Short Glossary



traditions and customs formalised into a legal system. All binding resolutions between familes are governed by adat.


adat nikah

The adat for marriage



the marriage ceremony



the funeral ceremony












Things to do in Sumba

In General

One of the joys of coming to Sumba is simply being here. From afar it could appear that there’s very little to do or very little going on. But it’s not difficult to find yourself very busy very quickly and nearly all visitors we meet regret not having budgeted more time. The trick is to meet people.

The Sumbanese are essentially community based. Every event that is planned takes far more people and a lot longer than is actually required. The reason - because half the fun of the thing is the getting together. Efficiency is boring. Sitting down and hearing each other’s news is not.
So to find out what’s going on, drop into a village, sit down and ask some questions. You will get far more news and a sense of how things are by sitting and chatting in a village like Prailiu or Rende than you will from any of the hotel guides.

Your first port of call if you can get one should be a funeral or a wedding negotiation. If at all possible you should drop in a day or two beforehand, bring beetlenut, introduce yourself, hear some stories, survey the scene and meet the folks. In doing so you’ll feel far more comfortable when the ceremonial events start.

There’s a few major funerals being planned for 2009 (one in Prailiu, one in Rende, one in Rakawatu, one in Tabundung and one in Kanatang) and funerals being funerals there’s bound to be a lot more. While it may seem strange for us to drop into a funeral it is precisely at times of grieving that the Sumbanese make extreme efforts to get together. A family will often feel proud that a visitor will be willing to share in their grief and there is much for us to learn about grieving and sharing at a Sumbanese funeral that 20 years of therapy will never teach us.

Video of Harvest

Wedding negotiations tend to happen at the non busy times of the agricultural calendar (dry season, after harvest and before planting being the most common) and very rarely happen in July. However, as the negotiations usually take two or more stages and those stages tend to be at least 6 months apart, and as lots of people want to get married you’ll probably find that when you arrive somebody somewhere is negotiating something.

If you happen to come at harvest or planting season and there are no funerals or weddings going on you should at the very least turn up to watch the harvesting or the planting.

Even if you have very little Indonesian the very fact that you make the effort to engage with folks will go a long way. Take the time, sit down, see what people are doing and bring a camera. Used sensitively you’d be amazed how many doors it can open.