from doing so. These people may have some claims on the animal because of earlier debts, or they may anticipate wanting to borrow the animal in the future. As a rule, livestock are sold only to cover major expenses on which there can be some group consensus: a life-saving operation, materials to build a stone house, or a son's college expenses.

Evidence from my survey of exchange activities suggests that fewer than a hundred animals are sold each year from the Kodi district, and most of these are horses or cattle. Official statistics for all of West Sumba record that 175 buffalo were exported in 1986, as against 1,396 horses and 615 cattle (Biro Statistik 1986, 89). Because exports are subject to regulation in the port city, these figures are probably fairly accurate.[3] Estimates of


212

the number of buffalo slaughtered each year in traditional feasts usually amount to two or three times this figure. The small sample of fifty households in my exchange survey included three separate feasts at which over a hundred buffalo were killed (Balaghar in 1984, Wei Lyabba in 1985, and Parona Baroro in 1986), and twelve funerals involving the slaughter of an average of two and a half head.

There are, however, crucial symbolic differences between animals sold for export and those offered for sacrifice, which show how this system of cultural diacritics can work. The various considerations of these markets can be summarized as follows:

Meat market

Exchange market

Value = quantity of flesh on the body, measured by weight

Value = time invested in raising the animal, measured by length of horns and tusks

The body leaves the island and is lost, not part of any recycling from one generation to the next

The animal's soul is given to the ancestors, who store it in a corral so it can be reborn in future generations

Cash can be quickly collected, but it is not remembered "visually" or publicly exchanged

Value is not lost, but returned with interest through the system of credits and debts

Cattle sold as meat are not socially reinvested to fulfill other ceremonial needs

Cattle given away and even slaughtered remain part of the communal "bank"

Animals in the traditional exchange system are "reinvested" in two different ways. One occurs during the span of a human life, what I call biographical time, the other only in the longer-term exchanges of ancestors and descendants, that is, in intergenerational time. Debts are returned to individuals through the obligation to "replace the meat" distributed at a feast or to return another animal for one "loaned" in a time of need. The principle of delayed reciprocity requires an increase in the value of the gift consistent with the passage of years or months before it is repaid. A similar principle, transposed onto the relations between ancestors and descendants, operates in extending the process of reciprocity down through the generations: because the souls of animals offered to the marapu are believed to be recycled into the corral for their descendants, if previous


213

generations have been generous, the living can draw on their reserves of fertility and prosperity. These differences become clearer when we explore other contrasts between an exchange market where animals can be used in sacrifice and a meat market where they are mere commodities.

Sacrificial Economies and Commodity Economies

In commodity exchanges, people act as autonomous individuals and their association is mediated by things. The things change hands, payment is made, and the transaction is finished. In sacrifice, people are brought together through association with a mediating animal, and the destruction of the animal creates a bond between them and its recipients, the spirits or marapu . The return on sacrifice, as in most traditional exchange, is a delayed return. It may bring benefits to the sacrificer, or only to his descendants. The precise inversion of many of the characteristics of commodities in sacrifices suggests why these two models should produce such different standards of value.

Traditional exchanges between living people use biographical time as a measure of value. A buffalo is esteemed because of the years of his own life the owner has invested in raising it. When this animal is offered for sacrifice, therefore, the owner is giving up a section of his biography, which is presented to the marapu in the hopes of receiving still greater blessings from them. These blessings, however, may be delayed, appearing only in the next generation. Thus the biographical time that determines exchange values has to be supplemented by the intergenerational time of sacrifice.

The special temporality of sacrifice comes from its role in social reproduction. In sacrifice, ideas of cyclicity and reincarnation depend on a reciprocity that embraces both human beings and the ancestral spirits. They are the ones who consume the essence of sacrifices, who "eat time" or "eat memories" instead of consuming the flesh itself. Through the invocations of each animal, they first "eat its own history"—its connection to other persons and the exchange paths that led it to the sacrificial field. Their later gifts of fertility allow for the renewal of life and the continuation of new generations.

Eyelashes and Exports

A contrast in the treatment of animals sold in commercial transactions and animals sacrificed reveals how this principle of renewal works. Buffalo that die in the ancestral village travel to the great "corral of banyan wood" (nggallu maliti, nggallu kadoki ) in the skies, where their souls await


214

rebirth to the descendants of those who sacrificed them. They must die as complete animals so their souls will travel upward intact. Animals sold to the meat dealers who eventually ship them to other islands, however, have their eyelashes removed before they leave the village.

This apparently trivial plucking of lashes has considerable symbolic importance, for it removes the sign of a payment that is made in the expectation of a return. The term for eyelashes, wulu mata , is also used in Sumbanese languages to refer to the fringe of traditional textiles, and is a polite term for all kinds of ritual payments that compensate persons for performing as ceremonial mediators. Thus, the go-betweens in a marriage negotiation are paid in wulu mata , as are priests who perform at a feast or the messengers who help to work out a truce between feuding parties. Usually these payments consist of cloth, small sums of money, and betel nut. They are called "eyelashes" as a form of modest speech indicating that the debt owed to these intermediaries is greater than the compensation offered, but further benefits will be provided by the spirits in attendance. The "fringe," in other words, is only the visible payment; it stands for a much larger invisible payment that should follow.

The "fringe payment" of eyelashes is also what protects the source. Lashes are the furry shield of each mata , which has the double meaning of "eye" and "origin"; thus wulu mata refers also to compensations made to protect source villages and the source of fertility for each animal. The continuity of the ancestral village is protected by sacrifices to feed its ancestors. When an animal is sacrificed within the village, its eyelashes do not leave. Its head is given to the person who "owns" the sacrifice; it is then cooked in a special meal four days after the feast. Only after this meal has been prepared can the souls of the buffalo depart to the afterworld.

When livestock are sold for export their souls are not recycled to the ancestors to promote life in future generations. Plucking the eyelashes, then, is a way to hold on to a part of the animal's vitality, and particularly the animal's reproductive powers, even if its body is definitively sent away. Eyelashes, like horns, are vital excrescences which show that the animal is alive. Removing them and storing them in a coconut shell along with other ancestral treasures in the attic keeps a part of the animal in the village. The Kodi say that the eyelashes "keep the soul from leaving" even when the flesh is gone. Through prayers recited over the eyelashes, the ndewa , or ancestral essence, of the animals may be called back. Although the meat itself cannot be dedicated to the ancestors or consumed and distributed, one small aspect of the animal's vital essence is set aside, not lost to outside forces.

Plucking the eyelashes magically removes the reproductive capacity of


215

the animal. Its physical body may leave the island, but its regenerative powers are supposed to stay there. Since exported livestock are destined for immediate slaughter, this magical procedure makes no difference to local traders. As one Moslem exporter said, "On Java, they don't pray over them, they just eat them. No one cares there about their eyelashes."

In the context of local Kodi exchanges, however, the presence of absence of eyelashes can be an important issue. If the horses or buffalo presented to pay bridewealth are not reproductively intact, the wife-givers will surely consider this a serious affront. The gift of livestock in marriage payments is meant to begin a herd and to circulate among family members to produce new animals. A buffalo or horse given without eyelashes is given in bad faith. Only its physical form is surrendered, but part of its essence remains behind, and the herd cannot prosper. Although I doubt that it occurs very often, I heard of one wife-giver who was suspicious of his affines and claimed they had given him a cow with no eyelashes. The cow, though still young, in fact was prematurely sterile: she had borne calves for her earlier masters but not for him. He told me that the appropriate retaliation would be to withhold his "blessings" (wei myaringi ; lit., "cool waters") and so deny the new couple the possibility to bear children. The cow's barrenness would be reciprocated by his own daughter's barrenness, an inability to provide descendants to her new house and village. Once the wife-takers were advised of the wife-giver's suspicions, they tried to appease him in a special ceremony called horongo bahi , "extending the metal." Gold and an additional cow (complete with eyelashes) were presented to repair affinal relations and ask for fertility to be restored. Only after this second cow was with calf did the new bride come to conceive a child—at least as the story was reported.

Time, Exchange, and Traditional Economies

The ways time constitutes value in Sumbanese exchange shed light on a number of anthropological debates about exchange and temporality, ranging from earlier ideas of "dual economies" and ecological "rationality" to current efforts to articulate "moral spheres for exchange" (Appadurai 1986), "transaction orders" (Bloch and Parry 1989), and the "work of time" in exchange games (Bourdieu 1990, 98-108).

Theories of dual economies oppose a "traditional economy" ruled by religious, social, and symbolic concerns to a "modern" or "rational" economy that privileges the marketplace over all else. If the contrast between the meat market and the ceremonial exchange market in Kodi is interpreted in these terms, then the penetration of the commercial standard of value


216

based on the amount of flesh on the animal's body must be seen to be gradually displacing the "traditional" emphasis on temporal investment.

There are, however, clear economic advantages to using time as a standard of value, and these have important social consequences that make the ceremonial exchange market as "rational" as the meat market. Emphasis on the age of the animals killed, rather than on size or quantity, serves to space out the performance of the largest feasts, to put a brake on ritual inflation, and to control the competitive spiral of rival feasts held by near status equals. Pressures from wealthy impresarios on their poorer dependents are kept within bounds by the temporal standard, and the wealthy man must reciprocate with interest whenever he does receive contributions from his exchange partners.

These social factors would satisfy theorists of a generally utilitarian orientation, since they show how many apparently misguided traditional practices are in fact reasonable choices given local circumstances and constraints. But although they show how the system of temporal investment works (and reply to the superficial criticism of government officials who see it as merely "wasteful"), they do not explain why it can come into existence or how these standards of value work.

The recent literature on cultural exchange situates these problems in terms of the relations of gifts and commodities and the transformative power of money. The meat market and the exchange market could be considered separate spheres of exchange; that is, although some goods (especially buffalo and horses) change hands in both markets, they do so according to different rules. They are separate "value classes" in Kopytoff's (1986) terminology, which only roughly fit the more classical opposition of "gift" and "commodity" (Gregory 1982). The difference in rules corresponds not to varying degrees of "penetration" by an external economic standard, but to different cultural values linked to temporal differences.

This idea of temporal differences has been used by some analysts to refer to universal characteristics of exchange systems, but I argue that it must be given a specific local interpretation. Bloch and Parry (1989, 24) argue that two transactional orders exist in all societies, one "concerned with the reproduction of the long-term social or cosmic order" and the other "short-term transactions concerned with the arena of individual competition" (Bloch and Parry 1989, 24). Their explanation of how money is either opposed to or integrated into the morality of exchange in a variety of societies hinges on this temporal distinction. Spheres of exchange are defined to protect the long-term goals of the social order from being overly affected by adjustments due to gains or losses in the short-term arena.


217

Individual acquisition, then, is "consigned to a separate sphere which is ideologically articulated with, and subordinated to, a sphere of activity concerned with the cycle of long-term reproduction" (Bloch and Parry 1989, 26).

The separation of transactional cycles is endangered if grasping individuals divert the resources of long-term cycles for short-term transactions. The sale of livestock for cash to merchants who plan to export the animals would fall into this category, since the animals are removed from the local sphere entirely and the cycle of intergenerational renewal is broken. One standard of value, which operates on the basis of quality, subjects, and superiority, is displaced by another where quantity, objects, and equivalence are primary (Gregory 1982). It would be wrong to attribute these differences simply to the presence of money itself. The difference comes from moral evaluations that contrast the exchange of inalienable objects between interdependent transactors (the "gift economy") to the exchange of alienable objects between independent transactors (commodity exchange).

Time constitutes value in the traditional exchange economy because it marks the bond between the subject and his possessions and makes each possession more valuable because of its identification with its owner. The logical culmination of this identification is the complete inalienability of heirloom wealth. Along the scale from heirlooms down to trivial commodities, value is reckoned according to the time invested in an item's acquisition. Assertions that certain heirloom goods were presented to the founding ancestors are ways of lifting these goods "out of time" and making them absolutely inalienable. Assertions that any kind of object is completely replaceable, that it has no individual history acquired over time, in contrast, devalue it to the category of the commodity.

Bloch and Parry see a utilitarian approach as appropriate to the short-term cycle, but use a "moral" economy approach for longer-term transactions. I find the opposition of short-term schemers and long-term com-munitarians unconvincing. Bourdieu has shown that time and the tempo of exchanges constitute the exchange system in its most significant dimension. The gamelike aspect of exchanges, he noted, must be played out over time: "To abolish the interval is to abolish the strategy" (1990, 106). He does not carry the point even further, however, to say that an accumulation of intervals (of strategic delays and lapses in time) eventually makes up a new form of "objectified" value. The timing of exchanges, which participants experience as irreversible but observers may collapse into reversible cycles, is in fact the raw material from which exchange value is constructed.


218

Biographical Time, Intergenerational Time, and Social Reproduction

Instead of being two separate but related transaction orders, I argue that short- and long-term exchanges occur in interlocking cycles that influence ideas of convertibility. An heirloom gold valuable should not, and cannot, be exchanged for cash. A handful of rupiah bills could never, and will never, be reckoned into ceremonial exchanges between affines. But all along the long ladder that stretches between them, we find a relatively precise and accurate measuring of units of time invested, as represented by horns and tusks hanging on the wall. Thus, through exchange, reciprocal payments, and sacrifice, a system of value is established that is distinct from the commercial values of cash and commodity exchange.

From an actor's perspective, time has strategic value in that it can be cumulatively invested in gifts, which gives a generous household an advantage when debts are finally collected. This notion is relevant to the familiar debate about the "interest" that is added over time to the value of a gift. This interest is not simply a mystical quality inhering in the object, or a utilitarian quality figured in the same way as bank interest. Calculated in reference to individuals, rather, it measures the social value of the temporal intervals between the moments of giving and receiving. Time is measured not in years or months, but as it has been inscribed on human biographies—that is, as a "personal investment" reckoned in terms of a biological clock. The most direct expression of this form of time appears in the bodies of the sacrificial substitutes for persons—their livestock, whose own clocks are suspended over their ears.

Biographical time measures the forms of reciprocity that can be paid back over an individual's lifetime. It is inscribed within an intergenera-tional cycle, where the benefits of individual pursuit of renown are passed on to one's descendants. The reproduction of the group is a long-term goal, but one not necessarily at odds with the strategic manipulations of individuals. The marapu bestow blessings of fertility and prosperity so that their own names will be repeated in invocations and their own renown will be carried forth in time. The cult of the ancestors is also, in this sense, concerned with the future—but only as long as obligations to the past are recognized and the heritage of forebears is acknowledged.

