Island of Flores

A village life lost in time …

After the rain ...

The mist shrouded village at the foot of the hills in Bajawa on Flores island looks almost surreal. Just as I arrived the rain came. I took shelter in one of the huts. As I sat listening to the mesmerizing sound of the raindrops I drifted away into another world. Then the rain stopped and I heard people running towards the buckets and tanks that were placed in front of the huts. “water is scarce and we collect it from the rain to use for our daily life” says one of the villager. Life seems hard for the village people but their smiling faces is what makes this place an enchantment. I could imagine how this place must have been like prior to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century, paradise maybe or something out of a lost world but it was certainly home to the now extinct homo floresiensis also known as the little people who lived here more than 10.000 years ago. This particular village seems to have retain much of its traditional way of living. I walked along its many rows of thatched roof huts built closely to one another. In the middle are some ceremonial houses and wooden poles topped with umbrella like roof symbolizing male and female ancestors. The villagers were eager to show me around and I was invited in one of the houses. Inside were plenty of wall paintings, ancestral carvings and family heirloom. In one corner a woman was holding a child.

Woman holding a child

Outside in the verandah another woman was busy grinding her betel nut. Her red coloured mouth as a result of her daily betel chewing was quite impressive and when I asked her age she did not reply, she just starred at me while ferociously pounding her betel nut. I was later told that she was very old. No birth certificates around then …

Woman grinding betel but

Next to the old woman were children playing and I had to capture this lovely image. Images here are shot with my Canon film camera using Ilford Delta 400, Kodak Tmax, Fujichrome and are taken from my book series Journeys Java to Flores. Images are also available as silver or digital prints.

In a Bajawa village

Flores like many islands in the eastern part of Indonesia is known for its beautiful ikat weaving and it is common to see women preparing homemade spun threads, working on spinning wheels or weaving ikat cloth as part of their daily task.

Woman preparing threads for weaving

The backstrap loom ikat weaving …

Woman weaving the traditional ikat cloth

A village market to browse through for local fruits and vegetables. Placed in buckets are the local green pear shaped chayote these delicious vegetables from the cucurbitaceae family.

A village market

The belief in the supernatural and spirits of the ancestors is heavily anchored in the people of Flores. Everywhere I went I was told of many stories involving spirits that roamed certain places. Of course I haven’t yet made such paranormal encounters even if people I met have told me uncanny stories happening on the island. Could it be that the island with its very dense forest steeped in strong local beliefs has made earthly spirits to linger around … Unlike the island of Sumba where ancestral stone megaliths abound, a few of these megalithic constructions can be seen in Bajawa. In search of these megalithic stone structures I was lead to the old village by a farmer and his son. We took the forest path lined with tall bamboo trees before reaching the place of the ancestors and there it is an amazing view of stone slabs scattered around the vast plains. I felt like being thrown into another world lost in time …

Into the world of ancestors

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