Preferred Citation: Hoskins, Janet. The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History, and Exchange. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1993 1993.

1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power

External and Internal Slavery on Sumba

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

[4] The name is in fact a coupling of two different titles. Rato is the Kodi title given, usually posthumously, to leaders in feasting or warfare, while Daeng is a title for middle-level Bugis or Makassarese nobles, which has the literal meaning of "older sibling" (Errington 1989, 197).


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

1 The Imported Past Foreign Sources of Power

Preferred Citation: Hoskins, Janet. The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History, and Exchange. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1993 1993.