06 May 2006

Lembata: Tenun Ikat Ile Ape

THE residents of the peninsula that is dominated by Ile Ape (Gunung Api, active vulcano) belong to the most traditional part of Lembata Island. The adat houses on the slopes, in which traditionally spirits are honored, are still in use and festivities like the 'bean-fest' (pesta kacang) still takes place.

The women make the nicest ikats of the island. The landscape is very beautifull. From Ile Ape, you can see the big protected Teluk Waienga in the east, with deep blue water and surrounded by coconut and lontar-palmtrees.

The weavers of Ile Ape don't use synthetic dye or prefabricated threat. They make the threat by hand or self-grown cotton and the dye is made from roots and leaves of flowers. In all villages along the coast women are working behind their weaving machines.

The best fabrics are expensive, but can be very expensive if you have the best quality. They form an important part of the bridal treasure. During marriages the family of the bride gives the nice fabrics to the family of the groom.
Most villages have KOKER, small huts which are used as temples for the ancestors.

The koker are outside the village, on the slopes of Ile Ape. Sacrifices are regularly brought, but the most important spiritual annual event is the 'Bean Festival', Pesta Kacang.


In the 1960's the Pesta Kacang was hardly performed anymore. The 'ban' on regional religions is eased now and the government has become aware of the political and economical benefits of the cultural diversity. In an effort to bring back to life several local traditiona, the government stimulated the Pesta Kacang.

The 'new' Pesta Kacang lasts three days. In earlier times it took upto one week. In a small group the first day is spend on prayers and sacrificing the village spirites, the goodlike ancestors of the village as well as the spirits of the soil.

The following two days are public. Several hundred people participate in the dances (HAMANG). For important guests, among foreigners, a stay for the night is arranged.

The festivities take place in Atawatung (July), Mawa (August), Lewotolok (September), Jontona or Baopukang (October) and Lamariang (November).

Under the influence of the modern time the old habits have been changed slightly. Stickfights, in which young men hit each other on the legs, are abolished. And married women nowadays cover their breasts.

The road from Lewoleba to Mawa (Napasabok), along the western side of the vulcano, is reasonably good. The road from Mawa to Tokojaeng at the eastern coast is not that good and there is no public transport.

Between Tokojaeng and Jontona, only motorcycles, jeeps and people walking can travel. From Jontona, the road is better; it merges with the better road just north of Lewoleba. Passenger trucks maintain connections with the villages on the peninsula.

Especially on Mondays there is a lot of traffic because of the market in Lewoleba. But none of the - mostly overfull - trucks drives around the entire peninsula. During travelling you will look at a whole lot of dusty faces, unless you are in the lucky position to sit alongside the driver.

Who travels this area on foot and - where possible - by public transport, will have to get a nights stay offered by the residents of the villages. This shouldn't be a problem; look for the kepala desa (village head) and ask permission to spend the night in the village. It's not expensive. The dinner is local food (corn, maniok, vegetables and maybe some fish) and in the mornings there is coffee.

You can also travel on the island by rented motorbike with a driver. The easiest way to travel is by chartered jeep or bemo. These can transport more than five persons and comes along with a driver for a cheap price.

The road that runs towards the north from Lewoleba, passes a turn to the landing strip and leads to the 'neck' or Ile Ape and then follows the western shore of the island. Meanwhile, small cotton plantations can be seen, salt-panes and every once in a while a row of reo-trees, which were planted by the Dutch.

About 12 kilometers from Lewoleba is Waowala, dominated by the mosque. The road now runs over low coastal hilla; the landscape changes drastically here. All villages have small fields on the slopes, where maniok, corn, beans and nuts are grown. There are several coconut trees and the traveller can have a drink of air kelapa muda (coconut milk).

On the slopes of Ile Ape mountain, the men hunt with their dogs, and crossbows on wild pigs. In contrary to the eastern coast, the western side is no place for fishing.

