Seram Island in Maluku Province of Indonesia is steeped in tradition. Deep in its mountains and along its coast, several indigenous tribes still hunt with long wooden spears and adhere to their old ways of life. The largest island in the Maluku archipelago, Seram is known affectionately as the Nusa Ina (Mother Island) and is considered the original ancestral home of all Malukan people.
The Nuaulu tribe speak their own language, different from other sub-tribes on Seram. They have different rituals to other tribes. Even as their traditions evolve, they remain deeply meaningful and unique. We discovered that this tribe had only moved to its current location six years ago. According to the village head, Russunsa means ‘the story of the island’ in their local language. He described how the tribe had moved to Russunsa from Sepa Village.
They made a decision to move because we wanted to practise their adat ways. Sepa is predominately Muslim, and they are animist. They blended well for a long time, but their ways are different and now they have moved, and they are very content.
They like the old ways. Like the natural roof, for example, it lasts three years. They tried the other way—using a permanent tin roof, but it’s very hot. Not good at all. The natural way is better.
They also have their own ways of doing burial rituals. There are actually two ways. One is to bury the body, but a line must be drawn before the burial takes place. This signifies that this person, this body, is now over that line and on a new path—a path to the other world. They have crossed the line and will never return. If it’s an accidental death, then it’s a different burial ritual. The body is placed on a raised platform above the ground, then wrapped in sago leaves and left in the jungle—not buried. They simply leave the body to the elements in the forest.
There are several other native tribes in Seram Island, each speaks their own language and lives their own tradition.
Community Education: Heka Leka, is a non-profit education foundation, which has been running a literacy program in the Malukus since 2011. Based in Ambon, Heka Leka’s team delivers books and teacher training workshops to marginalised remote villages in the islands. Using education as a tool to fight poverty, the foundation focuses on improving the quality of teaching and empowering local communities. Heka Leka has helped more than 100 villages.
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