Feasting in the ancestral villages promotes the reproduction of the collectivity through the leadership of an individual sponsor. Prayers request the continued fertility of both people and animals, offering animals for sacrifice as metonyms of their masters, small pieces of the greater human community. The politics of value in this situation concern not the


219

"universal" opposition of long-term and short-term interests, but locally specific constructions of value, measured in time and in the relation of animals to human lives.

Time as Value Versus Time as Money

E. P. Thompson's famous discussion "Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism" shows how the historical transition to industrial society in the West involved a restructuring of working habits accompanied by a new "time sense" which changed inward apprehensions as much as external activities (1967, 57). Time in a great many non-Western societies is not something that can be wasted, used up, or saved; nonetheless, it remains a crucial social resource that is deployed in very specific, if variable, ways. In the West, the technological conditioning of the "time sense" and the introduction of time measurement as a means of labor exploitation interrupted a previous work rhythm structured by task orientation and in which bouts of intense labor had alternated with idleness. Thompson (1967, 70) argues that the first notions of compensation for labor time appeared in strategies for paying harvesters, with a "share of the harvest" made proportional to time invested: "Attention to time in labor depends in large degree upon the need for the synchronization of labor."

We saw in part one how a concern with the synchronization of agricultural activities was expressed in the symbolic domination of the Rato Nale, who holds the highest ritual office in the region because of his control of time. Here, however, we see how the early Dutch observers who preached industry and offered a moral critique of idleness were blind to a native construction of time as a source of value because it worked on a larger time scale than they were accustomed to using. Labor hours were not counted in traditional Sumbanese society, and proportional payments were more often pegged to social relationships (and the expectation of reciprocal returns) than to time investments. But although minutes and hours did not constitute a "currency," and were allowed to be "passed" rather than "spent," years and generations were, as units of longue durée , tied to the notion of value in a relatively rigorous fashion. Time was not commodified; rather, it was presented as a characteristic of prestigious wealth objects and a measurable attribute of sacrificial animals.

The limited impact of money on the traditional economy and its relative marginalization or "estrangement" (Versluys 1941, 435), which continues into the present, should cause us to reflect on the great difference between the two statements "time is money" and "time is value." Money, in Sumba, has become a unit for measuring things of significant but not


220

substantial value. The price stated in coins, for example, replaced the somewhat casual measuring of rice and corn staples in petty trade. Value, by contrast, is always connected not only to an investment in time but also to a personal tie, a bond that has lasted through the years. Value accrues as time passes; "money," though, must become "capital" to display the same characteristics.

It is dangerous to translate concepts of economic value too readily into categories such as Bourdieu's famous "symbolic capital" which only obscure their continuing economic character. When traditional valuables are hoarded because they are believed to magically "attract" other wealth, they are a form of "capital" based on indigenous expectations of repayment, and their value is no more "symbolic" than that of a bank's assets. Thus, I do not argue that time results in the accumulation of "symbolic capital," but that it provides a way of measuring and storing values which are "economic" at the same time that they are "symbolic." Symbolism is not capital. It does not follow the same rules of accumulation, scarcity, or debt, and although it can only be shared according to cultural rules, these rules are so various that the concept is hardly of much use to demarcate a relation between the symbolic and economic realms.

Thompson (1967, 95) suggests that in the West the growing popularity of the axiom "Time is money" signaled a "restless urgency, that desire to consume time purposively" which was a heritage of Puritanism and has made leisure problematic. He traces this change partly to the erection of barriers between "work" and "life," and this provides a clue to the difference we have also observed in Kodi. "Time as value" concerns the values of life, not narrowly those of work, and this is where it is so different from "time is money." Lived time consists of sustaining personal and social relations over the years and of enriching those relations with the exchange of goods and services. In a famous passage about the lack of an expression for "time" in the Nuer language, Evans-Pritchard (1940, 103) argued that the Nuer are "fortunate" because they do not have the same feeling of fighting against time or of having to coordinate activities with an abstract passage of time: their points of reference are the activities themselves. This "blessed ignorance" does not mean they are ignorant of the consequences of the passage of time. Among the Nuer, as in Kodi, it would seem to be more the case that time is valued for its long-term processes, for notions of growth and development, which cannot be encapsulated into small units such as hours and minutes, but need to be reckoned in years, generations, and epochs.


221

8
Contested Time
The Feast in Dream Village

Among the first groups of beings with whom men must have made contact were the spirits of the dead and the gods. They are in fact the real owners of the world's wealth. With them it was particularly necessary to exchange and particularly dangerous not to.
Marcel Mauss, The Gift


The play of time transforms ritualized exchange into a confrontation of strategies.
Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice


The perception of "time as value" is inscribed on individual biographies and life cycles, not reckoned with the mechanical units of clocks, schedules, or timetables. To understand how this works, we must move from the level of general formulations to personal experience. In the next two chapters, therefore, I turn to fine-grained descriptions of individual events, where the shape and meaning of exchange transactions can be appreciated in all their specificity. This chapter explores people's attitudes toward time in the short-term frame of a single feast, where the timing of ritual stages becomes the subject of intense debate. Chapter 9 examines a funeral and divination, which encapsulate the longer frames of the human lifetime and the transition to the afterlife.

Both events were documented not only with notebooks and tape recorders, but also with film. The movie camera has the unique capacity to stop time, freeze it, and preserve it, arresting a process and setting aside a visual and audio record of what transpired. Many of the people who appear in this footage had never seen a film before, and had certainly never seen themselves on the screen. They agreed enthusiastically to allow our small film crew (myself, a camera woman, and a sound person) to shoot these events because they wanted to preserve them in "images that could be brought to life again" (nggambaro pa mopiro ). At the time, neither we nor they perceived that "bringing images to life again" could be profoundly disruptive of the ritual process, raising issues of sequence and authority that closely paralleled those debated within the feast itself.


222

Feasting constructs its own particular form of temporality, which relates human lives to longer cycles of renewal through ideas of debt and obligation. Ancestors are promised feasts if they pass on gifts of fertile crops, healthy children, and exchange magic to their descendants. If the feasts are not held, the continuity between the generations is interrupted and more elaborate rituals are required to reestablish harmony. The feast we attended at Mangganipi ("Dream Village") combined efforts to recover the power of an ancestor's dream of wealth with a rite to legitimate newcomers to the village and pass on leadership in the feasting arena. Its most explosive moment occurred when the host yielded to pressures to alter the temporal sequence of events in order to please outside guests. The head priest flew into a rage and made a dramatic statement that he was the guardian of the order, which had been mandated by the invisible audience of spirits and could not be changed to suit the visible audience of human beings. Through his outburst we gain an insight into why so many debates about protocol and procedure focus on the politics of time. When we returned to the same village two years later to show the footage, we also learned how the filmic images we had recorded could be given a new interpretation after the passage of time.

Feasting and the Politics of Time

The importance of temporal sequences—their order, directionality, and the coding of relations between the human and spirit worlds—must be treated within the wider syntagmatic structure of feasts. As chains of events, words following actions, and actions that are later reinterpreted as words, these sequences define an etiquette of precedence, deference, and respect that focuses on the significance of the control of ritual time. Since control of time measures power over invisible forces, existing sequences may be challenged by those who seek to take over control. Even when stages occur in a rigidly prescribed order, their duration, pacing, and execution can be subject to strategic manipulations.

Ordered sequences, intervals, and chronological markers are central to the Kodi concept of ritual; indeed, it could be argued that control of time is the defining feature of ritual, here as in many other societies (Leach 1961). The Kodi equivalent of our term rite , used to designate a range of events from stone dragging and house building to feasting, is katadi marapu , translated as "the sequences required for the marapu " or "the stages relating to the marapu ." It refers to the categories of action having to do with the sacred domain of invisible powers, and specifies that the form of these actions is prescribed and ordered in time. Since katadi carries


223

The head priest, Piro Pawali, invites the spirits of the dead to attend the feast
in Mangganipi, while the host and other priests display their fierceness and
determination in a war dance. 1986. Photograph by Laura Whitney.

with it a sense of ranked succession (the "stages" are usually enumerated from the simplest to the most complex), it involves a hierarchical element. Kodi rites are not simply idiosyncratic responses to misfortune, but part of sequences that have a cumulative weight and may extend achievements and obligations over several generations.

For a woleko feast in a garden hamlet, four "stages of the marapu " must be followed. On the first day, the spirits are invited (palaru marapu ) and welcomed into the central circle of thatched houses. The next evening (raka malo ), the history of misfortunes the village has suffered is recited, and angry spirits are begged to show mercy in exchange for modest offerings of "rice to eat and water to drink." On the third day (raka lodo ), the final invocations are pronounced and buffalo are sacrificed. Then, four days later, a closing ceremony is held to send off the buffalo souls to the upperworld, bearing messages from the human community. Priests are hired by the host to investigate categories and hierarchies in the spirit world, mark off sacred spaces, and establish the rules and boundaries required to fulfill an obligation to the ancestors.

Disturbances of these sequences are also disturbances of cosmological order, and their consequences are serious. The challenge to the intervals established at the feast in Mangganipi shows how the "play of time" is implicated in local political struggles to define ritual authority.


224

Land Rights and a Dream of Wealth

Mangganipi, a name having the literal meaning of "dream,' is an area inhabited by some three thousand people that has been designated a desa , or administrative ward, by local government officials. The feast that we describe occurred in the hamlet of Wyegha, one of the largest settlements in the area, but it concerned rights to land and fertility that go back to the time of Maha Laghora, the first ancestor to settle the area. Dreams for the Sumbanese are occasions to receive communications from the spirit world and are taken very seriously. Through dreams the spirit of a dead parent or ancestor may make a request to a living descendant, disclose special kinds of magical knowledge, or pass on skills in oratory, healing, and the acquisition of wealth.

Maha Laghora dreamed that he had an encounter with two wild spirits who lived in the forest that once covered the region: a small sparrow (kogha ) and a long thin snake (hugha ). As in all parts of Sumba (Adams 1979; G. Forth 1981), an encounter with a wild spirit signals access to a dangerous and illicit source of wealth and power. The wild spirit takes the form of a seductive woman, asking for gifts and sexual favors in return for the magical powers she controls. Maha Laghora established a contract with the wild snake and bird, offering them pigs and chickens at a secret location in the wild. In return he received the gift of "exchange magic" (mangu marapu —the power to ask for wealth and receive it on credit). Whenever he wanted to hold a feast, he could command others to come bringing gifts of pigs and buffalo that would be sacrificed in his name.

Maha Laghora lived around the turn of the century, in the period before the Dutch gained control of Sumba in 1914. At the time of my first field research in 1979 his son, Rehi Canggu Bola, was a respected elder living in the nearby settlement of Homba Karipit. He continued to meet the wild spirits that had helped his father, but he was not strong enough to resist their allure. Rehi Canggu Bola was seduced by the wild spirit woman he saw and entered into a "spirit marriage" (ole marapu ) with the kogha bird. She put many restrictions on his behavior. For example, he had to live in a simple thatch-roofed house; when he tried to build a wooden house with a corrugated iron roof, it was destroyed by winds. She also forbade him from sponsoring any feasts under his own name; his sons could do so, but not him.

Throughout his life, Rehi Canggu Bola had liaisons with women who resembled the spirit apparition he saw in the forest, but he took only one official wife. Each of his mistresses (ole ndaha ) had to be approved by his "spirit wife" (ariwyei marapu ). She was also jealous of the ritual attention


225

he gave to Inya Nale, the goddess of the new year. The wild spirit required that he sacrifice a small pig to her each year during the sea worm festivities, scattering betel nut in the forest (to parallel that scattered on the tombs of his ancestors) and roasting a chicken for her when they returned to the gardens. Whenever he was late or negligent in fulfilling her needs, the spirit wife made her human consort suffer a series of small illnesses. Rehi Canggu Bola had three sons, all of them wealthy and influential: one became head of the administrative ward (kepala desa ), another ran a trade goods shop, a third had substantial herds of livestock. Yet it was always uncertain whether any of them had inherited his special relationship with the wild spirit.[1]

Four years after Rehi Canggu Bola's death his sons sponsored the feast I attended, in conjunction with another faction in the village. Members of three houses that had married into the village and built gardens there wanted to use this ritual effort to renew the fertility of the land and legitimate their claims of residence and group membership in the garden community. Although temporary rights to make a garden of rice or corn ("usufruct") are extended to sons-in-law after marriage, they do not acquire permanent rights until they have contributed to major feasts, receiving guests and offering them sacrificed pigs and buffalo. They may not plant long-term crops such as coconuts, betel palms, cloves, or fruit trees; rather, their status is always a bit like that of illegitimate children, "sitting on the edge of the veranda" (tou la hupu katonga ) and not yet allowed into the central sacred portions of the house.

When the fathers of Ndengi Yingo and Pati Njahamene moved to Wyegha as young bridegrooms, they were given land as "the pig that will not get sick, the cloth that will not tear" (wawi nja kapore, kamba nja madiryako )—that is, as a substitute for the perishable gifts of pigs and cloth usually given by wife-givers. Muda Muda's feast to renew the power of Maha Laghora's dream provided an occasion for them to present the products of their labors (pigs and buffalo, rice and corn) and ask to be accepted as permanent inhabitants of this interior valley. Each wanted to offer a buffalo for sacrifice to the "Lord of the Land" (Mori Cana ), the


226

local spirit who watches over each garden settlement. If this sacrifice was accepted by the spirit, they would obtain equal standing with the founders of the settlement and equal inheritance rights.[2]

Opening Ceremonies: Inviting The Spirits (Palaru Marapu)

The priests who officiated at this garden feast included two prominent ritual specialists called in from the outside—the head priest, Piro Pawali, and the singer, Ra Kamburu ("Ra the Blind One"). An outside mediator is generally believed to be more effective in addressing the invisible audience of marapu , but since he knows little about the local history of misfortune, he must be guided by an orator and diviner who are familiar with the host and his family. The head orator and diviner at this feast, therefore, were both residents of the garden settlement; in addition, they were related as father and son. The son was training to be the eventual successor to his father and had to officiate at a feast on his home territory before he could perform in other settlements.

