Ningkam Haumeni II : A story of Avatar from Tiga Batu Tungku People

White big rocks in cubic shape were scattered around among tall, coarse grass. Creeping wild trees enveloped them among the meadows. Not far from there, there was a bulding remnant which now looked like a damaged cemented floor. Several other building remnants were spotted, but all were covered up by bushes, as if they wanted to be unified with the surrounding nature. The mist were so thick covering the nature, including two most protruding hills and casuarina forest around the area.Local people, called Mollo, residing in Timor Tengah Selatan (TTS) Regency, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) Province, called it Nausus and Anjaf Hill area. A traditional area sacred since the day their ancestors lived. When the mist diminished and the sun started to set, the face of those two hills loomed, especially Anjaf – ‘fading flat face’ with bushes here and there. Some parts were scrapped into pieces and only left white stones heaped up on its feet. Anjaf Hill was seen to be forcedly cut into unnatural scrapping. Meanwhile Nausus was still covered by hard trees which enveloped the entire surface of the hill. A combination of beautiful view that brought a certain kind of bitterness to anyone seeing it.
“Like human, this area is used to be perfectly intact. The forests are the hair, with the trees growing there. The water stored beneath the ground is the blood giving life to this area; the skin is the soil and the backbone is the rocks which strengthen this area. Such was the beauty of this area then. The figure was perfect, just like human, before the marble mining company came and damage the natural landscape here. Please imagine a human without brows and hair. What does he look like?”, said Petrus Almet, 63, one of traditional figures of Lelobatan Village, North Mollo Subdistrict, TTS, to the writer during Ningkam Haumeni Festival held on May 27 to 29, 2011.To Mollo people, Nausus and Anjaf were their perfect living universes. Unfortunately those universes were taken away when the mining companies, PT Soe Indah Marmer Pertambangan and PT Karya Asta Alam, were granted an exploration right on Mollo people’s sacred site by the local authority. Backed up by security reinforcement supported by local authority, the mining companies forbade the community to conduct any activity within the site. But actually the case was the Mollo people had been accustomed to herd their cattle in those areas since their ancestor’s time. Many Mollo people opened land for agricultural field and plantation there. We could say that all Mollo people’s life cosmology was concentrated in there.

”Traditional ritual sites of our ancestor that we always take care of locate there. Ever since the investors (mining company-red) and the army come, all are damaged. Even site objects that are used in our rites are also taken by them”, explained Amahere, 40, of Mollo Tribe.

The fact is, to Mollo people, the water, the forest, the soil and the rock are parts of their identity. Oel nam nes on na, nasi nam nes on nak nafu, naijan nam nes on sisi, fatu nam nes on nuif (Water is the blood, forest is the hair, soil is the flesh and rock is the bone).

Aleta Baun, 45, one of Mollo people fighting figures, who was the moving force behind the struggle against exploration on Nausus and Anjaf by the mining companies, said that Nausus and Anjaf rock hill were parts of where Mollo people’s identities come from. Rock, for instance, was deemed fatukanaf, the name rock. Rock was male parable because it was the source from where the Mollo tribes got their family name when they were married. Rock was considered the strength as well as the backbone. Without rock, the universe would be paralyzed, just like a human without backbone.

In her writing, Saving Mollo’s Body in the book Reading Climate Change Track published by CSF (Siti Maimunah, 2009), said that Mollo was a territory of the people living around the foot of Mutis Mountain, who spread in South Mollo and North Mollo, wherein Nausus and Anjaf were part of it. Mutis Mountain was the highest mountain in western side of Timor Island. There was the origin of water stream in Mollo and all living connection interacted harmoniously among water, soil, forest and rocks.

Walhi NTT’s data said that Mutis Mountain, as other karsts rocks in Timor, like Nausus and Anjaf, did not just serve as social identity. More than that, it also had strategic function as water catchment area for Timor. Especially in Mutis, there were several major headwaters, such as Noelmina River, Benanain River and Oebesi River that provided water for the majority of Timor people. This area also had biodiversity value, that balanced the natural life within it in particular and in Timor in general.

A research data, cited by CO Sakeng in his writing, Mutis Natur Preserve Disturbed by Mining, stated that Mutis Mountain had a type of vegetation representing upland homogenous forest. This area was also dominated by all kinds of ampupu (Eucalyptus urophylla) growing naturally and yellow sandalwood (Santalum album). Other than that, here found other various tree species, such as hue (Eucalyptus alba), bijaema (Elacocarpus petiolata), haubesi (Olea paniculata), kakau or forest casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia), manuk molo (Decaspermum fruticosum), and oben (Eugenia littorale). Also growing here were salalu (Podocarpus rumphii), natwon (Decaspermum glaucescens), natbona (Pittospermum timorensis), kunbone (Asophylla glaucescens), tune (Podocarpus imbricata), natom (Daphniphylum glauceccens), kunkaikole (Veecinium ef. Varingifolium), tastasi (Vitex negundo). And these are found there as well: manmana (Croton caudatus), mismolo (Maesa latifolia), kismolo (Toddalia asiatica), pipsau (Harissonia perforata), matoi (Omalanthus populneu). All sorts of ferns and grasses grew here, too.

