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Obscured from the complexities of the modern world and sheltered by nature’s generosity, time stands still at the village of Boti in the high mountains of Timor Island, as its people still retain the same way of life as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.
Situated in the rugged mountains about 40Km from the town of Soe, capital of South Central Timor Regency, - and quite a distance away from Kupang, capital of the East Nusatenggara province, - the Boti Village is known to be the last village in Timor where the people still strictly practice the tradition and way of life of the Timorese ancestors.
The Boti are said to be direct descendants from the true ancestors of the Timorese called the Atoni Metu. Administratively, their territory is now recognized as the Boti Village, in the Kie County, within the vicinity of the South Central Timor Regency.
The village is decorated with several umekububu, the traditional house of the Timorese. One umekububu is resided by the queen of Boti, while in the other houses are the royal members of the Boti kingdom. The king of Boti resided in the building that resembles the Timorese Lopo. Lopo is a round structure familiarly found within the island, without side walls and covered with thatch from the mast down to the floor with only a small opening to crawl in. Aside of functioning as sleeping chambers, the umekubu is also used as the kitchen. The upper part of the dome is usually used as storage for the farming goods since the smoke from the kitchen is known to cause the produce to last longer.
Located at the back of the king’s Lopo, there is a much more open lopo with floors made from unpolished marble which is used as the meeting hall. The structure is supported by four pillars representing the four clans of the Boti ethnic group. Here, the king of Boti and his people frequently meet to discuss important matters occurring within their village.
Unlike any other part of Timor Island, the village of Boti is not influenced by Christianity since any violation to the ethnic’s rules and tradition is punished by expulsion. Instead, the ethnic Boti practice an ancient belief called Halaika. Halaika is centered around two rulers of life namely Uis Pah or the mother who watches over and controls the universe and all its creatures including humans, and Uis Neno as the Father who rules the afterlife and determines those who will go to heaven or hell based on what they have done in the living world. If a member of Boti decides to convert to another religion then the person will be expelled from the tribe, which interestingly happened to the heir to the throne Laka Benu, who was expelled from the tribe for converting to Christianity.
There are approximately 77 families or about 350 people within the Boti ethnic group. In their daily life, there are clear distinctions between the tasks of men and women. The men are in charge of all the matters outside the house such as gardening and hunting, while domestic matters are the duty of women. Although the role division is common among tribal societies, the one thing that differentiates the Boti is that they are monogamous. If a Bothi’s man is married, then he will not be allowed to cut his hair, thus as their hair grows longer they will tie it up.
According to the Boti philosophy, humans will be given welfare and salvation if they take care and preserve their natural environment. In their daily life the Boti only utilize natural produce that they get from their surroundings, such as their clothes which they weave and dye from various plants growing near the village. For eating and drinking they still use coconut shell instead of plates, spoons, or glass, while all the food containers are made from palm leaves.
Secluded in the mountains of Kie County, South Central Timor regency, the village of Boti can be reached from Kupang, the capital of East Nusatenggara, with approximately 4 hours’ drive. From Soe, capital of South Central Timor, the village can be reached by a two hours’ drive. Roads are mainly bumpy with a lot of winding turns and steep cliffs on each side, but the scenery all the way to the village can surely make up for the rough tracks.
If you choose to use a public transportation, then from Kupang you can take the Kupang-Soe bus for approximately IDR20,000. You would subsequently need to take Ojek or motorbike taxis to get to the village and would cost you somewhere around IDR50,000.