The rites began with a ritual demarcation of sacred space. The drum was placed in front of the tree planted in the center of the village square, representing the guardian spirit or Lord of the Land, who watches over communities in the gardens and reports back to the higher-ranking spirits in the ancestral village. The head priest and orator took eight large strides toward the drum, thereby defining the axis that would operate throughout the feast: a spatial opposition between the trunk of ancestral protection and the invasion of outside human voices and actors who assault it.

The spatial symbolism of the diagonal axis, traced first in one direction by the priests' steps and later in the other direction by their arrangement of the horns of sacrificed animals, lies in the meeting of different temporal forces. The priests approach the tree altar and recite prayers that reiterate the authority of the founder and the importance of stability: the garden altar must "stand firmly and sit soundly" (ndende ndicako, londo mondongo ) at its present location, offering proof of the first rights to land established by Maha Laghora. The fierce war dances of young men who charge into the village square later appear as violent attacks on this authority, but the dancers will be finally incorporated into the traditional


227

land tenure system once "blood has been spilled and rice has been offered" in the feast. The founding group retains its ritual superiority even after others are granted full cultivation rights; the oldest house thus continues to receive the first fruits of each harvest at its altar.

Offerings of betel nut and fresh water were made to the drum before each sequence of ritual action. Sitting at the topside of the axis, the drum served as the crucial nonhuman intermediary as it was sent on a journey up through the seven layers of the heavens and six layers of earth (pitu ndani cana, nomo ndani awango ) to the upperworld on the eighth level to ask for blessings (Hoskins 1988a). The eight paces taken by the priests counted the stages of their own earthly journey (in words and music), to be carried farther along an invisible vertical axis by the drum. Seven bundles of sirih leaves, one for each level of heaven, and four piles of betel nut were placed on top of the drum to open the four gateways into the spirit village. Then the drum was told to travel "like the butterfly sent off flying, like the bird sent off singing" (kapudu pa pa lerango, kahilye pa ha puningo ) to its distant destination.

Invocations to the spirits began with the call to "listen with the ears, gaze with the eyes" as a small procession formed, beating drums and gongs to circle the settlement, traveling counterclockwise first to the eastern "upper gate" (the pathway back to the ancestral village) and then to the western "lower gate" (the pathway out to the fields and sea). The tracing of a circle suggested a protective metaphor of closure, in which the invisible powers were drawn in and centered on the altar tree and stones.

Dancing was initiated to "cleanse the central plaza" (homba nataro ), and the singer began to chant the history of misfortune in the hamlet. In August 1964, a fire had destroyed all the houses and gardens, and the next year there was a horrible famine because all the rice and corn had been consumed by the flames. In 1986, a singing ceremony had been held to call back the souls of the houses of the settlement, but the curse would not be lifted until this promised feast was completed. The orators burst in with new contributions, completing the singer's story and adding more details so that the whole area could be purified of this humiliation, "washing off its body, rinsing its hair with coconut cream" (pa ihyo ihi, kalapa longge ).

Dancers must be members of the houses sponsoring the feast. Outsiders are welcomed as spectators, but only those who contribute buffalo to the sacrifice can perform in elaborate traditional costume. Headcloths made of traditional barkcloth or store-bought fabric, usually orange or red (the colors associated with the Kodi region), are worn by both men and women. The men's cloth is tied in two peaks resembling horns. The women's is


228

pleated at the center to make a flouncing crest, like that of a cockatoo. The dancers' movement in unison represents and enjoins a spirit of harmony and accord in which opposing forces are brought together and balanced in pursuit of a common goal, as expressed in the following verse:

The shining of the cockatoo's crest

Rere moto kaka

In the shade of the citrus tree

Ela maghu munde

The fan of the rooster's feathers

Bareyo wulu ghalio

On the stone foundations

Ela pombo watu

So the words will beat to the same
     beat

Tana paneghe hama tuku

So the speech will row to the same
     rhythm

Tana patera mera bohe

The drums and gongs continued to beat without interruption all night long, as human feet shuffled about on the dance ground and singers and orators exchanged verses of prayers. In the early hours of the dawn, all participants retired to sleep on the wide verandas, resting until the ceremonies began again that night.

Evening Offerings (Raka Malo): Remembering Time Past

The invocations spoken on the second night commanded the widest audience of human spectators and invisible spirits. A line of priests formed facing the garden altar, with the head priest in the center holding the divination spear. To his right was the feast's sponsor, to his left the co-sponsor, with the main orator at the right end of the line and the diviner at the left. Holding the spear high, the head priest began with a strong exhortation of unity, calling together "all the piglets of one sow, all the monkeys with one grandparent" to unite as descendants of a common ancestor. He reminded them of the many years that had passed since the feast was planned:

Remember the bark of the areca palm

Tana ape ba pa bandalo

Aged for the spirits

A kyomboko marapu

The tobacco has grown old

A mbaku la mandeiyo

The areca nuts have turned golden

Labba papa rara

The sirih leaves have matured

Rou uta pa ha madu

We are not simply amusing ourselves

Njama ghanggu lelu

We are not dancing out of joy

Njama mangguna ate

It is only because of all those who lay
     down and died

Di pimoka a danga mate la ndoba


229

Who passed away and disappeared

A heda la mbunga

That we lift our buttocks to move

Pa kede waingo kere

That we push our feet to step

Pa pangga waingo witti

Combing out our hair

Horo waingo longgena

Washing off our faces

Mbaha waingo matana

To bring our message to the spirits of
     our ancestors and forefathers

Tana dukingo a liyo ela ndewa ambu,
     ndewa nuhi

The years invested in planning the feast, aging the tobacco and drying the areca, were invoked to explain that this feast was no mere occasion of merrymaking, but the fulfillment of an ancestral promise. The long period of preparation demonstrated the collective commitment to its performance, shared by all the members of the hamlet.

His words were followed by many hours of dancing, which, after midnight, became raucous and uncontrollable. A few male dancers began to tremble violently, reeling out of formation and veering dangerously close to the spectators along the sidelines. One man fell into uncontrolled spasms, shaking his spear and shield in a threatening fashion at onlookers. A woman screamed, and others came in to restrain him and lead him away. He said that he had grown afraid, feeling "the breath of his ancestors" in the dark shadows of the crowd. The invisible spirits invited to attend a feast in fact do heighten dramatic tensions—hence the stringent requirements of ritual appropriateness. Participants are supposed to mime violent confrontations, rather than actually strike anyone. They do not lose control unless they disassociate and fall into trance. In this case, the physical conflict was immediately suppressed, but it magnified the sense of foreboding and spiritual uncertainty that prevailed at this stage of the proceedings.

Order was restored by the singer and orators, who conducted a dialogue of song and speech in which the story of their misfortunes was compiled. One speaker initiated the sequence, and was answered by another speaker, often his senior, who verified what he said and expanded on it. The singer then composed a consensus version of words taken from both speakers set to the rhythm of the drums and gongs to travel up to the upperworld:

So they will go up through

No banana tongerongo

The seven levels of the heavens

Ha pitu ndani awango

And the six levels of the earth

Mono ha nomo ndani cana

Piercing all the way to the

No bana kobekongo

Home of Byokokoro guardian of the
     dam

Pandou Byokokoro kori lyoko


230

And Manjalur standing silently beside

Mono Manjalur nduka ndende

Where roofs are thatched with
     feathers

Na kawendengo wulu manu

Where racks are hung with pig's tusks

Na kandilengo ule wawi

And the smoke swirls darkly

Ola ngawuho kawendo

On the veranda darkened by fumes

Ola nggiringo katonga

Whose fire logs are pork fat

Na kahupungo lala wawi

Whose hearthstones are human heads

Na talurongo kataku toyo

These images of opulence and abundance combine deception and wish fulfillment. By praising the wealth of the invisible world, the orators and singer hope to convince the spirits not to make further demands on the living for sacrifices. The rhetoric of sumptuous consumption in the up-perworld is opposed by the rhetoric of poverty and hardship used to speak of the living, for the object of creating these tensions and differences is to push the invisible ones to give more to their descendants and worshippers.

The head orator (tou ka'okongo ) established the final list of marapu who would receive sacrifices the next day. His words were carried by the drum to the upperworld in the early hours of the dawn. As soon as the morning star appeared in the sky, a young calf was killed and its liver examined to see if the message had arrived safely. The signs were positive, so the priests could step down, curling up on the veranda to sleep for a few hours before the larger sacrifices of the next day.

It was as they wakened from this morning rest that the explosion between Piro Pawali, the head priest, and the host and singer occurred.

The Quarrel On The Feast Day: Time Questioned and Intervals Defied

Certain important and wealthy guests were late in arriving on the third day, some of them still desperately trying to assemble impressive animals to contribute to the sacrifice, others attending Mass at the Catholic mission five miles away. The priests had finished their second night of oratory, establishing the agenda of misfortunes, and of the angry spirits who had caused them, and ranking them hierarchically to establish the order of sacrifices. All that remained before the sacrifices could begin was the ritual payment of the priests: token gifts of betel nut, cloth, a bush knife, and a small amount of cash to show that their exposition of the causes of the feast was complete.

The host did not want to proceed until he was sure that his guests, and the animals they would bring, were on their way. When messengers arrived to say that more time was needed, he tried to slow down the


231

sequence of events. Pigs, speared that morning to feed the arriving guests, were being carved and cooked, their livers carried to the priests to make certain they contained no negative auguries. Although the head priest had asked for the mat to be set up for the final payment, the host slipped beside the gong stand to ask the singer to continue the relaxed singing and dancing of the early morning sequence for a bit longer.

Once the head priest heard about this request, he became furious. A roar of disapproval and rage echoed across the ceremonial field as he stood to protest: "How dare you do this to me?" he shouted. "You are trying to push me aside! I am the one to set the ritual order! I am the one who talks to the spirits and controls the timing!" He indignantly started to toss off the cloth he had been given when asked to serve as head priest. He protested that he had just spent the whole night directing oratory and singing, risking his own life, since an error in procedure is punishable with illness or death. Exhausted by his labors, he refused to surrender control or give in to shifts made to accommodate outside guests, especially Christian ones.

His thunderous outburst was ultimately successful: the host and singer, through their intermediaries, assured him they would proceed with the payment. Both of them knew that once it had been made there could be no more singing or dancing until the final invocations and dedication of the sacrificial animals. The head priest was in a position to enforce the temporal ordering he preferred: as the main intermediary with the invisible spirits, he set the stages that had to be followed. Refusing to bend to the host's concern to entertain his guests and soften the delay, he maintained a sharp separation between the rules set by the invisible ones and the social requirements of receiving human spectators.

In the midst of his rage, the head priest explained his reasons for insisting on the integrity of the sequence. The payment closes off the portion of the ceremony in which priests address the invisible ones to determine the reasons for their anger. Once it has been made, the priests' burden is lessened, and the dancing and dedication of the animals can proceed with little threat to their well-being. Before that moment, however, any ritual errors or variation in timing would be blamed on the priests as human intermediaries, and it would be the priest himself, instead of the animal victim, who would feel the full force of the spirits' disapproval.

Once he had thrashed out his differences with the host in such spectacular fashion, the priest sat down on the veranda and draped himself again in the folds of his ceremonial cloth. He had augmented his traditional costume—headcloth, indigo loin and shoulder pieces, and a bushknife at the waist—with a few fanciful Western garments. Now, wishing to show


232

his full disdain for the insult to his authority, he took out his prize possession: a pair of thick dark glasses, which glowered with particular malevolence above a shiny plastic flight jacket. Hiding his rage behind this mask of modern cool, he retreated into silence on the sidelines.

The host's request had been made without thinking of the dialogue with invisible powers in which the priests were still suspended. He acted, rather, in consideration of the visible guests—his relatives, exchange partners, and superiors in the government—who were spectators at a social occasion. The clash as the priest saw it opposed the marapu to the human guests, the invisible audience to the visible one in the ritual performance; the timing of the events was the most important strategic resource that priests through their role as mediators were able to control.[3]


233

After the head priest's outburst, the host and singer agreed to go ahead with the ritual payment of the priests. A pandanus mat was opened up in front of the rock and tree altar, the drum was placed at one end, and plates of betel nut were collected from each of the sponsoring houses, along with small amounts of money. The singer received several meters of blue cloth and a bush knife, the head priest and orators each got modest cash payments (equivalent to about $10), and offerings of betel nut and slivers of silver wrapped in sirih leaves were made to the spirit of the drum.

The Buffalo Sacrifice

After the payment, several hours passed before the first processions of guests began to arrive. When messengers sent word that they were on their way, drums and gongs were beaten in the central field, and spectators gathered along the sidelines near the entrances to the settlement. A parade of male and female dancers, pigs carried on litters, and buffalo, their horns draped with orange cloth, marched into the main arena, with banners of fine textiles hung from poles above them. At the gates of the settlement, a dramatic confrontation occurred: the guests stamped their feet and shook their spears in a mimed attack, while their hosts rushed to greet them with equally vigorous dancing and waving of swords and spears. The "heat" of this meeting was then "cooled" with a gift of cloth, presented as the "shelter from the sun, protection from the rain" (kada ngindi lyodo, kaluri tipu ura ). Betel nut, water, and cooked food followed, part of a sequence of gifts given by the hosts to subdue their guests, demonstrating the effectiveness of exchange to mediate conflict and provide social recognition for the sponsors.

Receiving guests, gossiping with them, and feeding each one a plate of rice and pork took several hours, and the final invocations and sacrifices did not get under way until about four in the afternoon. The head priest, rather exhausted after his morning rampage, stood again in the ceremonial formation, holding a spear and surrounded by his assistants and the sponsors. In a feeble voice, he called down all the spirits invited to share "rice to eat and water to drink" with the human guests, begging them humbly not to be disappointed in the meagerness of the fare offered to them.

Another confrontation occurred on the slaughter field, this time between the houses that had cooperated to host the feast. The sponsor led out his own buffalo to receive the consecratory offering of a raw egg (thrown onto its forehead at the spot where the life force [hamaghu ] is


234

attached); meanwhile, though, two other buffalo were surreptitiously led out from the corrals of his neighbors and similarly consecrated. This caused immediate confusion, since the egg is traditionally given only to the sponsor's buffalo, the "highest nose" (iru deta ), who is sent as a messenger to the Lord of the Land, guardian of the hamlet.