Besides having rich plant species, Mutis tourist area was also a habitat for various special Timor animals. Here the visitor could see Timor deer (Cervus timorensis), cuscus (Phalanger orientalis), wild boar (Sus Vitatus), monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), Timor monitor lizard (Varanus timorensis). Also there were found Timor python (Phyton timorensis), red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), Timor green pigeon (Treon psittacea), olive-shouldered parrot (Apromictus jonguilaceus), Timor imperial pigeon (Ducula cineracea), and rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglosus haematodus).

Long ago, Mollo was an empire. Netpala was the oldest kingdom there, which gave birth to Numbena Kingdom. Netpala covered villages, such as Lelobatan, Fatukkoto, Bose, Sebab, Leloboko, Nefukoko, Anjabaki, Eyondasi and Obefi. While Numbena’s area spanned from Nifu Lilana, Tune, Bonleu, Fatumnasi, Kuonel and Tunua. Those villages still survives the time until now with its people working as farmer cultivating agricultural field and plantation, herding cattle and wisely exploiting their forest (Siti Maemunah, 2009).

The Birth of Ningkam Haumeni

It was Aleta Baun, a housewife with 3 children, who became the leader of Mollo traditional people’s fight against the arrogance of mining companies and the army who supported the mining activities damaging their lives and livelihood. Eventhough she, her children and her husband were threatened to be killed – her son was even injured from stone throwing by criminals – she was not afraid. She and Mollo people, who cared about Nausus-Anjaf condition, started the fight until almost all of them joined her cause to save Nausue-Anjaf.

Not only had they done collective actions to the Regent’s office requesting the revocation of company’s business permit and the closing down of marble mining operation, but also started networking with NGOs that had concern about their fight. Their relatives from Amanatun tribe and Amanuban tribe then joined their fight. This unification was called Tiga Batu Tungku People. Their fight went far up to the point where they put their lives in danger by occupying Nausus and Anjaf territory together with hundreds of ‘mama’ (mature women in Timor) who did weaving action under the pressuring threat and gun pointing of the army.

”We were afraid, but had to do it after all. ‘Mama’ of Lelobatan Village together with ‘mama’ of other villages and Amanatun as well as Amanuban Tribes brought our weaving. We did our weaving inside the mining operation area in Nausus-Anjaf. We were afraid because the army held the guns. But we had to endure it. We also built a public kitchen there,” explained Mama Lina, one of the weaving action doers then.

Their fight came to a fruitful result. The marble mining company gave up and went away from their sacred sites. Unfortunately Anjaf still could not be restored to its previous beauty as was before the exploitation of the mining companies. To commemorate their victory, the People of TIga Batu Tungku had organized Ningkam Haumeni Festival on May 29, in conjunction with the World’s Anti-Mining Day, since then on. The first festival took place in 2010.

What is Ningkam Haumeni? No one knows for certain its exact definition. It might be difficult to find its general comprehension if translated word by word. The word Ningkam in Dawam language means honey wax, and Haumeni means yellow sandalwood. Yellow sandalwood used to be a plant that dominated the hills in the entire Timor Island, but now it is rare and hard to find. This is not because the Timor people are too greedy to cut it irresponsibly; rather it is because of an ineffective policy from local authority compelling the community to sell their yellow sandalwood to them. The interpretation of Ningkam Haumeni itself varies among the three tribes. Nevertheless, it leads to the same thing; respect your mother – Earth – that brings you to life well.

”To us, not only is Ningkam Haumeni the way to celebrate Mollo people’s victory in defending its body, but is the symbol of unity for us – Amanatun, Amanuban and Mollo. We must determine to defend and protect our nature. There are still many of our areas need to be saved from the greediness that put money in the front rather than the sustainability of our nature – the one where we live and is God’s blessing,” explained Amanatun traditional leader, Petrus Nenabu, 63 yo, who is the descendant of Nenabu King.

In the middle of cold and foggy weather, far from city’s crowd, insufficient electricity, lack of support from local authority and life limitation, the People of Tiga Batu Tungku still held Ningkam Haumeni Festival solemnly and wholeheartedly. As mentioned before, this festival took place in a traditional area sacred to the people of Mollo, Nausus and Anjaf, where marble mining companies previously operated their activities damaging Anjaf’s beauty. The festival location was about 140 km from Kupang, NTT’s capital, and could be reached within two hours by private vehicle.

