SMILES OF SUMBA

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When you set foot on Sumba, you’ll know you’ve landed someplace magical. It almost felt like we went back into time. We’ve been thankful to catch a glimpse of the incredibly rich, wild and vibrant culture while visiting Nihiwatu and a traditional village. It is amazing to see how Nihiwatu is giving priority to preserve the unique culture of Sumba. 90% of the staff is from the local area and they are working closely with The Sumba Foundation. So we learn a lot during our trip which we’d love to share a little bit more of with you in this post!

// About Sumba
Sumba is located in East Indonesia, part of the East Nusa Tenggara. This province consists of more than 500 islands, of which Sumba together with Flores and West Timor are the largest islands. Unfortunately, Sumba is also one of the poorest islands in Indonesia. If you’d think the village you see on our photos are poor, imagine this is one of the ‘better’ villages. A paved path like this and clean drinking water are not available in each village. We notice kids walking to school barefoot and our friends at The Sumba Foundation explain to us, most kids are lucky to get one proper mail a day in the evening. Which mostly consist of cassava or rice only.

We learn from The Sumba Foundation, that outside the main towns, most people live without access to clean water, basic health care and education. Malnutrition is sadly common and infant mortality is high. We are so beyond impressed by all the work and love this foundation puts in helping the beautiful, always smiling Sumbanese people by improving the quality of their lives through better health and education. From school lunch projects, to Malaria clinics and building water filtering tanks. It is incredible what they do and there is still a lot to be done, read more about it here!

// People & Culture
Traveling through Sumba, you would not tell though. Everyone smiles, waves and seems incredibly happy. The majority of the people follow Christian faith. And almost half of the population still follow the way of the ancestors in a religion called ‘Marapu’. Faith in this religion and old traditions are strong. Our host Tinus (read all about him in our Nihiwatu post here!), explained us that this religion is all about maintaining a peaceful relationship with the ‘Marapu’, the ancestral spirits. They have to follow the traditional rituals, ceremonies, rules and offerings to receive ‘a good life’ in return. Meaning good fertility and wealth. Tinus told him, people have to choose live ‘the good life’ and be a good men. He is incredibly proud of his religion and his eyes sparkle when he talks about it to us.

// The traditional villages
Each traditional village consists of peaked bamboo and thatch houses. Villagers are part of a clan or tribe, and many of them are still in remote area’s and in conflict with each other. Only up until 30 years ago, Sumbanese men were feared headhunters. Explaining why these villages we’re usually build in remote places, on top of hills or hidden behind walls or forests – where they still are today. The houses are positioned around an open space and stone graves.

// Language
Sumba’s dialect and language is completely different than ‘Behasa Indonesia’.Places are called Waikabubak and Waignapu. Tinus teaches us there are 6 different regional languages. We wanted to learn a few words. Waru Nuu – Coconut Tree, Bonnu – Ocean, Mata Lodo – Sun. You can tell the Polynesian influence on the island.

Now.. we hope you loved this little piece of background and our photo diary of visiting a traditional village. Unspoiled Sumba has a special place in our heart! When we’re coming back we’d definitely would love to plan more visits to the clinics, schools and projects of The Sumba Foundation.

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Also see our other Nihiwatu related photo diary’s here!
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