One visitor, a priest from Watu Pakadu, objected when he saw two other buffalo being led into the arena before the sponsor's buffalo had been dispatched. "What are these other buffalo doing here?" he asked crossly. "Leave space for the highest nose to go first!"

Ndengi Yingo, the orator from the Malandi faction within the settlement, answered him sharply: "Each clan is killing its own buffalo for the Lord of the Land." He glanced quickly toward the sponsor for confirmation. The latter nodded; the solution had been agreed on to resolve questions of land tenure in the settlement and grant permanent status to a sponsor's wife-takers. But the visitor stormed out, saying, "None of these sequences is being respected here."

Immediately after the sacrificer's knife had cut the carotid of the sponsor's buffalo (representing the descendants of Wei Yengo), the large one to his right, brought by the Malandi faction, was struck, and then the buffalo of the clan of the cosponsor, Bahewa. Each died relatively quickly, an auspicious sign that the Lord of the Land accepted this triple slaughter and would not resist further efforts by members of the latecomer clans to gain full ceremonial and proprietary rights over the land.

Twenty-one more buffalo were slaughtered in the next hour, in an increasingly elaborate, gory, and violent display of human power over animals. A second big buffalo from Bahewa was the one killed to "close the gate" (ghobo todi binye ) and end the sacrificial sequences. The last animals killed resisted most intensely, stabbing the ground with their horns, bolting halfway out of the central arena, spraying onlookers with blood. But finally all were brought under control, and after examining the livers with some care the ritual specialists pronounced it a successful slaughter: the Lord of the Land had accepted the offerings, although a few ancestors in the cosponsor's group were reluctant to agree to the merger.

Members of the sponsoring houses dragged the carcasses from the central arena, butchering the meat so it could be distributed. Coconut fronds were arranged to form a smooth green surface to catch the blood, and shares of the finest sections (the hind quarters and sides) were cut to present to the priests. Government officials and prestigious guests received the second shares, then a complex reckoning began of all the people in attendance and the relative "meat debts" that were owed to each. A man who contributed a live buffalo or pig had to receive a large portion of meat,


235

but the share might be even larger than he deserved if the host anticipated having to count on his generosity again. From the size of the meat shares handed out, the social "credit rating" of each participant at the feast could be assessed. The soft, bleeding bundle of accumulated prestige was carried home by each participant to show how his fellows had ranked him.

The head priest, Piro Pawali, watched the meat distribution from a distance, occasionally wandering through the field to make sure the choicest cuts were being set aside for him. He still seemed disgruntled, but he would be able to redistribute a generous share of raw meat to his family when he returned. Placing the dark Sunglasses on his nose again and gazing out mysteriously at those who still hurried to finish their work of carving up the bodies before darkness fell, he again withdrew. He in fact refused to attend the final ceremony four days later to send off the buffalo souls to the upperworld, pleading illness and injury. Some speculated that it was his pride that had suffered the greatest injury.

Sequences and Simultaneity: Prayer Versus Sacrifice

Much of the tension and disagreement in this feast came from the head priest's emphasis on sequence (expressing notions of rank, precedence, and genealogy), which was opposed by other participants' stress on simultaneity. The alternation throughout the ceremony of oratory and dancing underscored this contrast, at times bringing forth a recitation of a chain of ancestors, events, and places, at others blending them together in assertions of everyone "beating to the same beat, rowing to the same rhythm."

The most important dramatic focus came in the delicate resolution of the buffalo sacrifice. The sponsor's house was from Wei Yengo, the founding clan of the settlement, the only one with established rights to sacrifice to the Lord of the Land at the tree altar. The head priest's verbal consecration mentioned the Lord of the Land once, dedicating the first sacrifice to him with conventional entreaties that he receive the offering, meager as it was, because the villagers were still poor. The political maneuvering to offer three animals instead of one was not hinted at in the oral rites.

When three buffalo were led into the central arena, a visual statement of simultaneity was being made: members of the clans of Malandi and Bahewa were asserting that they had cooperated fully in sponsoring the feast, so they should also receive ritual recognition and the right to offer sacrifices to the garden deity. The assertion was made in acts, rather than words so that once the buffalo blood had been spilled and the animals'


236

livers examined, the guardian spirit himself could be said to have given his consent. Through this simultaneous offering, claims were made to a more permanent relationship to the land, with the other coresident clans trying to establish their own legitimacy and authority to sponsor future feasts. By not so much stating their equality with Wei Yengo as displaying it, they attempted to circumvent complicated hierarchies of temporal precedence and present a request in flesh and blood (in the most literal sense of a sacrificial gift) instead of metaphoric speech.

This apparently audacious act succeeded only because the sponsor had already agreed to it and was willing to surrender much of his leadership to the other residents of the hamlet who helped him fulfill an obligation to his dead father. Animals cannot, however, be sacrificed simultaneously. Even when the arena is crowded with wounded and dying beasts, they are brought there in a strict order, and this same order will be followed in arranging the horns for display on the spirit ladder and mounting them inside the cult house. In the end, then, an assertion of simultaneity had to defer to an acceptance of precedence, though the common dedication to the hamlet spirit deity assured that the most important intentions of the cosponsoring clans were realized.

The sequential and simultaneous dimensions of feasting coexist with a hierarchical dimension, which encompasses variation between one performance and another into a structure of relative invariance. The head priest insisted on, and was granted, control of the crucial sacred stages: the oratory at early dawn when the message sent by human speakers reaches the upperworld, and the reading of the response of the spirits in the bodies of sacrificial animals. He chose to exercise his authority to keep these acts uncontaminated by the political compromises of shifting land rights and exchange obligations. While his fiery display of temper forestalled a modification of temporal sequences for the benefit of absent guests, he nevertheless agreed to allow the first sacrifice to proceed in a rather unconventional manner. Adjustments to fit contingent circumstances were possible once adherence to the wider sequence was clear.

The head priest permitted the feast to finish after his sense of outrage had cooled, but he would not lend his authority to oversee the closing ceremonies. At this stage, the father and son orators from Malandi, insiders who had legitimated their land claims on the sacrificial field, stepped in to recapture the integrity of the temporal sequences and establish closure by assuring the safe departure of the souls of sacrificed buffalo. Rules of sequencing and precedence were meticulously observed, eclipsing the earlier dispute by assertions of a shared consensus that had already achieved the approval of the spiritual Lord of the Land.


237

Regaining Time in the Upperworld: Sending Off the Animal Souls

The closing ceremonies are conducted to remove impurities from the field of slaughter and guide the souls of the pigs and buffalo sacrificed to the upperworld. As with a human death, the transition from the world of the living is not an abrupt one but a gradual detachment. For four days after the slaughter, the souls of the dead animals remain inside the village; they must then be reminded of why they have died and led carefully out the gate to take their message to the upperworld. Since Piro Pawali refused to attend this ceremony, his place as head priest and leader of invocations was taken by Ndengi Yingo. Members of the fifteen houses who participated in the feast gathered with the priests for this relatively intimate rite assuring the animal souls of a safe passage.

Buffalo horns were carefully mounted, in the order in which they had been sacrificed, on a pole erected beside the garden altar: the sponsor's buffalo, or "highest nose" was at the top, the others below, and pig's jawbones and tusks were hung horizontally on a bar across the middle. The younger diviner started the evening oratory, reminding everyone of the stages leading up to this final one:

Some time ago

Hei wa nene

We planted the gong stand

A wolo bandikya kadanga langa tala

Offering [meat] scorched and roasted

Mono ngara ha tunu ha manaho

Some time ago

Hei wa nene

We erected the post for the drum

A rawi bandikya katuku ndende
     bendu

Distributing tobacco and areca nut

Mono ngara ha mbaku ha labba

The horns of the buffalo

Ha kadu kari

Wait yawning by the gates

Na pondako hangango

The jaws of the pigs

Ha nengo wawi

Pull impatiently on loincloths

Na kalambo habba huala

They haven't yet reached the corral

Njana toma pango a nggallu maliti

They haven't yet entered the fence

Njana duki pyango a nggallu kadoki

Erected by our Mother Binder and
     Father Creator

Hola wolo inya, hole dari byapa

His father followed, carefully going over the reasons for the feast and asking the animal souls to travel to the heavenly corral with the message of poverty and suffering tightly secured to their heads:


238

Bind it like barkcloth to your horns

Pa kapotongo la talo kadu

Secure it soundly on the forehead

Pa kalepango la talo togho

Don't let it slip from the waistband

Ambu waingo pa taloki lali biluna

Don't let it fall from the armpit

Ambu waingo pa bughe wei halilina

Place it at the horse's withers

Tana tahi la kadenga ndara na

Hold it in the back of the canoe

Tana tahi la kamudi cena na

Carry it like stones on the shoulder

Papa holongo rabba watu

Lift it like land on the neck

Papa lembango lemba tanango

When the morning star appeared, a crashing noise was heard, and the "tree" of horns and jawbones trembled with the impact. This was interpreted as a sign that the message had arrived safely and the soul of the burned village had returned to earth. Leaves that had been scattered on the slaughter ground, soaked with blood, chyme, and excrement, were swept into the center of the village and burned.

The horns of the sacrificed buffalo were removed from the tree and arranged on the ground, repeating the order of sacrifice along the axis moving from the garden altar to the base of the field and forming a horizontal "ladder" to replace the vertical one just dismantled. "Our words travel up along the tree of horns to the spirits" the diviner explained, "but the buffalo souls themselves must walk along the land to the village of the dead [parona marapu ], where we will eventually travel to meet them ourselves."

Fifteen plates of cooked rice and betel nut were placed in front of the line of horns, one for each house, and offerings of rice, betel, and slivers of silver wrapped in sirih were made to the drum, gongs, and gong stand. The drums were lifted up and carried out of the village in a procession that reversed the steps followed in the opening ceremonies: they left by the western gate and circled clockwise to the east, resealing the boundaries of the human settlement. Outside the village, a small sacrifice of water, a few balls of cooked rice, and a broken egg was left for the spirits of the wild, to bid them farewell after attending the feast.

The procession returned to the village to the beat of the drums and gongs, this time entering from the east, and sat down on mats in front of the Lord of the Land. The priests and sponsors ate the tongues, lips, and brains of the buffalo. Since their message had arrived safely, the animals were no longer needed as intermediaries; now their vocal organs could be reabsorbed by the human spokesmen. Discussion then turned to the future, and the cosponsor repeated his intention to carry out another feast in two years if prosperity continued and the harvests were good.


239

Redundancy, Rhetoric, and Innovation

In describing the sequences of this garden feast, I quoted only short passages for reasons of clarity and brevity. An important characteristic of ritual sequences, however, is the high degree of redundancy within and between the four stages of oratory and sacrifice. The "ritual agenda" given on the first day when the spirits are invited is repeated, with only minor variations, on the second and third days, and again at the dosing ceremonies.

Each night of oratory opens with a general call to attention and an invocation of the spirits most directly concerned. The local Lord of the Land (Mori Cana ) must be invoked first, followed by the ancestors of the various clans whose descendants are concerned. As the reasons for the feast are given, the findings of the divination are reiterated, and orators from both within and outside the sponsoring houses summarize the ritual agenda from their own perspective. The many repetitions create a contrastive background against which apparently minor variations become significant. The order in which afflicting spirits are cited constructs a hierarchy of the misfortunes suffered, a hierarchy later mimicked in the order of sacrifices.

A great deal of oratorical energy is spent on exhortations of unity in a deliberate effort to cover over differences between speakers. The alteration of oratory with song diffuses differences that may retrospectively be treated as incidental or unimportant. A rhythmic interlude generated by the small orchestra of drums and gongs follows each speech, giving the singer a few moments to compose a compromise version for the listening spirits. His task is formally defined as repeating the words of the orators, setting them in shorter lines so that they can be sung. Since he can repeat only a selection of what has been said, he must make choices. The singer must be a diplomat, reconciling competing versions through omission and tactful ellipses, struggling to satisfy the listening orators that he has not ignored their contributions.

At Wyegha, the singer walked a difficult line separating the sponsor of the feast, who used the head priest's oratory to present the reasons for the feast in view of his own genealogical duties, and the orators, more recent residents who wanted the history of their own moves and gardens to be heard in the invocations. Although the singer repeated the couplet names of their clans, he did not present their litany of hardships to the Lord of the Land for resolution. This unusual approach foreshadowed the joint sacrifice to the Lord of the Land, with the sponsor's buffalo being slaughtered first, followed immediately by the other two.


240

Repetitions may mask complex accommodations and adjustments. Each of the ritual specialists participating was aware that at least the illusion of unity had to be maintained, despite tensions among various parties, to assure persuasive symbolic power. Their commitment to keeping up a front of consensus meant that outbursts like Piro Pawali's occurred "offstage" in direct negotiations with each other or the host, but not in speaking to the spirits or the wider human audience.

Redundancy can serve both as a mask and as a magnifier. For laymen, spectators with no direct interest in the content of the oratory and little knowledge of the events recounted, the repetition of each sequence of oratory in song is simply part of the rhythm of the feast. For the insider—the other orators, members of the sponsoring house, or rival parties—repetitions with slight changes focus attention on points of contention, with restatements required until an acceptable compromise is reached. The lengthiest discussions (all highly formalized and indirect) are not empty rhetoric: the issue at stake may be only alluded to in ritual speech, but it is of crucial importance to those concerned.

Reflections After the Fact: Comments on the Film

Two years after these events, we returned to the Mangganipi area to show the edited version of this feast on film and interview participants and spectators once again. Great interest was shown in all the stages, but particularly those involving Piro Pawali because he had died just a week before our arrival. When noisy children obscured part of his oratory, they were severely admonished: "Don't you realize who is talking now? This man has just died. Be silent for the dead!"

People who watched the film were disconcerted by seeing Piro Pawali's face so soon after his death. Some laughed nervously, others sat in stunned silence. The reasons for this reaction surfaced when we talked to participants after the screening. "It is good that you came to bring his image back to life at this time" the feast's host told us. "Now we understand better what he was fighting against" Ndengi Yingo said. "We have seen the consequences." He went on to explain that the undermining of ritual sequences and priestly authority that Piro Pawali had raged about in 1986 must eventually have been responsible for his illness and death. "People do not have enough respect for the marapu now, especially the younger generation. He shows us how dangerous that is, and now that he has joined the marapu , he will be certain to make the rest of us feel it as well." The film was held up as a moral lesson to show young people the dangers of disturbing ritual time.