They also built several traditional houses called Lopo. The participants stayed in lopo or in the remaining previous staff housing where marble mining staff used to live. The area was set as “learning house” for the People of TIga Batu Tungku, where they shared information and sought solution for all sorts of problems in their territory. This venue was also designed as “small workshop” for the ones wanting to improve their farming and weaving knowledge. More than that, this festival had a deeper impact by returning their image as high-cultured tribes who respected the harmony of life with the nature.

Despite limited condition, the people of Tiga Batu Tungku prepared themselves extremely well to celebrate this festival. They wore their best traditional clothes made of woven cloth. From this woven cloth, especially from the motives used, they could recognize somebody’s tribe of origin. The first festival was attended by around 500 participants. Mama of these three tribes exhibited their weaving skill as well as showed their love to woven cloth. Each tribe also performed their traditional culture, from bonet (oral custom) to dance and music.

The second festival was still held on May 29 and was attended by approximately 3,000 people of Tiga Batu Tungku. The writer was lucky enough to attend it. It was so obvious that the festival held in a “sad” atmosphere because most farmers of Tiga Batu Tungku had just had failure in cultivating the corns. Corn was the staple food for TTS people. Continuous rain made them difficult to determine planting season. In TTS Regency, where the People of Tiga Batu Tungku mostly lived, 40 villages had been identified to experience severe food vulnerability. Up to September 2010, there were 1,481 villages in 201 subdisctricts in NTT were at risk of food vulnerability due to planting and harvesting failure. Farming land failed to be harvested and cultivated reached 94,395 Ha. There were 746 villages with 189,085 household were at risk of high food vulnerability (data from NTT Endurance Agency, 2010).

Aside from that, there had been landslide in several villages in Amanatun. One of those happened in Nenoat village causing 67 households lose their agricultural field and houses, and three people died. Even so, most of Amanatun people who lived in the refugee remained enthusiastic to take part in the festival.

The landslide in Amanatun became the concern and anxiety to the traditional People of Tiga Batu Tungku. They considered it as God’s curse, because the mining activities had begun to “encircle” Amanuban area besides Amanatun. Ever since the mining activities existed, the community considered natural disaster happened was a curse because greedy foreign people came to their village.

It was the first time Nenoat village, Amanatun, experienced a landslide. They never had any experience of landslide since the day of their ancestor. Besides landslide, a 680-Ha area in Saihan village also experienced a significant slope of land surface and erosion due to sea wave in just one night. The community thought those events took place because of seismic test carried out by PT. Eni West. Unfortunately, they had nothing to prove their assumption.

Petrus Nenabu and most Amanatun people said that there was a white helicopter flying around the location not long after the landslide in their village. However they could not make sure where the helicopter came from and whose helicopter it was.

”We feel the need to come here because we can tell what we have experienced. We can get the best support from our brothers and sisters. We do not want our land taken over just like what happened in Nausus and Anjaf,” explained Petrus Nenabu again.

Just like Amanuban people, the participants from Amanatun tribe came to the festival venue by truck. It took them around more than five hours trip to get there. Two trucks were used to carry about more than 100 people, consisting of older people, male and female teenagers, mama and children. Their trucks almost did not make it through the broken roads to the city. Continuous rain made village roads, that were already in bad condition and had not been built, flooded by water like a big mudhole so that any vehicle could not be able to pass them. Among all participants of May 29, 2011’s Ningkam Haumeni Festival, Amanatun people came the latest. Even though they were tired, they went straightly to take part in the festival and received a traditional greeting in a high oral custom called Bonet from their two relative tribes. They, too, gave an elegant acceptance according to their custom.

Ningkam Haumeni Festival was designed not only to show off custom and cultural values from each tribe. More than that, this festival had become a valuable learning arena for these three tribes, especially when related to their life purposes with the nature, which are likely forgotten by the younger generation. They also took part in several workshops facilitated by OAT (A’Taimamus Organization) and JATAM Indonesia (Indonesia Mining Advocacy Network). The workshop themes were close to their daily problem, especially how to return the Tiga Batu Tungku People’s point of view to their local wisdom. Besides that, encouraging economical development in their territory through sustainable way in order to realize food endurance was also part of the themes. Weaving, too, was an interesting discussion among mama who worked at it.

Of course, these knowledge and experience sharing event was open for anyone. The writer also involved in it. From these, we can learn a lot to follow their point of view on life itself – a simple and wise life different from the daily life in a city, like Jakarta, for instance.

In this festival, local products were also exhibited, especially woven cloth, local farming products (bananas, oranges and all sorts of local corns), and plaited handicraft. There were workshops held in the festival that was organized in a simple and natural way. Each participant was requested to choose the one they want to take part in. This festival was indeed a good learning process for the People of Tiga Batu Tungku, so there was not any root of local wisdom pulled out from them anymore. This was the real story of Avatar of Tiga Batu Tungku People.

Musfarayani, Mollo, Mei 2011
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Categories: ARTIKELKU, CATATAN PERJALANAN | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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