Marapu Followers

During the weekly Wednesday Forum held on March 10, 2010, Mr. Jimmy Marcos Immanuel, a senior CRCS student, presented parts of his field research result on the Marapu and Natural Disaster in East Sumba. Though the audience was few due to a workshop which was being held at the fifth floor of the Graduate School Building where some of the CRCS students attended, the forum was able to cross successfully.

With the theme “Marapu, Nature and Natural Disaster,” Mr. Jimmy presented his research in three parts. First, he showed to the attendees where Sumba is in Indonesia with the help of a map and a brief history of the place. Second, he gave the audience a glimpse of the village life of the Marapu people before and the present, also the cosmology of the Marapu people. And the third, he presented the concept and attitude of the Marapu people with regard to ecological problems which are compared to Government’s policy and scholars’ definition of natural disaster.

According to him, the Marapu people consider ecological problems or the natural disaster as “punishment”? from Marapu (their ancestor’s spirits). He said that whatever natural disaster befalls them, they accept it ordinarily. They view it as Marapu’s punishment as they have done something wrong. However, they try to appease the Marapu too by holding some hamayangu (rituals) that require animal sacrifice and some cultural activities. The Marapu people, as Mr. Jimmy had presented, put down in order the ecological problems in accordance to their concern, the most serious to the least serious of their concern. They consider famine as the most serious problem and natural disaster, while earthquake as the least.

Two of the natural disasters they experienced to which they view religiously connected with Christianity are the locust and bullfrog outbreak. They said that when these two occur, not only their Marapu is angry at them but also the God of the Christians, thus sending them the pests just like the time of Moses when Pharaoh refuses to send the Israelites out of Egypt. They gave that respond because the Christian teachings are also popular in their society.

However, when the earth moves causing earthquake, they explained that when it occurs, a mouse is eating the trunk of their cosmology tree. To stop the quake, they just shout “yangga…yangga” which means “there are people here”?. In a picture the Marapu people have drawn to explain their cosmology, a mouse and a cat are below it. The mouse is the one eating the trunk while the cat is advising the mouse to stop munching.

The different construction of natural disaster the Marapu people have results the consequence of it. For the Marapu people, there is no single term that they can use to refer to natural disaster, but they have “happa hippu, ngangu hippo“? which means “break the Marapu’s rule.”? When ecological problems occur, or natural disaster for the outsiders’ term, they say they are not victims or survivors, but simply punished people. They should do some rituals to ask forgiveness from Marapu in order to balance the relation of Marapu, human being, and nature (triangle relation).

After the interesting presentation, questions were thrown to the speaker. The most appealing question came from Mr. Pardomuan Sihombing, a priest of a church in Center Java, who asked what the government has done for the Marapu people. Another question came from Mark Woodward, where their ancestors are in their cosmology.

The forum ended at 2:30 P.M. with a round of applause from the audience for the presenter.

Jimmy Marcos Immanuel, simply called Jimmy, is a CRCS student. He is the first student from their batch to speak in the prestigious forum held every Wednesday. His topic is part of his MA thesis that he will bring to Singapore for the Asia Research Institute fellowship.


This post is also available in: Indonesian


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