Photo: Checking for omens.

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Wunga village

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At the far dry north of East Sumba, Wunga village sits surrounded in myth and legend. According to Marapu belief, Wunga is the place from which all the people of Sumba descend, where the ancestors came via a ladder made of buffalo horns from the sky.

Marapu heaven is composed of eight levels, or as was explained to us via the people in Wunga, seven seas and eight islands, which had to be crossed to reach Wunga. When you die, it is believed you ascend this ladder to return. In traditional houses all over Sumba, the central poles are carved with a wave-like pattern at the top, which apparently is a symbol of this legend.

Simple digs at Wunga village. Photo taken in or around Wunga village, Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Simple digs at Wunga village. Photo: Sally Arnold

Today, Wunga is remote, perched and hidden on the top of a hill at the end of a rocky staircase. In 2010, most of the village was burned to the ground, and the villagers are slowly rebuilding, with the help of “a Japanese man”. So don’t expect ancient buildings, however the newly built houses are done in traditional style with natural materials. They look old, and some of the original central poles were salvaged from the fire and have been reused.

When we visited, they were in the middle of a ceremony to request blessings from the gods to build a new house, and invited us to join the festivities. Our plan had been for a short visit here, but we ended up spending most of the afternoon in the village. If you get an opportunity to join in a ceremony, we recommend that you amend your schedule and go with the flow.

Friendly locals from Wunga village. Photo taken in or around Wunga village, Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Friendly locals from Wunga village. Photo: Sally Arnold

Invited to sit with the men on the veranda, they passed around first chicken intestines, then a pig’s liver to inspect for omens. Examined and discussed in great detail for some time, it was finally concluded that the portents were good. We were then served the sacrificed animals and rice, and the atmosphere became less serious and ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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