Gado Gado International

Timorese Ancestry: Anadeos

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on June 16, 2009

Timorese Religion and Beliefs Cont.

For the Tetum people of Timor, the interior of the earth is said to be like a female womb, an underworld source of life where ancestors emerge. At the core of their world view they believe that all humans pass through a corresponding life cycle.

Female Anadeo Figure

Female Anadeo Figure

For many centuries, the people of both Sumba and Timor have carved stone and wood guardian figures known as anadeos. These anadeo statues are usually carved from sandy limestone, and in some rare cases, vesicular lava. The statues resemble people, and are typically seated in a kneeling position with the arms clasped over or across the knees.

Female and Male Timorese Anadeos

Female and Male Timorese Anadeos

These figures are placed in front of homes or a village square facing outward with the intention of frightening away evil spirits. Many of the statues have rounded bases, requiring that the statues are partly buried in the ground. Gado Gado’s collection of anadeos range in age from the early to late 20th century.

Anadeos on Hillside

Anadeos on Hillside

We also have a variety of East and West Timorese artifacts in our warehouse.

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Timorese Society and Dwellings

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on May 1, 2009

One of the most beautiful and culturally rich islands of Indonesia is Timor. There are multiple languages and dialects spoken by the indigenous people of the island, with two large groups based on a common language: the Atoni in the west, and the Tetum in the east and center of the island.

The collective ideas, customs, and institutions normally associated with these two groups are quite similar, and differences are more the result of local specificities rather than racial divides. There are a few moderately large urban areas in Timor, but the majority of the population lives in villages and hamlets, and the social structure of these groups are based mainly on male lineages.

A typical Timorese structure

A typical Timorese structure

Timorese Artistry

Timorese culture is diverse in its art, and there is a variety of different artists. Women are typically called upon to weave, incorporating the design of a god’s image into their work. The Bunaq people of Timor have bards renowned for their resourceful writing and storytelling.

Carvings are common in wood, although some artists use buffalo horn. These carvings are most often found on the doors of residences, but can also been seen on posts, ridge crests, and statues. In addition, some groups are skilled in smithing and silver working.

Women use traditional looms to craft shawls and fabrics.

Women use traditional looms to craft shawls and fabrics.

Timorese Religion and Beliefs

Timorese religion comprises a set of ritual transactions by which human individuals and social groups maintain relationships with their ancestral ghosts. For the people of Timor, the harmony between the two may be disrupted by infractions of ritual conventions. This upsetting of the cosmic order has repercussions in the human spectrum, such as illness.

Although it is unclear for the Timorese when exactly the human soul enters a body, it certainly leaves upon death, encouraged by a rite of passage. This soul leaves the secular Upperworld and joins the other ghosts and fertility spirits in the sacred Underworld. Within a few decades the dead soul becomes an ancestral ghost.

The ancestral ghosts in the Timorese religion have a hold over the behavior of human life, and in turn exploit the resources of their living kin. These ghosts crave regular offerings of betelnut, palm wine, and food from living descendants.

A typical offering of Betelnut, a natural stimulant, in basket, with a Betelnut case on edge.

A typical offering of Betelnut, a natural stimulant, in basket, with a Betelnut case on edge.

However, these ghosts also have the power to make men and women fertile, enabling their kin to reproduce. Since the ancestral ghosts require sustenance and humans require offspring, there is a relationship of reciprocity between the sacred and secular worlds.

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Sumba: Ikat Weavings

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on April 2, 2009

by Tyler Keeley

The artisans of Sumba are particularly known for their ikat style of weaving, which uses a resist dyeing process before the threads are woven to create a pattern or design. The process is very labor intensive, and it involves wrapping the warp threads with waxed string or paper. It is then dyed, with the waxed thread acting as a “resist” that prevents the wrapped areas from accepting the dye. Vegetable dyes are still used.

Sumba ikat, stages 1 & 2

Sumba ikat, stages 1 & 2

Most ikat designs involve the use of more than one  color, and the threads must be re-wrapped between each dyeing if the current color is to be preserved.

Sumba ikat, stages 3 & 4

Sumba ikat, stages 3 & 4

Once the dyeing process is complete, the paper or waxed string is removed to reveal the design.

Ikat weaving, stage 5

Ikat weaving, stage 5

These steps all occur before the warp threads are integrated into the loom. The final pattern is often symmetrical, creating a blocky design. Due to the paper or waxed resist thread, there is sometimes a bleeding or tie-dye effect in the fabric. Ikats from Sumba are known for being precisely woven, unlike ikat styles from Japan or Guatemala.

Ikats

Ikats

These beautiful fabrics–as well as others from Bali, West Timor, India, and Nepal–can be found in our showroom in Santa Rosa.

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Sumba: History and Religion

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on March 14, 2009

by Tyler Keeley

Gado Gado collects antiques and relics from multiple Asian areas, but none as intriguing as the Lesser Sunda region of Indonesia. Travel to the southeast end of the chain to find the islands of Sumba and Timor.

The majority of the indigenous people there still carry the belief system of their ancestors, practicing the rituals passed down by their parents. These beliefs play a large role culturally and socially, reflected in the carvings of stone and wood that populate the native settlements.

General map of Indonesia. Sumba and Timor are located in Eastern Indonesia

General map of Indonesia. Sumba and Timor are located in Eastern Indonesia

Sumba is a hilly, arid island with a population of about 400,000. The eastern half of the island boasts a general cultural and linguistic uniformity, while the western region is home to about a dozen separate ethnic groups. The fragile economy of the east is supported by exports of cattle and textiles, whereas the west is dependent on cash crops including coffee and cloves.

Mountainous area of Sumba.

Mountainous area of Sumba.

Three-fourths of Sumba’s population adhere to the Marapu religion, which centers on worshiping ancestors, local tutelary deities, and various other minor spirits. This is accomplished through a system of prayers, fasting, and sacrifices.

When a death occurs in the village, the artists from Sumba are charged with the task of inscribing images on stone as a visual recording of the person’s pageantry, and mourning which follows. The iconography carved into tombs refers directly to both the visible participants, like slaves and sacrificed animals, as well as the invisible ones, like ancestral spirits.

Sumba Stone Ancestor Figure, Three Angles

Sumba Stone Ancestor Figure, Three Angles

An important and very frequent image is the rider of a horse, a symbol of virility. A tail sticking up is interpreted as very strong, encouraging horse trainers to break their horse’s tail bone, forcing it to re-grow upwards. Moreover, it is the horse which bears its master’s soul into the afterworld.

Sumbanese ikat depicting riders with horses

Sumbanese ikat depicting riders with horses

To be continued in the next installment.

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