Sea Hunters of Indonesia: Fishers and Weavers of Lamalera

Sea Hunters of Indonesia: Fishers and Weavers of Lamalera

Sea Hunters of Indonesia: Fishers and Weavers of Lamalera

Sea Hunters of Indonesia: Fishers and Weavers of Lamalera

Synopsis

Sea Hunters of Indonesia is a comprehensive study of the coastal community of Lamalera, whose traditional ways of life make it unique. One is an unusual kind of sea-fishing: the hunting of whales, porpoises, and giant manta rays. The other is the production, by the women of the community, of remarkable fine dyed textiles. Recently these traditions have come under intense pressure from external economic influences, and the people of Lamalera are starting to move into modern occupations. The community, famous for the beauty of its setting as well as for its crafts, is now a major tourist attraction, and it may now survive only as part of the tourist industry. At this crucial point in the history of the region, R. H. Barnes offers a richly detailed and beautifully illustrated picture of the culture and economy of Lamalera, the fruit of many years' study. He records all aspects of life in Lamalera, and places it in the broader context of the past, present, and future of Indonesia as a whole.

Excerpt

This study has had a long and irregular gestation. I first had the privilege of visiting Lamalera briefly for a week in July 1970, during a break in research in the neighbouring Kédang culture on the east end of Lembata. Then in 1979 I had the opportunity to spend three months, from July to September, in the village as part of a team sent there by the World Wildlife Fund to investigate the conservation implications of the indigenous whaling industry. I was successful in leading a team to the village from July to December in 1982 to investigate economy and culture. In June and July 1987 I went to the village with a crew from Granada Television, Great Britain, for four weeks while we made a film of life in the village. Finally, I made an informal visit to the village for five days in July 1995, during a journey over two months (July and August) through the four islands of the East Flores Regency. These are the sum total to date, except for a week in Wailolong, East Flores, in 1970, and various brief travels, of my experiences in the Lamaholot-speaking region of eastern Indonesia, which I had intended to be the subject of my life work as an ethnographer and about which I wrote a master's thesis before undertaking my initial research in quite a different culture and language area. I have published a loosely articulated set of reflections on how this research came about as it did and do not intend to repeat much of it here (R. H. Barnes 1988a). Except for the discussion of the past, in this study the present is around 1979 to 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

My research in Lamalera, always rushed, has been undertaken in the medium of the national language Bahasa Indonesia, in which I have sufficient proficiency for the task. Most people in Lamalera are bilingual to some degree or another. I do not, however, speak Lamaholot. In 1969 my wife and I prepared for our own use a preliminary vocabulary of Lamaholot from published works, primarily those of Leemker and Arndt. Subsequently Gregorius Keraf published his invaluable grammar of the dialect of Lamaholot spoken in Lamalera. As a preliminary to writing this book, I prepared a very extensive set of Lamaholot vocabularies, drawing on Keraf's grammar, his counterpart report for the 1982 research trip, and on Oleona's recent account of the fishery. These have been a very great assistance. Nevertheless, the reader should be prepared for the limitations inherent in this book and judge them for himself.

Because of the circumstances in which this research was conducted, including the specialized focus of each of the trips, my data for some topics of general ethnographic interest, such as child rearing and star lore, are not as rich as those I have been able to publish for Kédang. I have attempted to make relevant references to what is known about Lamaholot ethnography elsewhere in the region throughout the book, but I have not attempted to pad out these . . .

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