241

The diverse responses among spectators at the screening revealed how hotly contested these points still were. When some young boys giggled at the most fiery outburst, others turned to quiet them with great rage. The visual record of a clash of strong personalities was used to debate whether the priest had suffered because he was fighting the right cause or defending the wrong one. A prominent Catholic noted that "all the old priests are dying now" but commented approvingly on the old man's show of spirit and vigor in these exchanges.

The mood was one of mourning for an accomplished older man, whose skill in speaking and splendid performances would be greatly missed. "Even if we do not pray to the marapu , we worry that the feasts are not held properly anymore," one young educated man added. "We will try to learn from his words, which you have brought back from the tomb to allow us to hear."

When All Is Said and Done: Visual and Verbal Elements

The repetition of couplet sequences, place names, the names of spirits, and stages of preparation is paralleled by similar repetitions in other sensory modes: dances that are reenacted on the ceremonial field, always by the same group of women; musical refrains that follow the oratory and gather it up into song. The "message" expressed in these nonverbal channels is a simpler one than the subtle and nuanced manipulations of verbal images. Unity is asserted and acted out in an effort at persuasion and common movement, which usually wins over divisiveness and brings the participants back to their central concern: the fulfillment of ceremonial obligation.

The Kodi distinguish the verbal statements made by priests, which are the "trunk" or "core" (pungena ) of the rite's meaning, from the visual display (the "song and dance" ore mono nenggo , although the term's reference includes also gesture, exchange prestations, and sacrifice). The formal goals of the rite are achieved when the drum-messenger returns with a positive response from the upperworld. The human community may be more concerned with the visual show, especially with political struggles over the order of sacrifice and division of meat, as were so important in this example.

The communicative structure of Kodi feasts creates a division of verbal and visual modes that allows strict verbal sequences to coexist with complicated strategies associated with the timing and arrangement of prestige displays. Much of the indirectness of formal speech operates as a face-saving device, allowing requests to be negotiated without direct confron-


242

tations or refusals. Whenever the spirits are addressed, a humble language is used that underplays the display element of prestige feasts and presents them as motivated only by hardship. Using Stanley Tambiah's (1979) vocabulary, the Kodi use of visual elements is indexical , in that it serves to validate the rank and prestige of the actors, while the use of verbal elements is explanatory , for it relates the ceremony to the wider belief system and a whole web of other meanings. The formal goals of feasts are to explain human misfortune and effect a reconciliation with the spirits involved. Informal goals of the staging and scale of ritual performances, however, may embrace other concerns. By establishing permanent rights to the land at Wyegha, the cosponsors of the feast were also laying the groundwork to sponsor new feasts and thus enhance their own status and renown.

The double-layered quality of Kodi ritual communication is related to its temporality, involving as it does a contrast between short-term and long-term goals. The immediate goal of the Wyegha feast was to open the way to Pati Njahamene and his family to lead at future events. The longer-term goal, which was linked to the first, was to restore the dream of wealth and fertility of Maha Laghora, and to use the fruits of future harvests to expand the community and its ceremonial activities.

The verbal and visual aspects of ritual performance have surfaced in debates about "structuralist" or "dramatistic" approaches to ritual analysis. James Fox's (1979a, 147) articulation of this difference reminds us of its semiotic base:

The two approaches in anthropology that have recently developed to deal with the varying forms of symbolic behavior tend to rely on the analysis of different sign systems. The structural approach, dominated by linguistic analogies, focuses on the logical combinations and cognitive manipulation of definably discrete units; the "dramatistic" approach examines the sequencing of human actions, physical gesture and the theatric display of objects, all endowed with emotional as well as intellectual significance. . . . The choice of one of these approaches reflects more than the personal preferences of individual investigators. . .. It reflects the different modalities of the rituals in different cultures.

Rituals that emphasize "acts of oration" which keep local tradition alive in oral memory, predominate in some areas of Eastern Indonesia, like Roti, where widespread conversions have discouraged ritual performances. On Savu, by contrast, rites emphasize "acts of ostention"—dramatic dis-


243

plays of force or unity that are often carried out wordlessly (Fox 19794, 148-50).

Kodi feasts combine both elements. The formal sequence is primarily a ritual of oration, while private strategies are more often expressed in acts of display or outrage, which occur—like the priest's outburst and the simultaneous buffalo sacrifice—off the official "stage." To a certain extent, the two modalities serve different ends. Whereas the verbal portion of each rite stresses unity, humility, and self-deprecation, the visual portion is a forum for competitive, often splendid displays of self-aggrandizement. The two messages may seem contradictory, but the apparent contradiction is softened by the fact that they are often directed to different audiences: the listening spirits are addressed with words, while the watching human spectators are impressed with actions. Because the words are at least formally more important than the actions, the hierarchy of messages avoids confusion at any given level. As we shall see in the next chapter, a strict division between rites conducted in speech and those performed in actions is also characteristic of death rituals, though here the separation is linked to separate exchange paths.


244

9
Death and the End of Time
Final Exchanges

This is the day that the hands separate
And the feet step apart
One of us going off to dig the gardens and weed the grass
The other to rest in the tombs in a row, the graves in a line
—From a Kodi death song


Death represents the end of one strand of time, the time that an individual spends on this earth, and the adjustment of several other strands, which have become entangled in the time span of personal biography. A funeral provides a final accounting of temporal relationships and a reckoning of exchange obligations. It is the occasion on which the different temporal values of affinal and agnatic ties are made visible. Affinal ties stretch horizontally through Kodi society, binding a man to his wife-givers and his mother's village of birth. The affines are the "givers of life" and remain able to bestow health, fertility, and descendants on their wife-takers. At death, conflicts with them must be resolved so the pollution of the corpse can be removed from the village and the soul can be reclaimed by the patriline. Agnatic ties, in contrast, are traced vertically, up and down the time line of descent. They endure even after the dissolution of the physical body and may be expressed as promises or infractions from the past carried forward onto future generations.

Death rites require a final separation of affinal and agnatic ties, as the deceased is separated from the living and incorporated into the community of the marapu . At the funeral, the authority of the dead person is reclaimed and redistributed by his or her descendants. Silent exchanges with affines and extended verbal negotiations with agnates mark the contrast in temporal modes: the ties of affinity are vital but perishable, while those of agnation are frozen but enduring. A married woman's funeral is held


245

in her husband's village, the final act in the exchange drama that brought her there. A man's funeral is held in his own ancestral home and can reach far into his past. As the dead man takes leave of his family and their affairs are put in order, his descendants must journey back through the generations to understand the reasons for his death. The mystery is probed, suspects are interrogated, and when the angry spirits are found they are placated with gifts and promises. The living bargain with their own ancestors for a bit more time to fulfill their obligations, asking for the blessings of health and long life to hold the promised rituals. Their solutions are personal, not philosophical, but they reveal the private strategies that unravel around predetermined sequences. The predetermined sequence of a funeral must encompass the idiosyncrasies of an individual biography. In studying a single funeral, we see how at times these sequences may themselves be changed, or reabsorbed, into longer-term phases of the life cycles of houses, villages, and clans.

The process begins with the separation of death and the efforts to interpret its meaning for the living.

Mortality as a Break in Time

The news of Ra Honggoro's death broke just as the mounted ritualized combat of the pasola finished. Throngs of elaborately costumed riders, their heads bound with red and orange cloth, their horses decorated with bells and streamers, rode back from the grassy field near the beach along the line of ancestral villages. As they passed in front of Malandi, the taunts of greeting and shouted replies mixed with wails of mourning, and even casual passersby realized what the news must be.

Ra Honggoro was a wealthy and prominent man, who had already dragged a large megalith for his own grave and placed it along the path that the riders and spectators would follow as they returned from the pasola . Three years before, he had sponsored a large feast to consecrate the stone, and hundreds of pigs and several dozen buffalo were sacrificed. In recent months, realizing his illness was serious, he had left behind his garden hamlet and the wide pasturelands where his herd of over a hundred animals grazed to return to Malandi. Moving into the lineage house he had built at another feast some eight years before, he lived close to the graves of his own father and grandfather with his second wife and the three youngest of eleven children. When relatives came to scatter betel on the tombs of their ancestors, he was already too weak to get up to receive them, and the chickens roasted in the morning to read the portents of the new year bore red flecks of danger on their entrails.


246

He had been a vigorous, powerfully built man who did not surrender easily to fatigue or adversity. When he sponsored his first major feast in the gardens, he had chosen a name for his horse and dog that epitomized the destiny he wanted to fulfill:[1] His horse was Ndara Njamagha'a, "the horse that is never satisified," and his dog Bangga Njamanukona, "the dog that shows no reluctance." He saw himself as a fighter, a man who had built up his own fortune and pursued his goals with energy and persistence. The tenacity with which he amassed his wealth had lasted through several major illnesses. But finally, at the age of about fifty, he succumbed to gout and kidney failure, just as others were celebrating the rite of regional renewal.

His widow and daughters were the first to shed tears over his body and stroke it with their hands. The dirges they sang were full of bitter accusations, for Ra Honggoro's death betrayed the very qualities he had identified as his own. "How could you leave us like this, father," wailed his oldest daughter, "you as proud as a noble parrot, you as strong as the lordly cockatoo? How could you go off on your own journey when we are left alone without you ?" "What made you slip this time, what caused you to fall into the trap?" his widow wailed, "when so many times you came back to us, when so often your strength returned?"

Women monopolized the early stages of mourning, clustering around the corpse as it lay on the front veranda, at the point marked for transitions inside and outside the house. They reproached the dead man, accusing him of callousness, of a selfish separation from those who loved him, of disregarding their needs and their dependency on him. Through "the flowing of mucus and the shedding of tears" the living exorcise their feelings of loneliness and betrayal, performing a public drama of hysterical grief and sorrow.

The elaborate display of emotion was directed more to the human audience of funeral guests than to the invisible one of the spirits. The dead man himself never hears these reproaches; his soul sits with the family on the veranda and shares its meals, but remains unconscious until four days after he has been buried. Only then are the lines of communication between the dead and the living reopened, but on different terms, for now the unconscious ghost wakes to discover he has been remade as an ancestor.


247

Ra Honggoro's body is attended by his mother, seated in the upper left of
the picture, with her hair loosened in mourning, while his widow and
daughters, to the right, caress the shroud and sing of their anger and
despair. 1988. Photograph by Laura Whitney.

Visible and Invisible Participants

The movement a person makes from sharing the lives of the living to becoming part of the invisible community of the marapu defines the particular intimacy and ambivalence that characterizes relations with spirits of the dead. Other invisible beings—the marapu who guard the house and village; the spirits of wealth objects, fertility, or garden crops—are addressed and propitiated in Kodi rites, but they have never "crossed over" from the human side and do not have human shapes, personalities, or characteristics. The spirits of the dead, however, retain many human attributes and are nostalgic and jealous of the time when they lived among their descendants. They constantly strive to converse with the living, to reestablish a casual give-and-take in conversation, to return to the reciprocity and equality they enjoyed in their lifetimes. Communications with the dead oscillate between efforts to achieve contact on the basis of common experience and substance, on the one hand, and efforts to keep them at a distance, on the other. The residues of personal memory are plumbed and exhausted in the work of mourning, to achieve a new control over communication with the dead, channeling it away from personal contact


248

into the formal interchange of blessings and obedience to ancestral law. The envy and resentment the dead feel because of their exile from the world of the living has to be transformed into passive resignation, a willingness to serve as an arbiter of tradition rather than a personal advocate.

The spirits of the dead suffer feelings of estrangement, a yearning for renewed closeness with their families. When they try to move closer, the rituals of death send them away: The dead person is moved from the category of one who speaks as a kinsman, a person with individual attachments and loyalties, to one who acts as an ancestor, the detached voice of collective law, who protects and sustains his descendants with impartial wisdom.

Ra Honggoro's funeral displayed the two processes that operate to turn the conversation mode (appropriate to relations with the living) into a mode of ritual exchange (appropriate to relations between the living and dead). The first process, entrusted to affines (relatives from the dead man's village of origin), concentrated on separating the physical substances of the living and dead, by removing the pollution of death that had settled on the house where the corpse lay in state. The second, entrusted to his agnates, was achieved through sacrifices, oratory, and divination. It brought about the transformation of the dead person into a marapu , by summoning the invisible community of ancestral spirits and discovering the cause of his death.

Both processes are concerned with exorcising dangers associated with death, but whereas the first deals with dangers arising from earlier closeness and identification with the dead man, the second identifies the dead man in a collective, legal sense as a member of a specific lineage and the inheritor of debts and obligations. The pollution removed by the affines is the pollution generated by the conflicting web of affinal relations, which bound Ra Honggoro to Bondo Maliti, the village of his mother's birth and the "source of his own life" in Kodi exchange theory. Death and funeral exchanges are the last act in a long affinal drama begun when his mother first married into Malandi. Livestock and gold were presented to her parents to secure the right to claim children as members of the Malandi ancestral community. The wife-givers communicated their assent at that time with gifts of pigs and cloth. Half a century later, they now come to receive the heads of sacrificial animals, the final gift that marks the end of the cycle. Once this last debt has been paid, they renounce any further claims on the soul of the dead man, and he can be fully integrated into the village of his patrilineal ancestors.

The two parts of the process thus end the obligations of affinity even


249

as they reassert the enduring ties of agnation, reconstituting the dead person as an ancestor. The living are bound by many complex and ambiguous exchange ties. In the ceremonies of death, some of these binding ties are loosened, while the force of others is made more salient. As the corpse itself decomposes for the three or four days that it lies on the veranda, the person, too, is decomposed into different kinds of constitutive relationships. Some are sloughed off as the flesh separates from the bones; Others are preserved as enduring and permanent parts of his name and reputation.

