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Freddy dalam Berita
Rotenese Traditional House
The Internal Structure of the Rotinese House
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The Internal Structure of the Rotinese House
From the outside, the traditional Rotinese house looks like an immense haystack (see Figure 2). A thatch of lontar leaves or alang grass extends downward to within a metre or so of the ground. Enclosed within this enveloping roof is a complex three-level structure. To enter, one must crouch beneath this thatch at its midpoint. Entry is only from the north or south, never from the east or west.
The question of the direction of entry to the house was in fact a contested, historical issue on Roti about which van de Wetering provides important information. Symbolically, in Rotinese conceptions, the south is unquestionably superior to the north and, for that reason, entrance to the house ought properly to be from the south. However, during the colonial period, entry was also permitted from the north since this was the quadrant of the Dutch whose power the Rotinese acknowledged. In explaining that entry was originally only from the south but later was also from the north, van de Wetering cites the Rotinese syllogism of the period: ‘The north is the same as the south but the Company [originally the Dutch East India Company] comes from the north, therefore the north is greater than the south’ (van de Wetering 1923:471–472; see also Jonker 1913:613). This acknowledgement of Dutch power did not effect a wholesale change in the direction of entry but at least allowed an alternative possibility in the system.
Figure 6.2. Figure 2. A traditional Rotinese house
Houses on Roti are classified according to the number of their main posts (di). Thus there are — or were — ‘four-, six- and, in rare instances, eight-post houses’ (uma di-hak, di-nek and di-faluk). These posts are the critical support structures of the house and they must preserve the same order as the trees from which they were cut with their bases (huk) planted in the ground. Similarly, house beams, and especially the ridge-pole, must be oriented with their bases at the tail of the house and their tips toward the head. This order is a fundamental requirement of auspicious construction practice.
Figure 6.3. Figure 3. The classification of levels of the Rotinese house
The basic minimal house structure is a ‘four-post house’. The six-post house is essentially a four-post house with the addition of two more posts set at the western or tail end of the four-post structure. Larger houses are thus extensions on a basic form. All houses involve a science of construction (ndolu) based on proportions of an odd and even number of elements. Thus, for example, a ‘six- or eight-post house’ is not just a longer house but is also raised higher off the ground. The ladder must have an odd number of steps. For a four-post house, the ladder should have seven steps; for a six-post house, nine; and, for an eight-post house, eleven. Similarly, although the total number of roof spars must be odd, there must be an even number on the left side of the house and an odd number on the right side.
As with many Rotinese forms of classification, the levels of the house may be considered as either a dichotomy or as a trichotomy (see Figure 3). Conceived as a dichotomous structure, the house consists of a ‘ground level’ (uma dae) and a raised ‘upper level’ (uma lai). This division is based on coordinates, dae//lai, ‘above’//‘below’ or ‘earth’//‘sky’ and the entire raised portion of the house is regarded as a single unit. Conceived as a trichotomous structure, however, the ‘upper level’ is seen to contain the loft (uma hunuk lain) which can only be reached by an internal ladder from within the upper level itself. In this conception, the first raised level of the house forms a middle world between the loft and the ground.
Humans as well as animals, particularly dogs and pigs, occupy the space at the ground level of the house. This whole area is known as the finga-eik. A number of raised resting platforms (loa-anak) are set at this level and used for everyday activities. The head of the house occupies the ‘head’ or eastern-most platform and when guests visit, they align themselves in a rough order of precedence from east to west in relation to their host.
The organization of space at the first raised level of the house (see Figure 4) provides the major conceptual distinctions within the house. Here, again, classification is both a dichotomy and a trichotomy. Conceived as a dichotomy, the larger eastern half of the house is referred to as the ‘outer house’ (uma deak); the lesser western half of the house, separated from the ‘outer house’ by a partition, is called the ‘inner house’ (uma dalek). As a trichotomy, the ‘outer house’ is divided into ‘head’ (uma langak) at its far eastern end and ‘inner middle’ (tena dalek) or ‘inner chest’ (tene dalek) while the ‘inner house’ (uma dalek) remains conceptually undivided.