In Lamagute or Mawa, at the northern coast, you can see the production of ikat fabrics. Take a local guide to the koker of the village. In the most important is a bronze drum with looks like a timeglass.

Most drums which were found in that region - on Lembata, Solor and mainly Alor - the copies of the old drums are of those of the Dongson culture, about 2000 years ago. They were used as merchandize and were made in the 17th and 19th century in China and mainland Jawa. The drum of Lamagute is probably an original dating from the Dongson period.

Who wants to climb the vulcano should realise that young, healthy climbers from the village take about two hours. Start before sunrise and take a hat, enough sunblick and water with you. Who wants to spend the night at the summit and doesn't want to freeze should bring a sleeping bag as well.

East of the peninsula is Teluk Waienga. In Jontona - and also in Lamagute - you can order people to perform a traditional dance for you.


The weekly market in Lewoleba is one of the biggest in Eastern Indonesia. It attracts visitors and merchands from Alor and Pantar in the west, places like Larantuka, Maumere and Ende on Flores in the west and the islands of Savu and Raija in the south. In the dry season (March through December) several thousand people flock to this market in the west of Lembata.

Most visitors come to sell and buy their food: fishermen, farmers and women from the highlands with their colorfull ikat-decorated fabrics.

They sell and buy food, clothing, spices, cattle and tools. Other visitors to there to gossip or to enjoy the atmosphere. And for the children the market place is one big playing field.

Around 4 A.M. trucks deliver the first - sleepy - passengers. Until 11 A.M. the trucks and bemo keep on driving. Throughout the day all kinds of boats with marketeers arrive and depart. Canoo's with a diamont-shaped sail glide to their parking place. Noisy boats with engines move besides the pillared houses, pull out their engine and load their passengers on a shallow place in the water. With their merchandize on their heads, the women in colorfull sarongs walk to the shore.

Sweated farmers arrive on foot, some have a long trip behind them - on foot - of sometimes eight to ten hours. A trip with a truck is too expensife for them. They just bring a small bag of nuts, beans or tamarind with them.

A number of farmers uses the transport on Mondays to bring their harvest to Lewoleba. Kopra is the most important product, followed by green beans, nuts and tamarind. The government stimulated the cultivation of new crops, among them coffee, cashewnuts and palmsugar, so they can be bought at the market as well.

In the Dutch time, Lembata was then named Lomblen. Hadakewa – 20 kilometers east of Lewoleba - was the most important market place of the island. After the Second World War the small Lewoleba started to grow.

In the early 1950's the first Bajo - semi-nomadic fishermen from the island of Adonara - built pillar houses off the coast, on grounds that were flooded a part of the day. But at the end of the 1950's there were stil wild pigs around Lewoleba and Hadakewa was still much more important.

The Indonesian government and the Catholic Church were at the base of the rise of Lewoleba by making the village of arts the center of their activites. Hadakewa now is a neglected provincial capital of a subdistrict.

The trade between the coastal residents and the population in the hinterlands dates back for many years. The gatherers on the beach needed corn, maniok, onions and vegetables, because the coastal area was dry and the soil was infertile. The people from the hinterlands needed proteine and fish.

Most visitors of the market sell or buy small amounts: one kilo of corn, a few eggs, a handfull tobacco, one or two pineapples and a little bit of coffee. The women have spread their merchandize on a cloth. Chickens are hung by the legs, a snorring pig is tied to a rope, just in case. For the entire day, traders exchange the latest gossip, always chewing on a sirih-prune, which colors the teeth red.

Some women sell homemade fabrics, which are as usual reasonably cheap. Every once in a while you can find a great ikat, often a heirloom, saved for a bridal treasury. These can be very expensive.

Traders from Savu also bring ikat; it looks like useless, but the designs from Savu are very well received among the women on the market. They trade their threads for these sarongs. Handmade cotton is popular because natural dyes maintain better than the manufactured fabrics.