Affinity and agnation are contrasted as vitality and immortality, perishable and imperishable, silence and speech. Wife-givers present gifts of cooked meat, cloth, and rice in the inarticulate expression of grief, shared substance, and loss. Lineage descendants and wife-takers bring live animals, gold, and money, gifts to help in reconstituting the house and its members. Once the exchanges are completed, the affines return home, but the agnates remain gathered in the house to investigate the causes of the person's death. The divination is framed as an interrogation of the past. Several generations of family history are combed through as the participants search for sources of disagreement or neglect of ceremonial obligations, discovering points of weakness within the lineage. Working at first from ignorance, gradually supplemented by testimony from the audience of family and relatives, the diviner spins elaborate verbal nets of possibility and speculation, hoping to catch the killer in these nets and confirm the result with spear and chicken divination.

Affinal exchanges involving food and the personal effects of the dead disarticulate and dissolve the dead man's earlier unity, his physical body, into separate parts. Agnatic negotiations with the spirits, in contrast, articulate and construct a shared version of collective history. This interpretation, distilled from memories scattered through many individual minds, is then linked to a future plan of action. Death is the end of one kind of time, that of a person's vital involvement in ongoing exchange, but the beginning of another, that embracing the collective traditions of the lineage. The diviner and his audience gradually shift from speaking to a husband, father, or brother and begin a ritually mediated interchange with a marapu . The personal life history is revised to become part of the li marapu , the ancestral invocation that binds the collectivity to its past.

Making Peace with the Wife-Givers

The death of an important man immediately mobilizes his network of affinal relatives as messengers are sent out to announce the event to all those who must bring contributions to the funeral. In the case of Ra


250

Honggoro, his wife and mother quickly began to bathe the body, binding his knees close against the torso, folding the hands on the chest, and resting him on the right side as a sign that his death was a peaceful one. At the same time, his sons and brothers rode off to summon parties of mourners, who converged on Malandi bearing fine textiles for the many-layered shroud. All those who had given wives to Malandi brought pigs, for a total of twelve; those who had taken wives brought six horses and five buffalo.

Drums and gongs were beaten continuously in front of the house of mourning. Each approaching party was greeted by male and female dancers—the men charging toward them with spears, then retreating after a brief display of anger, the women fluttering their arms gently and beating the ground rhythmically with their feet. The greatest anticipation, mixed somewhat with dread, concerned the arrival of Rangga Raya, Ra Honggoro's brother-in-law, who had also for the last three years been his sworn enemy.

The trouble between the two men stemmed from differences in exchange expectations. Ra Honggoro had twice paid bridewealth to Rangga Raya: some thirty-five years earlier for his first wife, Pati Kyaka, who died after bearing him five children; and again ten years ago for her younger sister, Gheru Winye, the mother of six more. Their brother had insisted on repeating the alliance by replacing one sister with another because he did not want a strange woman to raise his nephews and nieces. As a wife-giver twice over, Rangga Raya was expected to be generous with his sisters' children. Nevertheless, when Ra Honggoro's eldest son, Tonggo Radu, wanted contributions to his own bridewealth, his mother's brother said he had nothing to spare. Angry, the boy went secretly to his corral and took a large buffalo without permission. He called it borrowing; Rangga Raya called it stealing. The case was resolved through traditional litigation, and Ra Honggoro agreed to pay a fine of ten buffalo, only five of which had been presented by the time of his death. The two had not spoken or visited each other since these events.

Funerals are occasions for burying resentments and certain debts as well as collecting on others. After years of furious rhetoric, Rangga Raya came back into Malandi leading not simply the large pig expected of an important wife-giver, but also a buffalo bull. The bull was offered as a wawi njende , something "to stand for a pig,' and, in fact, also for much more, because this disproportionately large gift was presented as the "branch of white millet, the strands of yellow beans" (kalangga langa kaka, kategho kembe rara )—a peace offering extended to end the dispute.

As soon as his party was seen on the road, the drums beat faster and


251

people thronged near the entrance to watch an emotional scene of reconciliation. Rangga Raya walked up into the house of mourning holding a fine man's cloth, which he placed on his brother-in-law's body, sobbing profusely. Then he turned to embrace the widow, his younger sister, and finally even Tonggo Radu, the accused thief. He stood beside the body on the front veranda and made a tearful plea for forgiveness to all present:

We hadn't yet sheathed the knife
     because of our quarrel earlier

Nja pango mija la maloho oronaka ha
      mera ngandu atu

We hadn't yet cut the rope of our
     resentment

Nja pango ropo la kalembe oronaka
     ha mbutu ate

So we didn't drink water together

Mono inde pa inundi weiyo

So we didn't eat rice together

Mono inde pa mundi ngagha

But now let it all go

Henene tanaka

Under the cool shady leaves

Laiyo ela ndimu ndaha rouna

Beside the fruit of the ironwood tree

Laiyo ela komi njaha wuna

In banishing the reasons for the quarrel, he reopened the path of visits, credits, and loans between affines.

The reconciliation was necessary not only for social reasons but also for a ritual one. Because the grave of Pati Kyaka had to be opened in order to place her husband beside her, an additional sacrifice was required to serve as "hot water" (wei mbyanoho ), a libation poured on her grave to allow it to be opened and refilled. Rangga Raya was the only one who could remove the pollution of death from this opened grave by receiving the head of the sacrificial buffalo. Without his participation, the ghost of his sister could not travel with her husband to the afterworld, but instead would remain restless and likely to trouble both households.

Returning Life to the Origin Village

Ra Honggoro's own life was owed to the village of his mother's birth, Bondo Maliti, which had served as the "steps and doorway" (lete binye ) through which she traveled to come to Malandi to marry his father. While relations with his wife-givers had been intense and conflict-ridden, the ties to Bondo Maliti were "cool"—without struggle, but also without much contact over the past fifty years. Still, those villagers remained the only ones who could reclaim his most personal possessions (his betel pouch, his plate, and his drinking gourd), place his body in the grave, and take the life of his favorite riding horse.

The Bondo Maliti contingent did not arrive until the third day after his


252

death. They had wanted to delay their entrance until they had been joined by family members who lived in the eastern part of the island, but were finally persuaded to come by Ra Honggoro's sons, who feared the body would not last another day in the intense heat. About fifteen people from Bondo Maliti marched in with a long-tusked pig on a litter covered by a fine cloth, led by Ra Honggoro's cross-cousin and the present headman of the township. Each person brought a fine textile to place on the corpse, along with tears and laments. Another man's cloth was draped over the neck of the Horse That Is Never Satisfied, which was tied under the house just below his master's body so that Ra Honggoro's soul could ride on his own horse in the procession to the tomb.

After they had been seated in the house and served a meal, preparations were made to move the body. Some younger members of the Bondo Maliti contingent were sent to open up the stone tomb and wrap the bones of Pati Kyaka in new sarungs to prepare her to receive her husband. Ra Honggoro's eldest son stepped up to mount his father's horse, leading the procession from the ancestral village to the tomb. His brothers and agnates went into the house to lift up the body and carry it, bound in a shroud of many layers of textiles, to its final resting place.

The moment the corpse was moved from the house provoked a great display of emotion from the women who had been guarding it and singing to it for the past three days. As other arms started to lift it up, they resisted violently, wailing and shrieking, desperately caressing the bundle of cloth one last time before it left. The men at this time were grim and determined, showing little feeling as they lifted the bundle onto their shoulders and walked after the horse out the village gates and toward the stone grave, followed by several hundred distraught mourners.

Members of the origin village received the body at the tomb, placing it inside the chamber along with many other textiles and gold omega-shaped ear pendants (hamoli ryara ). The gold was given as "tears from the house" so that other rnarapu in the land of the dead would know that he was an important person. As Ra Honggoro was arranged in the grave, the Horse That Is Never Satisfied galloped four times around the tomb; the steed was then led to the representative of the deceased's mother's brother's house. Holding on to the bridle, the mother's brother struck at the neck three times with a bush knife, thus displaying his right to take the horse's life, but then choosing to spare it.[2] A younger man in the party mounted


253

the horse and rode it triumphantly up and down the field before the gathered spectators.

As groups of sobbing women headed back to Malandi the horse was ridden to Bondo Maliti where a special ceremony was performed to bring its soul back from the journey into death. Water from a sacred source was placed in a wooden plate and circled over the horse's head four times to the left, then a kambukelo leaf was used to sprinkle several drops on the horse's forehead. This rite was designed to separate Ra Honggoro's soul from the horse and end his attachment to it, so he would not be jealous of its new master and cause the horse to sicken, fall, or be stolen. The circling was then repeated to the right, to fix the hamaghu or life force at the forelock. Members of the mother's brother's contingent now returned to Malandi to receive a ritual payment of a bush knife and spear (kioto bilu, nambu mbani ), presented on a plate with betel and a small amount of money, in payment for serving as the "counterpart to bury the dead" (nggaba pa tanongo ).

The funeral sacrifice (kaparaho ) must be performed in front of the dead man's house by members of his origin village or their representatives. Ra Honggoro's mother's brother from Bondo Maliti struck three times at the neck of the first sacrificial bull, then handed the bush knife over to another wife-giver to finish the slaughter. Government regulation limited the total to five large animals: three bulls and two large cows past reproductive age. The animals' livers were inspected to confirm that Ra Honggoro's soul had left on its journey to the afterworld, and their bodies were cut in half latitudinally, separating the head and front legs from the rear quarters.

This division of sacrificial meat is done only at funerals; it represents the separation of the dead man's body into the maternal contribution (the "life" received from affines), which must be returned to the origin village, and the paternal contribution, which remains in his village and is divided among the guests. The front part of the buffalo's body is strongly tabooed for all agnates of the deceased—not just members of his house, but everyone in his ancestral village. Any agnate who took a bite of this meat would be "eating his own brother;' consuming flesh that was part of his own substance, and certain to die from the poison of self-cannibalism.

The heads and front sections of the buffalo were presented to the people of Bondo Maliti, but they asked that a pig also be killed and divided


254

horizontally to accompany the spear and knife that they used to open up the dead man's tomb. No pig was available, so a young colt was presented to replace the pig and "lighten the burden" of those who had to return home carrying the pollution of death. The mother's brother's contingent came back with five half-carcasses; the meat from the body was divided among all the members of Bondo Maliti, but that of the heads was set aside, dried, and salted for a special rite to be held four days later.

The Final Time of Separation

As the guests returned home with their bloody burdens, the village of Malandi ceased activity for several days. Only close family members remained in the house of mourning, where the soul of the dead man lingered, still unconscious of the fact of his death. The spot where his corpse had lain in state was guarded by an older female mourner (tou kalalu ), in this case his mother, who followed a series of taboos that identified her with the corpse.[3] From the time of his death, she remained confined within the house, her hair loose and disheveled, unable to bathe or go out in the sunlight—in fact, almost completely immobile. She was also forbidden to hold on to burning logs or a knife, or to come in contact with anything hot or sharp. She took the place, in effect, of Ra Honggoro's own consciousness: her release from these restrictions would not come until he became aware of his fate, turning into an ancestor instead of a human being.

For four nights after the burial, Ra Honggoro continued to receive a serving of food at each family meal. His plate and cup remained at their usual places, and family members spoke to him casually, as his ghost was believed to stay among the living until the final rite. On the evening of


255

the fourth day, a small bamboo platform was erected in the bush just outside the village, and the "counterparts to bury the dead" from Bondo Maliti came back to Malandi to weave small baskets of coconut leaves and rice (kahumbu ) for the last meal fed to the soul of the dead man. The four first baskets made, marked with a long leaf-stem, were the sacred ones reserved for Ra Honggoro's ghost. They had to be boiled in absolute silence in the wee hours of the night. Others, distributed to kinsmen and affines, were boiled afterward and hung in the right front corner of the house.

At dawn, the widow and her children took the rice baskets, two pouches of rice, four ears of corn, and a bit of mashed banana to the platform outside the village. Two daughters waited to keep watch until a bird came to come nibble at them, a signal that the dead man's soul was ready to be sent away.

Ra Honggoro's soul realized he was dead at that moment. His daughters said they walked quietly back beside his stone tomb and overheard sobs, very faintly, from within the tomb: "We knew that father was singing his own funeral dirge." They bore the news to Malandi, and all the houses in the ancestral village began to bring contributions of rice and other foodstuffs for his final meal. Funeral gifts were redistributed to reciprocate those individuals who had been generous to the house of the dead man: textiles were given to those who brought horses or buffalo, and livestock were given to two of the wife-givers, who brought impressive pigs.

A pig was speared and divided latitudinally to receive the guests: the front part went to the "counterparts to bury the dead," the rear to the other guests and members of Ra Honggoro's own clan. Two plates, one sacred and one profane (tobo hari, tobo kaba ), were brought down to the lower veranda and offered to the mother's brother, along with the dead man's own plate, glass, spoon, and drinking gourd and the cooking vessel used to boil rice baskets for the final meal. A chicken was sacrificed to check that his soul was ready to leave. No food was served to him on the plate this time. Instead, shares of rice, chicken, and pork were placed on a kambukelo leaf (the same kind used for the blessing of the sacrificial horse), the marker of a transaction conducted with him no longer as a member of his house and village but as part of the invisible community of the marapu .

Silently, the mother's brother beckoned to the female mourner to come down out of the house and seat herself before him on the veranda. She came down, first covering her head with a folded textile to shield it from the sun's rays. He dipped the kambukelo leaf in the water used to separate off the dead soul and dabbed a bit of it on her forehead, calling back her


256

own soul from its long journey into the land of the dead. He pushed the textile off her head and gathered her long, unruly locks in his hands, helping her to bind them again in a knot and prepare for her ritual bath.

Shares of cooked food, raw pork, and cloth were then distributed among the guests, wife-givers, and wife-takers, who returned home with sections of the appropriate half of the sacrificed pig. The "counterparts to bury the dead" brought the dead man's plate, glass, cooking vessel, and spoon back to his origin village, where they were cast off to the west to follow him into the afterworld. Then a special meal was prepared of the tongues and the meat taken from the buffalo heads, which was eaten by those who had removed the pollution of death. From then on, Malandi and Bondo Maliti could continue to "give and take back the life" that was transferred through marriage alliances. This funeral marked the end of one series of affinal obligations, but it also reopened the path for new exchanges; because the proper sequences had been followed, the way was not blocked by the personal resentments of a still-too-human ghost.