A ladder (heda-huk) is set on a flat stone base (bata tatabuk) under the roof and roughly in the middle of the house, facing the entrance (see Figure 5). It leads from the ground level up into the ‘outer house’. The rules of proper order require that the first step from the ladder into the ‘outer house’ be with the right foot and the same rule for auspicious entry applies as one goes from the ‘outer house’ to the ‘inner house’. The ladder itself can be drawn up and the entrance doors on either side of it can be closed to seal off this level from the ground. In speaking of privacy, Rotinese remark that one does not know — nor does one inquire — what someone does inside a house when the ladder is drawn.
Figure 6.4. Figure 4. Plan of interior of a Rotinese house
The raised level of the house is a private area. Only family members, relatives and guests at certain rituals are allowed up into the house. The ‘inner house’ is an even more intimate precinct than the ‘outer house’. In the ‘inner house’ is another ladder that leads up into the loft, which is the most closed and intimate section of the entire structure.
Figure 6.5. Figure 5. Sketch of the ladder (heda-huk) leading into the upper house (uma lai)
In marriage ceremonies, the close female relatives of the groom receive the bride when she is escorted to her husband’s family house. There they wash her feet before she ascends the ladder into the house. The women then escort her into the ‘inner house’ and carefully place her hand on different objects in this part of the house. In traditional ceremonies, a marriage chamber was prepared for the couple in this inner precinct.
When a man has built a house for his wife and is able to move from his family house, he surrenders all access to the house to his wife. He can offer guests nothing if his wife is not present and he can only gain access to what is stored in the loft through his wife. By the same logic, if an unrelated man enters under the roof of a house when only the wife is present, he can be accused of adultery and heavily fined. When visiting a house, one must call out for permission to enter before stooping under the thatch.
The distinction between inner (dalek) and outer (deak) sections of the house is given marked gender associations. Although the house as a whole is conceived of as female and only one woman may have jurisdiction over it, the closed ‘inner house’ at the western end of the building has the strongest female associations. This precinct is reserved as the sleeping place for unmarried girls of the household. By contrast, adolescent boys should sleep in the ‘outer’ section of the house.
The gender associations between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ sections of the house imply a clear separation between brothers and sisters. Hence, when the children of a brother and sister marry, the marriage is described as a reunion of the two parts of the house. Uma deak leo uma dalek, uma dalek leo uma deak: ‘the outer house goes to the inner house, the inner house goes to the outer house’.
In the inner house are located the cooking fire, a water jar, and a large sack-like basket (soko) of harvested rice which stands for the ‘nine seeds’ (pule sio) of the agricultural cult. The close physical and symbolic association of rice, water and the hearth — all clustered in the female precinct of the house — is of critical importance since these elements serve to define the house as a commensal unit. A ladder leads from the ‘inner house’ into the loft which is a further, elevated extension of this inner sanctum, where more food and valuables are stored. Also located in the loft is a vat of lontar syrup, the ‘great spirit jar’ (bou nitu inak), which is never supposed to be empty. According to pre-Christian traditions, the spirits of the dead have their physical representations as specially shaped lontar leaves (maik) which are hung in the loft and are there given appropriate offerings. A house with such spirits is or was acknowledged as an uma nitu, a ‘spirit house’. (Since the lastborn son inherits his parents’ house, access to the spirits within the house passes to this youngest child, thus enhancing the strong associations — muli/mulik — of the last-born with the spirits of the west.) Births, however, are also arranged to take place in the ‘inner house’ in close proximity to the spirits, and women and children of the family who are seriously ill retreat to this part of the house to seek recovery.