The most serious trade is that in daily needs: dried fish, nuts, rice, corn, beans, maniok and kerosine. Everyone knows the price - trading level - of these goods. As soon as a sale is approved - and often before - the men drink a glass of palmwine.

Sellers of small snacks offer numerous snacks: roasted fish, sticky rice in banana-leaves, colored cookies and cake, lemonade, fresh bread, popcorn and fresh roasted peanuts.


  1. I find your article is very nice and informative. I've been interested to visit Lembata Is.

    This year, actually next month (August) I plan to go to Lembata to photograph the Bean Festival (Pesta Kacang). Of several villages you describe, which one held the biggest and the most exciting of Pesta Kacang? Probably with traditional dances and villagers come wearing ikat like in your photos.

    And would the whale hunting in Lamalera still take place on August?


  2. Pesta kacang lazim digelar di Kecamatan Ile Ape. Ada beberapa desa yang menyelenggarakan dan saya kira bagus-bagus.
    Anda bisa menghubungi Pemerintah Kabupaten Lembata di Lewoleba. Apalagi saat ini Bupati Lembata, Andreas Manuk, berasal dari Ile Ape. Pak Andreas tentu sangat memahami pesta kacang dan implikasinya bagi dunia pariwisata.

  3. Hai, salam kenal. bagus juga. tolong lihat punyaku juga.

  4. MY name is Alice linus from Labuan Malaysia, Ya originaly My parents from Ile ape Lembata But I stay At Labuan so long time already.
    Nice story i like to read & see Picture you taking,actualy I not yet come to Yr Village, but i can see in yr blog.

    Alice Linus
    Po Box 80045,87010
    Wilayah persekutuan Labuan
    Email : alicelinus@yahoo.com

  5. Hi.. Alice Linus, thanks for visiting my blog. I hope one day you visit Ile Ape, Lembata, too. Have a nice day.


  7. Ina Alice,

    mo mai lewo wulan 6 le 7 ako-ko hala. lewoh alawen rekan utan wulan 8 dika. go koi ketun hala karena go teik lelaten kae pi surabaya.
    go koda inggrisen koi hala. hehehe... moda dahang ina, ama, kaka, air pe malaysia hae. salam.

  8. Wow, I am actually not from Ile Ape but from Ende-Flores. But it's great to read your Blog. Ende or Ile Ape semuanya orang kampung hehe!! Now living in The Netherlands since 1993 but itulah pengobat rindu kalau membaca blogmu. Last summer I visited my family in Flores and have photos en film uploaded at: www.youtube.com/wolopaku1. selamat mengunjungi.

  9. Benar benar mengankat Budaya lewo Tanah Rian Wetan
    Salut Om
    Saya di Batam

  10. hi lambetus...
    Greetings from BALI, the Island of Paradise..
    How R u? I hope this mail finds you well.
    I am glad to read your blog..very nice..absolutly..
    My name is Dion Blolong. Saya asli dari Lewotana Lembata. Desa Mingar dan sekarang kerja di dunia Pariwisata di bali. Saya sangat mendukung skali pengembangan Pariwisata Lembata..banyak skali tamu back pocker yg saya jumpai di Bali. sy crita dkit mngenai tourism destination in Lembata dan mreka sangat senang. mreka cuman bilang " Very wonderful" coz I ever been there. ada bbrpa saran mreka adl Jalan RAYA yg mmbuat mreka KO sblm smpai ke tmt tujuan. kurangx tmt penginapan da sarana lainnya. but, its no problem, very simple but attractive.

    Tolong perbanyak lagi photo trutama di tmt4 wisata : Lamalera whaling village, pesta kacang di jontona, Mingar white sandy beach for snorkling, diving, sunbathing ect, Bean Beach - kedang, Gas alam watuwawer.

    1. Iven2 apa sj setiap bulan ato taon di LEMBATA
    2. Pantai mana yg suitable for surfing.?
    3. Kapan Lembata Maju kalo jalan Raya masih sperti yg dl smpe skg blm ada prubahan.
    4. Mari kita bangun Lembata tuk lebih baek lg dalam bidang pariwisata...

