Tarung and Waitabar villages are the main reason to come to Waikabubak. They look like one big village, but we believe the residents, who pointed the invisible for us border separating “Tarung houses here and Waitabar houses there”. Located on a hill, the villages seem to have their spacetime. Maybe that’s because of the Marapu (the ancestral) spirits still protecting those, who believe in them. And I’m sure they live in this spooky stone figure in the center of the village complex. It blinked at me, I swear! Of course, Chris doesn’t believe it, but even he admits the figure was special. After all, that’s how we ended up in Sumba: a couple of years ago Chris saw the statue on a photo, and since then he was obsessed with seeing it with his own eyes.
The ancient Sumbanese anthropomorphic stone figures are the rare finds for collectors and are worth a small fortune. Unfortunately, the lust for the money is bigger than the fear of the spirits, so more and more sculptures disappear from the places of their origin to be sold and smuggled to people who don’t even deserve them. Luckily, there are some individuals who care about the Sumbanese inheritance and do a lot to save it from theft and oblivion. One of them is a Catholic priest from Waitabula parish – father Robert Ramone. He wrote a book about the Sumbanese culture (Sumba, Forgotten Island), he photographed and cataloged the sculptures, finally he founded the excellent Sumba Barat Museum (House of Culture), a part of Sumba Cultural Research & Conservation Institute, where you can find the finest examples of the Sumbanese art, including both the ancient statues and the exquisite contemporary pieces.
Thanks to our accidental, newly-met local guide Yuliana we were allowed to sneak a peek inside the Tarung and Waitabar traditional houses. As we were informed, they consist of three stories: the upper space - reserved strictly for Marapu spirits, the middle space – where the everyday life goes on, and the lower space – where all the animals are kept. Unfortunately, we were allowed to see only the middle and lower parts.
W H A T T O S E E N E X T
During our visit in Tarung and Waitabar villages, we were lucky to witness the festival called Wulla Poddu (Holy Month), related to the Marapu beliefs. Everyone in the village was so excited about the celebrations (even the smallest children and the domesticated animals) that we could just disappear in the crowd, among other spectators sitting on the graves. Well, I was sitting, Chris was busy with photographing the mentioned above spooky statue from every possible angle (see the pictures above). Near the statue, we also found a fascinating bas-relief that looked like Count Dracula on crack (don’t tell Chris I wrote that!).