MaxFM, Waingapu – The tribes of Kodi inhabit the southwestern area of Sumba island, precisely, in Sumba Barat Daya (SBD) Regency. Having a population of around 100.000, the area consists of four districts, namely Kodi, Kodi Utara, Kodi Bangedo, and Kec.Balaghar.
According to the Kodi customs, marriage can only be performed when the brides and grooms are from different clans. Although tradition allows a person to marry their uncle’s son or daughter, the church has prohibited the practice. Therefore, internal-clan marriage is no longer possible. Additionally, the Catholic church in Sumba had not administered services of a blessing ceremony for internal-clan marriages.
In Kodi traditional weddings, some conditions are considered taboo. Any violence to the ordinances may result in lifetime customary and social sanctions to the groom and bride.
Marriage is prohibited when the groom and the bride have particular family ties. The following is a list of conditions when marriage is no longer supported:
1. If there are kinships between the groom’s and the bride’s fathers.
2. If there are kinships between the groom’s and the bride’s mothers.
3. If the groom and bride come from the same walla (clan/ ancestor). For example, between walla Nggawi and walla Nggawi, walla Biri and walla Biri, walla Tube and walla Tube, walla Loghe and walla Loghe, and so forth.
In Kodi, there is more than 100 known walla.
4. If the groom and bride come from the same parona (paraingu). Parona is a large village that the tribes of Kodi use for social gatherings. The kinship is prohibited in marriage because parona was built by Kodi’s ancestors whose forefathers were siblings.
There are around 100 parona in Kodi, with each parona having 15-20 traditional houses (joglo) and every joglo consisting of 30-50 patriarchs. One patriarch, usually the elderly, is given the responsibility for keeping the main traditional house while others move to other locations and establish new small villages. During traditional ceremonies such as Wolek or Nale, all communities return to the big village.
The marital customs in Kodi cannot be separated from belis – the traditional dowry practice, where the groom’s family has to pay a particular price to the family of the bride. Sadly, those who are not familiar with the tradition may misunderstand the true significance of belis. When a family requests for belis, people mistake the family for selling their daughter. It is a fatal misconception because the underlying reason for belis is related to a symbol of honor and dignity.
Belis has its cultural distinctiveness that during their colonial era, the Dutch liked to jokingly translate the term belis as beli ala Sumba (Sumbanese way of buying). The joke is relatable because after paying the belis, the groom will not only receive their bride but also acquire gifts, including sarong and livestock (mostly pigs). In total, the number of gifts may exceed the belis values. In other words, the bride is free by law. However, the option depends on the bride’s family’s decision to keep their dignity. Most brides do not want to be under the circumstances where they are bound to the ‘purchase’- that when they are paid with belis, brides do not own any rights in the household. In Kodi communities, they have the term ole uma for husbands and wives. It means, they are domestic partners having equal positions.
Although Kodi communities have an expression of werahanga to wives, the term is not appropriate because it refers to the price of cattle/ livestock. The phrase may mislead others’ understanding because it means that wives, who have been purchased with cattle/ livestock, do not have any rights in the household.
Marriage in the Kodi community goes through several phases. The first step is known as lataya uto hamamma, which means to deliver some parts of hampers consisting of betel nut. Lataya uto hamamma represents self-introduction or door knocking. During this phase, the groom and his family carry one buffalo and one horse during their first visit to the family of the bride. Tou keteng paneghe, known in the East Sumba as wunang, is a person who will represent the groom’s family to discuss on required preparations for the wedding. To accompany the tou keteng paneghe, the groom together with his parents and the elders of his family will join in this phase. In exchange for the gifts of one buffalo and one horse from the groom’s family, the bride’s family will present a pig, a sheet of traditional cloth, and one traditional sarong. The pig is then prepared as a serving meal where the whole body part, except its intestines, is used. The lataya uto hamamma also becomes the step when the groom’s family informs the brides of when they will deliver the betel nut as the pre-wedding hamper.
