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Sumba Tribe History: The Rich Cultural Legacy

The Sumba Tribe, also known as the Marapu people, is an indigenous community living on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. The tribe is known for their unique culture, traditional beliefs, and stunning handicrafts.

They have been living on this island for thousands of years, and their culture is as rich as it is old. The geneticists believe that they first inhabited the northern coast of Sumba Island during Neolithic times, around 4000 BC.
The megalithic structures have been created since then until now by these people who lived in harmony with nature and their surroundings.

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The Sandalwood Trade

Sumba Island was known as Sandalwood Island because of the abundance of sandalwood trees on the island. The trade in this precious wood flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, with large quantities being exported to India and China.
In addition to this lucrative trade, slave raiding also developed during this period. Exporting horses was a major part of this activity: they were taken from Sumba by force or sold by their owners who could not afford to keep them anymore because they had been forced into slavery themselves.

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Dutch East Indies

Sumba Island became part of the Dutch East Indies by 1866. The Dutch mission started in 1886, and Jesuits opened a mission in Laura. West Sumba was divided into three districts: Waikabubak, Waingapu and Bima (now South Sumba).
Sumba was invaded by Dutch troops during 1906 due to clan wars which resulted in many deaths; after this event there were no more wars on Sumba until World War II broke out in 1941. In 1913 the Netherlands set up a loose civil administration over Sumba’s eastern half (now Central & East Sumba).

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The religion of Sumba Tribe

The Sumba Tribe is deeply rooted in their traditional religion called Marapu, which is a blend of animism, ancestor worship, and Hinduism. They believe that the spirits of their ancestors continue to watch over them and play a significant role in their daily lives. The tribe has a rich oral tradition of storytelling, music, and dance, which are often used during rituals and ceremonies.

East Sumbanese People

The East Sumbanese people occupy half of the island of Sumba, and their history is rich with many cultural traditions. The textiles produced by this group depict various plant, animal, and human figures that can be seen in the designs used on their clothing. Many European museums collect these textiles because they are so beautiful and intricate; some examples include The Textile Museum in Washington DC, or The British Museum in London (UK).

One of the most striking features of the Sumba Tribe is their stunning textile art. The tribe is famous for their traditional hand-woven ikat fabric, which is made using a complex dyeing and weaving technique. The fabrics are often used to create beautiful sarongs, shawls, and other clothing items, which are highly sought after by collectors and fashion enthusiasts.

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Traditional houses of Sumba tribe

Aside from their textile art, the Sumba Tribe is also known for their unique architecture. The tribe’s traditional houses, called Uma Mbatangu, are made using a combination of wood, bamboo, and thatch. The houses are often decorated with intricate carvings and paintings, which depict scenes from the tribe’s mythology and history.

Despite their rich culture and tradition, the Sumba Tribe faces many challenges, including economic hardship and environmental degradation. However, the tribe continues to preserve their heritage and way of life, passing down their knowledge and skills to future generations.

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