Dai Island, Sinairusi, Lewa, Hertuti villages, Sinairusi Kecil hamlet. Dialects: No dialect variation. Lexical similarity: 72% with Dawera-Daweloor (most similar) [ddw], 71% with Nakarahamto, 49% with Masela-South Babar, 48% with Tepa (Luang).
The Dai people live in the Babar Islands in the eastern part of the country of Indonesia in the South West Pacific near North Australia. The Babar Islands are thought to have been inhabited for 40,000 years, starting with Australoid people, then more recently (from 3000 years ago) with waves of Austronesians mixing in. The Dai Islanders were traditional animists and pretty much left alone until about 100 years ago when the Dutch colonial government forced them all to come down out of their cliff-top fortresses and rather live by the beach and stop warring with each other. Church officers from the Maluku Protestant Church (/Gereja Protestan Maluku-GPM)/ were dispatched to “civilize” and christianize the Babar Islanders /en masse/, build church structures and install priests to conduct religious services. The GPM, the dominant religious institution in the Babar Islands, is 403 years old; Asia’s oldest Protestant denomination. The communities of the Babar Islands are nominally Christian, but there is little evidence of faith. The spiritual lives of Babar Islanders are characterized by a mixture of Christianized surface symbols and rituals layered over their deeper traditional animistic and occultic practices and beliefs.
Dai Island is located in the Babar Islands roughly 160 miles east of East Timor and 300 miles north of Darwin, Australia or 7 degrees 66 minutes south and 129 degrees 40 minutes east. The arid Australian climate has a significant effect on the Babar Islands. While there is plentiful rain from Christmas till June, there is no rain from July till Christmas again. The wind blows almost constantly from the East from April through December, and from the West from January to March. There is a calm season in both November and March.
Babar Island, the archipelago’s namesake, at a height of around 700 meters dominates the local horizon. While Babar Island itself is relatively fertile and has abundant water due to its size and height which attracts rain clouds, it is surrounded by five much smaller and lower islands (located roughly at the cardinal directions) that are arid and infertile. Dai Island is one of these smaller, desert islands. For several months just before Christmas water becomes so scarce that the people often have to line up and wait at the well for their meager ration, they drink less than a liter each per day and must bath, launder and wash dishes in sea water. Fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable due to the infertility and aridity, so malnutrition is a problem. Malnutrition makes people more susceptible to contracting illnesses and infections, and less able to recover from them as well.
The villages of Dai Island are located near the seashore either on flat sandy areas or amongst house sized coral boulders, cliffs and outcroppings. Every village has coconut palm trees towering above the thatch roofs providing shade and a constant whispering in the never-ending trade winds. Most houses do not have glass windows and are open to any breezes that might chance by, allowing flies, mosquitoes and dust ample opportunity for entrance.
Everyone lives in villages within a few meters of the ocean. Before dawn when the roosters begin crowing and the tiny birds are atwitter most people rise and amble down to the ocean to relieve themselves. Alternatively they walk to the back of the village near the invariable cliffs to do their business, contributing to the risk of cholera spread by the abundant flies. Also at dawn from every household comes the rhythmic swishing of some adult female invariably sweeping the dirt yard with a long whisk. A deep thumping shakes the earth from various quarters signifying some woman using large mortars and pestles to pulverize maize (a kind of white, starchy tasteless corn), their chief staple. After pounding the maize into a coarse meal, they boil and eat it like rice.
Dogs, chickens, pigs and goats all prowl about the sandy streets and yards looking for morsels to eat. Partially or entirely unclad toddlers wander around in unsupervised gangs terrorizing grasshoppers. There are always women at home who start a wood fire in their kitchen hut and boil up some rice or pulverized maize for the day. The smoke of the cook fires seeping through all the thatch roofs rises to form a temporary haze in the still season. Many ladies fry donuts fresh or prepare their day-olds for sale to the kids on their way to school.
Mothers, aunts or older sisters serve up some cold rice or ground corn or a donut to the school aged children after they have washed their faces and put on their red and white school uniforms. At 7 am a teacher in a tan uniform at the school rings the hand bell and the children line up at attention and then all march into school. Some girls will carry a large Tupperware bucket full of donuts for sale at school.
There is no forest on the outlying Babar Islands and gardening is minimal so most of the Dai men paddle out a few kilometers to sea in their small dugout canoes to go fishing for small tuna with a line and hook, no rod. There are no streams so the women bundle up their dirty clothes and detergent to pound their wash at the concrete public laundry plazas strategically placed throughout the village. At each plaza one faucet serves all comers.