Lataya uto hamamma is then followed by a phase when the groom’s family delivers the betel nut as the pre-wedding hamper. At this step, the future groom – may be accompanied by his parents – will bring five livestock (two buffalos and three horses). Similar to the first step, after receiving the gifts, the future bride’s family will in return present one pig of large size, some traditional clothes, and sarongs. The event is then continued with kareyo walli ana. It is an occasion when the future bride’s family announces the expected number of belis. Usually, they ask for a minimum of 10 livestock (5 buffalos and 5 horses). However, the number may be varied, depending on the family’s request. Some families may ask for 20-100 livestock and one golden memoli (a traditional piece of jewelry shaped like a woman’s intimate organ). In some cases, the number of livestock and gifts may even be greater. For example, in the proposal of H. R. Horo’s (the tribal king of Kodi) daughter in the 1960s. When she was proposed by Matius Umu Tunggu Bili, the tribal king of Mamboro, her family demanded a belis of 100 livestock (50 buffalos and 50 horses).
In cases when the future bride’s family has presented a sheet of traditional cloth to the male’s family before announcing the expected number of belis, but the groom’s family refuses the request, the bride’s family may propose deke rahi. The term means that the bride’s family suggests an additional time for the groom’s family as to when they may pay for the belis. If the family of the groom feels confident about their means, they may inform the exact time when they are going to pay. However, the groom’s family may also propose another meeting if they are not ready. During deke rahi, the family of the bride will butcher a large-sized pig (whose price is similar to one buffalo) and one sheet of traditional cloth.
What consideration(s) determine the price for belis?
First, the number of belis to be paid to a future bride depends on the number of belis paid to her mother or her aunts. Second, is the social status of the future bride. If the future bride comes from a family of aristocracy lineage, they might ask for a belis of 25 livestock or more. Third, if the future bride is dear to her family. For example, if she is the only daughter, the family may demand a lot of livestock. In other words, the family request represents their love for the bride so it appears that they are not willing to let the daughter go easily.
Other than livestock and cattle, belis may also take the form of kito and nambu which means traditional machete and spear. This type of belis is considered the most sacred. When this type of belis is applied, the ‘payment’ will not be considered finished until the family of the future groom present the kito and nambu to the bride’s family. Unfortunately, kito and nombu have slowly been forgotten by most people in Kodi because they might perceive them not as worthy.
The third phase of a traditional wedding in Kodi is called woyo walli.
Woyo wolli aims to inquire about the previous belis of hawuku rahi – the additional time requested by the groom’s family in the second phase. At this step, the future groom’s family must present one buffalo in return for a pig presented by the bride’s family during hawuku rahi. At woyo walli, the elders will ask for the agreed number of belis. In other words, if the family of the groom has promised of presenting 20 livestock, they must also give 2 memolis. In addition, the family must present one horse to the bride’s uncle.
In some cases, the groom’s family may not be ready to present the expected number of livestock. To settle the matter, both families may have following discussions through their spokesmen (wunang). In a situation when it is not possible to settle the belis, another discourse is required to determine the time limit of the payment.
When the belis is paid off or at least more than half the number of the expected numbers are presented, the future bride may be brought by the groom. As a reward, the groom’s family will be present with one pig (alive) and one butchered hog. Additionally, the family of the bride may also present dozens of sarongs, household furniture, wardrobe, bed, riding horse, and male buffalo. In present days, some families substitute the animals with a motorcycle and even a truck.
Concerning that not all future grooms and their families are ready to pay all the expected belis at once, it is normal to find the practice is administered in two or three steps; and thus, the sacred belis is delayed. Belis is perceived as completed at the final step when the agreed number of livestock has been presented to the bride’s family. However, the delayed belis is prone to mischievousness. As the groom has brought the bride out of her family house, he may feel reluctant to finish the belis payment. As a result, the delayed belis is prone to be left unfinished.
[Author : Frans Wora Hebi – A regular host of Bengkel Bahasa Radio MaxFM Program, senior jurnalist, cultural practitioner, and author]
This writing has been brought in the program of Bengkel Bahasa Radio Max 96.9FM on Wednesday (March 9, 2022) at 20:00 Central Indonesian Time.
[Translator : Itha Priyastiti]