A prerequisite for the well-being of a house is that it be inhabited by a cat. Such a cat is called the ‘cat in the upper house’ (meo nai uma lai). This cat is identified with the woman of the house in the same way as a man may be identified with his hunting dog. If a woman were to leave her husband, this can only be referred to, in polite conversation, as the departure of the ‘cat in the upper house’. To retrieve his wife, a man must first ritually cleanse the ladder of his house before seeking to woo his wife to return.
The ‘outer house’, with its basic division into ‘head’ and ‘inner middle’, also contains other named locations. The most important ritual position in the ‘outer house’ is the post located at the south-eastern section of this precinct. This is called the di kona, the ‘right/south post’, the first and foremost foundation post of the house. It is dedicated to the Lord of Lightning and of the Rainbow who is known, in Rotinese, as Elu Tongos or, alternatively, as the Tou Mane, literally the ‘Male-Man’. This post is believed to be the stabilizing point that secures the house to the earth. It is the first post that is set in the ground during construction and should be accompanied by offerings to the Earth and to Elu Tongos. As the foremost post, this ‘right/south post’ marks the beginning and origin of the construction of the house. A red cloth is often wound around this post and a container of what is described as ‘reddish’ coconut oil is supposed to be hung on or near it and used to anoint the post at times of severe storms and typhoons. Formerly, sacrifices and divination by means of a spear were also carried out at this post.
The outer house holds male implements of various sorts. The spars offer convenient places to hang these implements; for example, the initial payment of bridewealth consisting of the spear and sword given by the groom’s side to the bride’s family. In the ceremonial presentation of these male tokens, the spear and sword are supposed to be carried into the outer house and hung from the spars in the south-eastern corner of the ‘head of the house’ near the right post.
There is a cryptic ritual language saying:
Ala lolo dulu no muli
They lay the beams east and west
Ma ala ba ki no kona.
They lay the cross boards north and south.
This saying is cited in reference to the planks in the ‘inner middle of the house’ which are supposed to run in a north-south direction in contrast to the other beams of the house, particularly those at the ‘head of the house’ which run east-west. One knowledgeable commentator referred to the north-south floor planks as bak, which in Rotinese can mean ‘lungs’ but could also be a technical term from the verb/adverb -ba, meaning ‘to lay crosswise’. Interpretations based on folk etymologies and on basic terms of similar sound shape are recurrent features of local exegeses.
The inner middle of the house (uma tena dalek) is also referred to as the ‘inner chest’ of the house (uma tene dalek). The names of the lengthwise floor planks in this section of the house extend the body imagery of the house. On either side of the floor planks called the ‘inner chest planks’ (papa tene dalek) are the right and left ‘rib planks’ (papa kaiusu ki/kona). From this conceptual vantage point, the inside of the house is even more explicitly defined as the inside of a ‘body’. (Figure 6 shows the ladder, levels and division within the house.)
Figure 6.6. Figure 6. Schematic representation showing the ladder, levels and division within the Rotinese house
Not only is the house conceived of in terms of the physical categories of a ‘body’; its internal structure also conforms to the major categories that define the ‘person’. In Rotinese, dale(k) refers to the inner core of a person, the seat of both cognition and emotion. Thus serious thoughts, reflections and judgements are regarded as coming ‘from inside’ (neme dale-na) or as ‘thought from within oneself’ (afi nai dale-na). Similarly in Rotinese, there are numerous compound expressions for emotional states based on the category dale-: dale-malole, ‘to be good hearted, friendly’; dale-hi, ‘to desire intensely’; nata-dale, ‘to be glad, overjoyed’. In contrast to this use of dale is the conscious, manipulative use of words (dede’ak) in which Rotinese delight. This verbal play is part of an external persona and does not belong to the inner core of the person (Fox 1973: 343–346). Like the ‘inner house’, the inner person is intimately distinguished from what is publicly expressed.
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Orientation and Exegesis Home Internal Structures and the Performance of Rituals in the House
Table of master builder of ndolu
Rotenese Traditional House
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