The Meaning of Final Exchanges

Affinal exchanges are conducted almost as a pantomime: with few words, a transfer of substances and perishables is carried out to neutralize the dangerous contamination that the living experience in proximity to the dead. Women mediate between the living and the dead; their identification with the dead reveals a "feminization" of the dead soul itself, made passive and compliant for its transfer to the afterworld (Hoskins 1987a). In the words of the funeral dirges, women mourn their dead by recalling the feelings of detachment and separation that they experienced as brides, transferred to another house and village. The funeral is the time when obligations to maternal relatives must be remembered, because only members of the origin village can remove the pollution of death and cleanse the house of the filth that collects around the rotting body.

Ra Honggoro's funeral did, however, reveal many of the tensions and conflicts that can arise among affines as exchange obligations become the subject of disputes and litigation. The dissolution of affinity divides the dead person into that portion which was contributed by his mother's blood and the protective power of her relatives, and the portion that will remain within the patriline, elevated to the status of an ancestor. And after the silent transactions of the initial funeral, this second stage requires an extended verbal interrogation.


257

The Divination: A Journey into the Past

A funeral divination has much of the suspense of a detective story, as a whole array of spirit "suspects" are summoned down to the mat where rice is scattered, then sequentially interrogated as to their possible motives for withdrawing protection from the dead man. The real killer might be an ancestor, a guardian deity of the village or garden hamlet, or a wild spirit-companion who has been inadequately compensated for her gifts of wealth.

A week after Ra Honggoro's funeral, two diviners came to the house of mourning to begin a several-hour-long investigation of the causes of his death. The older one, Rangga Pinja, was a blind orator from a neighboring village who scattered rice and spoke the invocations to each of the spirit suspects. His younger assistant, Rendi Banda Lora, held the divination spear outstretched in his arms—the handle grasped by the left hand, the right arm traveling the length of the spear with the right thumb extended beyond the point. As the diviner presented questions to the marapu , his assistant lunged toward the wall of the sacred right front corner (mata marapu ) where the spirits were believed to come down. When his thumb touched the wall, the spirit's answer was positive, and he murmured his assent; when it fell short, the answer was negative, and he called back "Aree!" to his companion, a signal that the interrogation must continue.

The first spirit summoned was the spirit of the divination spear—mone haghu, mone urato ("the Savunese man, the divining man"), a magical object imported to Sumba from the small island of Savu and used as an intermediary to contact the other marapu . The spear probes the anger of the invisible ones, its sharpened tip cutting through their reluctance to reveal the truth or falsity of the diviner's speculative scenarios. As soon as the spear holder had confirmed that the spear's invisible spirit was present, the diviner began to "bring down the monkeys"—that is, to call on all the marapu who may have had reason to be upset:

From your throats and your livers

Wali kyoko wali y'ate

From your backs and your bellies

Wali kabendo wali kyambu

We bring you our language and
     speech

Mai dukinggumi paneghe patera

To ask you about a person

Tana pa kalirongo a toyo

Who was entered by death

Na tamaka a mate

Whose disappearance arrived

Na dukingo a heda


258

What was the anger and the
     resentment

Ngge nikya a mbani a mbuha

Which caused his death?

Na pa orongo a mate?

Was there something skipped like a
     forgotten piece of thatch?

Ba nei jo kingo a katadi hambule la
     rapito ngingo doyo?

Was there something missed like a
     bamboo slat out of place?

Ba nei jo kingo pa letengo la boki
     onggolo doyo?

Metaphors for the vulnerability of the person use the idiom of the vulnerability of the house, which was so weakened by the intrusion of death that the final divination is described as a rite "to mend the walls and close the gap in the bamboo slats" (wolo handa, todi byoki ) where danger first came in.

The diviner's search moved through space, from the house and ancestral village where the funeral was held, to the various smaller settlements where the people of Malandi cultivated their gardens and the pasturelands for Ra Honggoro's extensive herds and unfinished stone house. Early hints suggested that the scene of the crime lay in distant garden lands, where one of Ra Honggoro's direct predecessors had made a promise to the marapu which was not fulfilled. A positive response was obtained for this first, exploratory suggestion of the reasons for his death:

Great was the wrongdoing of Raya

Bokolo pa ngandi Ryaya

That he didn't heed the speech of the
     souls of grandparents and
     ancestors

Nja la tanihyada ha paneghe ndewa
     ambu, ndewa nuhi

Short was the life of Raya

Pandako pa deke Raya

That he didn't set aside the words of
     souls of mothers and fathers

Nja awa ta bandalango liyo ndewa
     inya, ndewa bapa

The questioning now returned to the genealogical line, since the spirits of Ra Honggoro's father, Tonggo Radu, and grandfather, Maha Rehi, seemed most directly involved. Both, however, refused to come down when summoned. The diviner protested this recalcitrance by reporting it to the higher deities:

Stepping with their feet

Pangga ha witti

They wouldn't step with their feet

Nja pangga ha witti

So a dam came to block our speech

Pa kawata kori lyoko a paneghe

Raising their buttocks

Kede ha kere

They wouldn't raise their buttocks

Njaha kede ha kere


259

The flow of water stopped for our
     words

Pa hanamba nimbia weiyo a patera

They won't cross their legs on the
     mat

Njana mbara mbica witti la nopo

They won't fold their hands by the
     rice

Njana hangga hara limya la wiha

Exasperated that his spirit intermediaries did not produce the needed witnesses, the diviner himself stepped back and allowed his assistant to begin a new series of questions, insisting again on the distress of the living and their need to establish an answer.

The younger man threw himself into the fray with great speed and vigor, invoking the deities that oversee divination within the house and can constrain reluctant ancestors to appear:

The loincloth must be unfolded, I say

Pa kawakaho kalambo wenggu

The basket must be opened, I say

Pa bunggero kapepe wenggu

I speak from the trunk of mother

Yayo wali pola inya da

No more chasing lost horses

Tana ambu kandaba ndara mbunga

I speak from the building of father

Yayo wall dari bapa

No more straining the throat in vain

Tana ambu koko wei kaweda

Something made the throat close in
     anger

Nengyo diyo pa wolo hudu koko

Something made the liver tight with
     rage

Nengyo diyo pa rawi reka ate

A reason the pig fell in the hunter's
     net

Uru pa nengyo pokato wawi kalola

A reason the horse tripped on the
     reins

Uru pa nengyo ndara nduka nambi

Finally he succeeded in contacting the spirits of two resentful ancestors who agreed to come down to answer the questions of the older diviner. He then stepped back and allowed his superior to continue the questioning.

Rangga Pinja established that the trouble came from Lolo Peka, Ra Honggoro's pasturelands in the distant region of Balaghar, where he had made a pact with a wild spirit that was not fulfilled. Once he verified the role of the wild spirit (the one "close as the pouches of a betel bag, the folds of the waist cloth" ndepeto kaleku, hanguto kalambo ), he broke out of the ritualized dialogue with the spirits to ask his human audience to supply some of the missing details. "Who was this secret spirit-wife of Ra Honggoro's?" he asked them. "Has anyone seen her? Is she the same as his grandfather's secret consort?"


260

Relatives from the pasturelands in Balaghar remembered that they had heard stories of a tall beauty from the sea who had formed a pact with one of Ra Honggoro's ancestors. Others said they had seen her from a distance near his buffalo, or wandering off into the forest with him. She could take the form of a megapode, a wild forest hen with long legs who lays very large eggs. The megapode is a prodigal of fertility and productivity, but she is a bad mother: she builds elaborate mud nests for her eggs, regulating the temperature for incubation by means of elaborate tunnels, but then leaves her young to hatch on their own. Megapode fledglings are born as orphans, deserted by their mother, and forced to make their lives on their own.

The megapode bird represents reproduction without nurturance, fertility without feeling, and is associated with the rapid growth of wealth and descendants but improper care. In the same way, a wild spirit-wife may give riches, but in return she saps the life of her human consorts, or demands sacrifices of them and their children. Ra Honggoro had earlier promised to offer a long-tusked pig and a buffalo with elbow-length horns to the wild spirit when he gave a feast in the gardens, a vow he had neglected to carry out. As a consequence, his spirit consort began to weaken him until he agreed to comply with her wishes.

She broke apart the bridge leading
     over the river

Na mbata nikya a lara lende loko

She extinguished the flames of the
     torch by the tides

Na mbada nikya a api hulu mara

She shortened his life using the same magical power that had earlier increased the fertility of his herds and added to the splendor of his feasts. Through the image of the neglected wild bird-woman, Ra Honggoro was presented as a victim of his own careless pride.

The divination revealed, however, that the wild spirit did not do her work alone. She had accomplices among the guardian spirits of the hamlet, who also felt that a debt to them had not been repaid. To probe the reasons for this discontent, Rangga Pinja once again opened up the floor to the human audience, who told him stories of illnesses and deaths in the garden hamlets that they suspected were part of the same complex of guilt.

Because no one knew why the spirits wanted them to feel guilty, the diviner asked for two chickens to use in intermediate offerings. The first. was dedicated to the spirit of the divination spear, to confirm that they were still moving in the right direction ("toward the tail of the bay horse, toward the base of the knife's sheath"). The second was dedicated to the


261

Lord of the Land, the angry garden spirit, who was promised a sacrifice for renewed fertility once the mystery of the death was solved.

The signs in the chickens' entrails were positive, so the questioning continued. The diviner traced the locus of discontent to the settlement at Homba Rica, where the problem seemed to concern rice spirits that had been displaced without ever having been properly restored. "Did rice fields burn in this area? Were there ceremonies to call back their souls?" he asked his audience.

Yes, he was told, paddy had once burned on the stalk—some fifty years ago—and the souls had been called back by Maha Rehi, Ra Honggoro's grandfather. But one old man remembered that once the spirits had been called back, the villagers should have held a singing ceremony (yaigho ) before planting to bring the lost rice souls inside the gates of the hamlet—and that ceremony had never taken place. The burnt rice was left outside, unable to enter the hamlet and growing increasingly impatient.

As soon as this negligence was established, Rangga Pinja called on all those present to commit themselves to holding the long-delayed ceremony. They agreed to try to hold it within a year, a promise the diviner repeated to the angry spirit:

This is why monkeys fell in the dark

Mono a pena ba koki mandi myete

Cockatoos flew in disarray

Kaka walla nggole

The trunk of the horse post

Oro kapunge pola ndara

Traveled on the road of our words

Helu wallu lara a paneghe ma

The great source of water

Oro mata wei kalada

Sailed on the current of our speech

Tana tena wallu teko a patera ma

So 1 say to you now

Mono ba hei wyali ba henene

When the waters start to flow anew

Ba helu kendu a weiyo

Go to wait at the edge of the planting
     post

Tana kadanga waingo rema ela tilu
     wu patuku

For the rice of the sea worms

A ngagha nale

When the rains begin to fall

Ba helu mburu aura

Be patient by the seed platform

Kamodo waingo mangga ela londo wu
     pawini

For the rice of prohibitions

A ngagha padu

Brought to the garden hamlet

Tana tama waingo witti ela bondo
     lihu

At the feet of Mother of the Land

Tane waindi witti a inya mangu tana

Carried to the corn granary

Tana duki waingo limya ela
     kalimbyatu


262

In the hands of Father of the Rivers

Ghughu waingo limya ela bapa
     mangu loko

Once the rainy season began, he affirmed, the proper sacrifices would be carried out to bring the lost rice souls back into the hamlet and formally place them under the guardianship of the Lord of the Land.

Rangga Pinja rested after finally getting to the core of the marapu's distress ("the trunk of the horse post, the great source of water"). His assistant continued the interrogation, asking if there was any other unfinished business in Lolo Peka, Ra Honggoro's pasturelands. The spear indicated that something remained which could threaten the health of the livestock:

There is leftover speech

Nengyo oro paneghe

Where you built the hen's perch

Ela pandou pa woloni keka manu

There are traces of words

Nengyo oro patera

Where you made the pig's trough

Ela pandou pa rawini rabba wawi

Making the tails entangled

Ba wolongoka kiku na pa tane

Making the snouts bite

Rawingoka ngora na pa katti

Slipping into the hunter's net

Pa nobongo waingo a duki rembio
     wawa

Struck as they cross the forest

Pa ghena waingo pagheghu la
     kandaghu

The local spirits, it seemed, were upset because when preparations were made to build the stone house, a feast should have been held to announce these intentions to the marapu of the region. In the rush of assembling all the necessary materials, however, this stage had been omitted; those involved did not even sacrifice a chicken in the house to tell their own ancestors. The diviner recommended an immediate apology, with the modest sacrifice of a small pig to persuade the local spirits to wait until the stone house was finished to receive their full share.

The last offense discovered was a minor one: the Elder Spirit of the clan was annoyed because people had planted tobacco beside one of the houses in the ancestral village. This violated the division of space between the productive centers in the gardens and the centers of worship in the ancestral villages, the "land of sea worms and prohibitions" (tana nale, tana padu ). A chicken was offered to ask forgiveness ("stroke the liver, caress the belly," ami y'ate, ghoha kambu ) and assure the Elder Spirit it would not happen again.


263

Closing Off the Opening Between Past and Present

At last, the investigation of all the causes, great and small, of the discontent of the marapu was finished, and the diviner made his concluding statement. He began by reminding his listeners of the problems he had not found: Ra Honggoro had not been poisoned, there was no sign of witchcraft, and there was no need for a vengeance killing. The neglected feasts that they had learned of could be reasonably carried out in the next few years, as long as the ancestors agreed to accept the terms offered and not pass on resentments to future generations. The human and spirit worlds must remain separate, and these promises would provide occasions for them to reunite briefly. This funeral, though, must conclude with the reestablishment of distance.

The marapu were entreated not to take any more victims from the house, which death had emptied of all valuables. With Ra Honggoro's death, no worthy descendants remained to carry on the tradition:

No one here speaks as a great man

Njaingo na paneghe bei kabani

Among the fruits of the yellow tree

Ela wu malandi ryara

No one talks like a great woman

Njaingo na patera bei minye

With the juice of the malere vine

Ela wai malere lolo

No roosters are left to crow

Njaingo manu kuku

No dogs are left to bark

Njaingo bangga oha

Only snails with no throats

Di pimikya ha buku nja pa koko

Only spiders with no livers

Di kanehengoka ha nggengge nja pa
     ate

We are all alone and lonely

Kanehengo mono kariyo

A special plea to the Great Spirit at the house pillar, protector of the inhabitants of the house, raised the threat of total devastation:

Mother at the edge of the corner

Inya na londo ela tundu wu kabihu

Father at the top of the roofbeam

Bapa na ndende ela tane wu karangga

If you break the bracelet

Ba na ndelako kalele

Who will fetch you water

Nggarani na woni weiyo

If they are all gone and silent?