    Salam Kenal,
    Dion Oldani Blolong

  11. hola.......
    salam Kasih,
    saya pny bbrppertanyaan tentang lamalera:;
    1. apa sdh ada investor yg menangani atraksi trsbt?
    2. ada perhatian dr pemda tidak?
    3.bagmna sistem pengelolaan atraksi trsbt?
    saya lg tulis tentang pengelolaan atraksi penangkapan ikan paus di lamalera.
    sy asli adonara tnggl di lewoleba.
    skrg kul di Udayana-Fak.Pariwisata.Bali

  12. Soba mo dahang langsung teti lewo. Go koi ketun hala, karena go tei te Jawa Timur. Informasi dari kampung pasti lebih akurat dan valid. Terima kasih.

  13. Saya sebagai anak tanah ile ape sangat mendukung dan mencintai budaya tenun ikat yang merupakan warisan turun temurun......

    Tapi sayangnya anak2 muda( terutama yang perempuan ) sekarang kurang memperhatikan tradisi ini......
    untuk itu saya harapkan agar kaum wanita ile ape bangkit untuk melestarikan tradisi ini.....


  14. Helo..boleh ka postkan information tentang satu tempat bernama Boto di daerah Lewoleba? dengan disertakan foto?terima kasih.

  15. lahir dan besar di Jontona sy sangat suka tentang tradisi budaya di lewotanah titen,itu anak2 yg pakai sarung adat bersal dari Baopukang,Jontona,adik2 kami juga yg sekarang sdh jadi gadis.Kenangan saya,dulu setiap Minggu ada kapal crusies datang membawa ratusan wisatawan mancanegara untuk menyaksikan pentas adat budaya Lewohala.Thank byak bt Reu Lambert. Mabes Bekasi

  16. Bang, ijin repost gambar pasar lembata di blog saya- makasih......

  17. ile ape tana titen doan oek sama peten ben go balik gelekat moe,,

  18. siti hasnah kedang12:13 PM, May 26, 2011

    lembata menjadi satu kebanggan buat kita

  19. Hello nama saya Karen Sebastian dan saya mempunyai seorang kawan yang datang dari Lembata Lewoleba dekat ile Api. Dulunya berkerja dengan saya dan sudah lama tak berhubungi. Saya ada alamatnya dan namanya:
    Maria Imakulatta anak kepada Bapak Philipus L. Kedang, D/A Kantor Camat Atadei Kabupaten Lembata Di Kalikasa , Pulau Flores,Indonesia.

    Boleh sampai saya di alamat email saya :kgarann76@yahoo.com . Terima Kasih

  20. wow karen, terimakasih sudah berkunjung ke blog saya. kalikasa dan ileape tak jauh, sama-sama di lembata. saya belum kenal teman anda, tapi saya yakin dia benar-benar orang lembata. kalikasa lebih terkenal daripada ileape.

    salam untuk karen sekeluarga di malaysia.

  21. saya terkesan baca blog ini. bung hurek, saya kira anda orang ile ape, lembata, yg punya kualitas tulisan sangat bagus dan informatif dari sekian banyak blog dan website milik otang NTT. bahkan salah satu blog yg berkualitas di indonesia.

    terus menulis ya agar NTT lebih dikenal orang dengan kekhasan budaya dan keramahan penduduknya.


  22. lembata punya tradisi dan budaya yg mengesankan. maju terus!

  23. Inilah sedikit yg disumbangkan tapi nyata dan sangat besar manfaatnya dalam membangun daerah sendiri..teruslah berkaraya rekan Lambertus....bila ada video pariwisata yg bagus dapat di muat di TALK FUSION krn video itu bisa di emailkan dan langsung bisa dibuka di INBOX email org atau lembaga yg kita kirimkan email kita itu. ini email sy: fridusmsl@yahoo.com