It is hard to describe Flores cultural heritage in short since each district has it’s own history, culture, customs, ceremonies, Ikat colours and patterns, languages and dialects, local foods, music, do’s and don’t’s. Add the mix of religions to that list and there you have it …. Flores is a melting pot.
I won’t elaborate much here about Flores Cultural Heritage, I prefer to write down what I was told by the people whom I met during the many encounters on my trips through the various Regencies. Just some short notes ……
Flores population is predominantly Catholic. Most fishing communities are Muslim. Animism coexists with these religions. You find churches, mosques, Catholic congregations, monasteries, and seminaries everywhere on Flores. Some main guidelines regarding respecting local community members, their culture and religion are that you should not enter a mosque uninvited, always wear appropriate clothing when visiting any community, do not sit or stand on ritual stones or stone offering places – interesting to read The Megalitic Culture of Indonesia by William James Perry
There are people who did extensive research here on Flores, Indonesian researchers – mostly published in Bahasa Indonesia – and for example Maribeth Erb, Stroma Cole and Irene Doubrawa – all are advisors at Eco Flores – I recommend their books and research publications in case you like to understand Flores in depth.
There are three Manggarai districts. In the past it was one. The Manggaraian culture is beautifully described in The Manggaraians: Vanishing Cultures of the World by Maribeth Erb. If you have a chance to read this book before coming to Flores it will help you to understand much more of what you will experience while travelling through Manggarai.
Ngadha and Nagekeo used to be one district till 2007. Ngadha has a matrilineal culture, a man moves into his wife`s home and becomes a part of her family. All property descends through the female line and upon marriage. Clans in Nagekeo have either patrilineal or matrilineal culture. To understand much more about Ngadha culture I recommend you read Tourism, Culture and Development: Hopes, Dreams and Realities in East Indonesia by Stroma Cole
Sikka was the residence of the former Kings of Sikka. This has been documented by E.D. Lewis in the ‘The Stranger Kings of Sikka‘
To be honest I have only passed through Flores Timur (Flotim) several times on my way to Lembata, a beautiful winding road with spectacular views – beware to take medication when you suffer from car sickness ! In once stayed overnight in Larantuka, a lovely small town and the capital of Flotim. We were not in time to catch the ferry to cross over to Lewoleba on Lembata. That was not pleasure, because the hotel was quite dirty to say the least. But that was in 2012. I am sure things have improved by now regarding accommodation.
Lembata, being a separate island, is still much under development. It has it’s own Ikat traditions, languages and architecture. You can read some stories on the Lembata pages.
A study on linguistics Lio and the Central Flores languages by Alexander Elias