Na kanagha ka dana?

If you snap the rope

Ba na nggonggolo kaloro

Who will serve you rice

Nggarani na woni ngagha

If they are all wiped out?

Na kanguhu ngoka dana?

There will be no one left

Njaingo dangu wemu we damu

To bind the tall enclosures

Ba wolongo kanduru pa madeta


264

There will be no one there

Njaingo dangu wemu we damu

To repair the many corrals

Ba rawingo nggallu pa madanga

Here on the wide stone platform

Yila kambattu mbeleko

Here in the ancestral village

Yila parona bokolo

This pathetic portrait of the family's decimation by death and disease, leaving it so weakened that even the simplest ritual tasks could no longer be carried out, was intended to convince the marapu that they really must leave their living descendants alone. "Now is the time to close the floor-boards, to mend the walls," the diviner repeated in the last verses he spoke. "Let the hands separate, let the feet step apart."

These words were accompanied by actions to confirm the divination and commit participants to the promised schedule of ceremonies. A pig was speared to appease the angry spirit-wife who had provided such wealth:

You who hold the buffalo's rope

Yo na ketengo a kaloro karimbyoyo

Close as pockets of a betel pouch

A ndepeto kaleku

You who guard the horse corral

Yo na daghango a nggallu ndara

Tight as the folds of a loincloth

A hangato kalambo

Who snapped open the yellow fruit

A mai mbiki nggama wuyo rara

And chewed the green leaves with us

A mai routta nggama rou moro

Since that meeting at the spring

Ba na mata wei pa toboko

Since the encounter at the vines

Ba lolo ghai pa rangga

Soften up your throat

Ropo moka a koko mu

Stretch out your liver

Mbomo moka a ate mu

The earlier intimacy of Ra Honggoro's rendezvous with the wild bird-woman of the forest was evoked here to suggest establishing a new sacrificial relationship with his descendants, who hoped that by honoring his earlier commitments they too could enjoy the prodigious reproduction of his herds of buffalo and horses. The capriciousness of wild spirits is notorious, however, so there was no certainty that she "would like the smell of their bodies" and accept the same intimacy with other members of the family.

Two chickens were killed to repeat promises to hold feasts: one for the rice spirits in Homba Rica, the other for the promised ceremony near the buffalo corral. The next three sacrifices were addressed directly to the spirit of Ra Honggoro. The diviner called him to come down as a kinsman and then tried to convince him to leave as a marapu :


265

Hear this now, cross-cousin!

Rongo baka hena, anguleba!

This day our hands must separate

Yila lodona limya hilu hegha njandi

Our feet must step apart

Witti ndimu deke njandi

Do not come to the garden hamlet

Ambu ngandi ela bondo lihu,
     kalimbyatu

Do not weed the grass, dig the land

Ambu ndihi ela batu rumba, dari cana

We are just playing with baubles

Ta mangguna waingo hario

We amuse ourselves with trifles

Ta manghana waingo lelu

I must tell you cross-cousin

Yo dougha taki anguleba ba henene

We separate completely on this day

Tana ta hegha baka yila lodona

So you can go to the spirit mother,
     spirit father

Tana duki wabinikya ela inya marapu,
      bapa marapu

Arriving at the ancestral village, wide
     stone foundations

Tana toma wabinikya ela parona
     bokolo, watu mbelako

Here you must leave behind your
     brothers, your children, your wife,
     your grandchildren

Hengyo iyi mandala gha ena ha
     dungo kambunamu, ha anamu, ha
     ariwyeimu, ha ambumu

All these—including your daughters
     and their families

Ngara iyiya, mono ena a nobo vinye

So the separation will be complete

Tana heka a hambolo

The chicken will mark the boundary

Hengyo a manu na hiri a lara

Between the paths of our feet

Na ndiki ha witti

The mixture of language in this text between casual forms taken from intimate conversation ("I must tell you now, cross-cousin . . .") and formal oratory displays the ambivalence of the ritual moment: the diviner reminds Ra Honggoro of ties of blood and friendship between them, but then asks him to go away, to accept the invisible spirits of his ancestors as substitutes for his living family. The deceased no longer needs to join his family in the fields or share their concerns, which appear as mere "trifles and baubles" of no more. consequence. The prayer began informally, gradually increasing in formality and ritual distance as the listener moved into the category of a marapu.

An egg was offered to cleanse the members of the household, "bathing their bodies and rinsing their hair with coconut" after the rituals of death. The egg was addressed as a bei wyoto, a female beast past reproductive age, whose now-sterile womb could no longer produce new life. The egg offering stood for the end of a process, the mourning and the taboos of the tou kalalu.

The last sacrifice was of a small chick to seal off the house, "closing the gaps in the floorboards, so feet could not fall through, mending the holes in the walls, so hands could not slip out." Ra Honggoro was called down


266

for the last time as a kinsman, then sent away with a series of lines reflecting on the inevitability of human mortality:

Once again I say to you, cross-cousin

Hena wali baka anguleba nggu

We all die like Mbyora at the banyan
     tree

Ba mate nggama Mbyora la maliti

There is no stopping the flow of the
      waters of Langgaro

Nja pa weinggelango a wete wei
     lyanggaro

We all pass away like Pyoke at the
      waringin trunk

Ba heda nggama Pyoke la kadoki

There is no damming the current of
     the tobacco river

Nja pa hundaronka liku loko mbaku

We only stop to rest as we stand

Ghica piyo li hengahu ndende mema

Here on this earth

Dani yila panu tana

We only pause to sit for a while

Ghica piyo li lyondo eringo mema

Here in the shade of the tree

Dani yila maghu ghaiyo

The tide goes down at dusk

La lena ndiku myara

The river sinks to meet the sea

La nggaba kindiki lyoko

And what are we to do?

Mono a pemuni dana?

The knife has already cut his death

A kiri kioto ndouka nggaka a mate

The paddy threshed for his passing

A pare ndouka ndali nggaka a
     mbunga

The metaphor of a final crossing over the river of death consigns Ra Honggoro to join Mbora Poke, the Kodi ancestor whose death also marked the origin of night and day. His widow then repeated similar verses of fatalistic resignation as she placed an offering of betel nut on his tomb. The ghost of Ra Honggoro accepted this last gift, showing that he accepted the irrevocability of death and released the living, so death would not return to their house.

Silence and Speech, Affines and Agnates

The process by which Ra Honggoro was moved from the category of kinsman into that of ancestor raises several important questions about the temporal relation of the visible and invisible worlds and the possibilities for communication between them.

The divination was not a simple "who done it" but an investigation of social tensions and collective history that encompassed much more than the details of Ra Honggoro's own life. For this reason, the "murder mystery" that began the investigation revealed not only a plethora of suspects but also a plurality of killers. Every death is overdetermined: there are


267

The divination to determine the reason for Ra Honggoro's death is staged as a
dialogue between an orator, who questions suspect spirits, and a diviner, who
lunges with a sacred spear to indicate positive or negative responses. 1988.
Photograph by Laura Whitney.

many more reasons for the marapu's anger than there are victims. The funeral of an important man is an occasion for reassessing the strengths of the group and reformulating hierarchical relations. During a funeral, implicit and explicit ideas of succession are sorted out in terms of seniority and precedence, and the social relations of affinity and agnation are separated.

The problem of the divination is much broader than simply finding a guilty spirit party. The important question is "Who is responsible to fulfill promises to the ancestors?" Death threatens the integrity of the group not only because it has diminished its members, but also because it signals transgressions or obligations that could claim more victims. The problem posed by death is how to turn a negative and fearful reaction into a positive value. All of the weaker connections between individual members and between ancestors and their descendants must be investigated, and these weaknesses must be bared at a conscious level for the group so that they can be resolved together.

There are two dialogues at each divination: one occurs in a parenthesis between the diviner and the human audience (supplying the diviners with clues to pursue); the other is the "official" dialogue in ritual language


268

between the spirits and human beings. The diviner is an outsider who is able to mediate between both groups: "his spear cuts both ways," as it is said. Confronted with the finality of death, the living are less able to dissimulate real tensions and disagreements; the spirits, then, can be compelled to provoke a true account of their anger.

The transformations attempted by ritual contrast the largely silent exchanges between affines to the intensely verbal investigation of the causes of death by the agnates. The affinal exchanges end a relationship in pantomime fashion, releasing them from all obligations, while the agnatic rites bind descendants through words and sacrifices to new promises.

The division of the funeral sacrifice into two halves, one given to the village of origin and the other to the agnatic descendants, symbolizes the division of the person into two components. Whereas the contribution of "life," given by the mother and lost at death, must be "returned," the contribution of lineage identity, coming from the father, is more enduring. It is reconstituted in the final rite, which frees the deceased of ephemeral ties and transforms him into a marapu .

As a kinsman, each man or woman is tied by contradictory loyalties to a village of birth and one of descent. The maternal line provides the "visible" attributes of physical resemblance, bodily substance, and vulnerability to disease. The ghost may still be torn by desires to respond to these earthly bonds and appetites. To become a marapu , the dead soul must be cleansed of its affinal residues and unambiguously affiliated with the agnatic descent line, with its invisible order based on ritual precedent and obligation. The "problem of responsibility" brought to the forefront at the divination can be answered only by the agnates. Death marks the dissolution of affinity at the same time that it lays the stage for the creation of new exchange relationships.

The argument I present for the dissolution of affinity through sacrifice and exchange may appear a strange one for a part of the world famous for the enduring and even eternal character of its affinal paths. In other parts of the island, where prescriptive marriage with the mother's brother's daughter supports cycles of generalized exchange among affines who remain in the same relation over several generations, things proceed differently (G. Forth 1981). Perhaps because they are aware of their neighbors' customs, the Kodi attitude is somewhat ambivalent. Affinal relations are seen as a source of vitality and blessings, the "cool and refreshing waters" that allow descent groups to reproduce and thrive. They are terminated at funerals so that they can later be revived. To use the botanic metaphor favored for the health and well-being of the lineage, the dead branches are pruned off to make room for fresh growth. If these final payments were


269

not made, resentments between the two villages would develop because of the unhappy state of the half-processed ghost. Since repeated alliances along an established path are highly valued, though not obligatory, generous gifts to the "counterparts to bury the dead" can influence their willingness to receive new proposals and hence to continue the relationship through time.

Alliance has great strategic value in a society such as Kodi, where there is much room for both parties either to pull out of an earlier relationship or to choose to renew it, though under somewhat different terms. The political dimension of mortuary payments is reflected in their size, timing, and distribution (and the strategic decision to include certain people in the ritual categories of affines and life-givers). Ra Honggoro's funeral became an occasion for mending one alliance tie, that to Rangga Raya, the brother of both his wives, at the same time that it ended another, the bonds to his mother's village of Bondo Maliti. The unity of the agnates was affirmed by their ability to negotiate with both other parties and, finally, to reach an accord among themselves.

Epilogue: Changing the Ties to the Past

The drama of collective guilt and debts has recently been called into question by a competing, more individualistic creed introduced by the Christian church. Ra Honggoro's widow was upset at the results of the divination and attracted to the idea of individual salvation achieved through faith and pious actions. Four months after her husband's funeral, she joined the Sumbanese Protestant church. She explained her decision thus:

The problem with these traditional rituals is that so many people now do not carry them out. My husband would not convert because he owed it to his ancestors and his family to lead them in these rites. He fulfilled his promises to the marapu , but died because others before him did not. After the funeral, I wanted to get off the ladder of these ancestral obligations. Evangelists came to my house and said that the Christian God was merciful. He asks only a small ceremony of prayers, not such large feasts. He is not as demanding as the marapu , or as strict.

Her decision was not unique: four thousand people converted in Kodi during a large Evangelical campaign that ended at Christmas 1987. Shortly after Ra Honggoro was transformed into an ancestor in the traditional way, his own kin defected, leaving behind the ancestral cult. He thus


270

joined the side of the authorities, those respected and worshipped if kept at a distance from the living, just as they were losing much of their authority—a tragic irony that was not lost on local observers.

Much debate about conversion and obligations to the marapu hinges not on problems of belief but on ideas of debt, responsibility, and the causes of suffering. People contract a series of obligations with invisible spirits at ritual events; for them, conversion is a way of moving into another system of obligations where the rules are easier.

Death ceremonies provide the focus for many of these debates, partly because evangelists have put pressure on many younger converts to bring their parents into the church before they die, and partly because funeral rites fix the dead person within a henceforth irrevocable status—as either ancestor or unprocessed ghost, traditionalist or Christian convert. Sacrifices and the division of buffalo dedicated to the dead person are performed in the same fashion for Christian converts as for pagans. While the church does not accept the interpretation that the liver is a message-bearer from the dead, it does not object to the silent drama of exchanges between affines and agnates, where the "gift of life" is returned to its origins. What they forbid is only the second half of the ceremony: the investigation of the causes of death through divination and the transformation of the personal soul into an ancestor. Native church leaders see the dissolution of bonds of affinity and their replacement by agnatic ones not as a distinctly "pagan" rite, but as a necessary step in the traditional exchange system. Creating new ancestors, by contrast, reproduces marapu beliefs in generations to come and is forbidden. The lines of communication with past generations must also be severed, so the church censors any direct speaking to the ancestors.

The wordlessness of affinal exchanges permits them to be classified as property transactions rather than as ritual acts. Only when the ghost is fed his last meal on the kambukelo leaf does the rite gain the label of "pagan." Christians may remove the pollution of death from their wife-takers by receiving the heads of sacrificial animals, but they may not prepare food for the ghost. The compromises involved in negotiating pagan and Christian participation inflect the temporal values of funerals by asserting that ephemeral affinal exchanges can continue, but the agnatic cult of the ancestors must come to an end. As we shall see in part three, time is one of the main battlefields on which the wars of conversion and its interpretation are fought, and it is as guardians of the past that leaders of the traditional ritual community now struggle to carry their practices into the future.


271

previous part
PART TWO EXCHANGE SEQUENCES AND STRATEGIES
next part