At 8 am adult men and women in uniforms of brown, green, tan, grey or blue stroll along the streets on their way to their respective government offices, the men invariably puffing on a cigarette. In the remote villages the only kinds of government work are the different kinds of schools, the three or four village staff and possibly a health clinic. In the municipal capitols there are various kinds of church officials, policemen, military, postal, environmental, agricultural, education and many other kinds of civil servants.
By 11 am the youngest children are already headed home from school. Oftentimes they go play in the ocean, especially liking to play with dugout canoes which they use as surf boards. Once a week a couple children from each family are sent out to find firewood, which consists of dead branches as thin as their wrists. Hanging by a woven fibre strap that goes across their forehead, a pail-sized woven basket rides on their back ready to carry the firewood.
The men have come back from fishing. Every man fishes and so every family has fish so fish is not sold in the village. Everywhere there are mollusk innards, fish, octopus and sea cucumbers hanging out to dry on stick racks. Giant clam shells are filled with seawater in the morning and set out to evaporate into salt for curing the fish. The excess fish is traded for corn to people from the big Babar island.
Around 10 am you might see old men from every quarter shuffling their way to one particular house. If you passed by that house you would see them sitting around discussing in the indigenous language cases and lawsuits. One younger man stands by holding a bottle of coconut whiskey and a glass to take a drink to each elder who makes a short speech before quaffing back about an ounce’s worth.
Around 1 o’clock the civil servants amble home from work unless they are a teacher. If you pass by some teacher’s house in midafternoon you might see a group of 3 or 4 students getting a paid, private tutorial.
On many mornings can be heard the chug-chug-chug of a diesel engine of a small wooden boat arriving or leaving, ferrying goods and passengers from the municipal capitol to villages on other islands or villages that have no road. The boat weighs anchor 100 meters from shore beyond the pounding surf and dugout canoes weave their way out through the breakers to unload cement bags, boards, boxes of ceramic floor tile or corrugated metal roofing panels, along with passengers. People take live chickens, pigs and goats and especially dried fish and coconut meat (called /copra/). Kitchen wares, plastic lawn chairs and stereo equipment might be seen being unloaded.
There are no bicycles or horses on the outer Babar islands because the ground is so rocky, with fingers and knife-like ridges of jagged coral sticking up everywhere. Some days people will walk to other villages on their island to visit relatives (such as children boarding in town going to high school) or wait for a ship or sell lunches on passing cargo ships.
By mid afternoon most of the children are out playing. Swimming, marbles, dolls, complicated games that look like a combination of tag, British bulldog, and ten other games rolled into one, hopscotch, skipping rope, hunting and trapping birds.
At 5pm there is often some kind of religious service so just before sunset you can usually see men, women or children freshly bathed and wearing their best clothes with their hair combed carrying an Indonesian Bible and prayer book strolling off to some kind of meeting.
The sun slips into the sea and most of the huts grow dark, using one or two very dim oil lanterns since kerosene is expensive. One or two of the more well-off residents, usually a civil servant, will turn on their diesel generator and their brilliantly illuminated house with stereo or TV blaring becomes the magnet for dozens of neighbours to come sit and listen or watch.
The Dai Island people believe first of all that there is a profound connection between all things physical and spiritual. Something done in the physical always has an impact on the spiritual. The other fundamental assumption is solidarity. They must remain united in their activities at all costs. Spending time alone is seen as a symptom of imbalance if not derangement. Doing things individualistically could also have negative spiritual and physical consequences. They think it is very important to be together at the various religious services and rites prescribed by the nominal church. While they do not understand the meaning of the rites they perfunctorily perform, they always complain about those who are absent, believing that the lack of solidarity will have a bad consequence like crop failure, injuries or epidemics. They believe that there are malevolent spirits all around them just waiting to pounce at the slightest provocation. So they have many superstitions for every aspect of life, designed to appease the spirits. They are afraid to go into the forest alone at any time, and especially not at night at which time they believe that blood-thirsty spirits wander about seeking whom they may devour.
South Maluku, northeast Babar Island, east of Timor, Ilwiara, Nakarhamto, Yatoke villages. Dialects: Reported dialect variation
Babar South East-4.460
South Maluku, southeast Babar Island.
South Maluku, southwest Babar Island, Emplawas village.
Dawera-Daweloor 1.270 Christian
South Maluku, Dawelor Island, Wiratan, Watuwei and Nurnyaman; Dawera Island, Welora, Letmasa and Ilmarang northeast of Babar Island. Alternate names: Davelor. Dialects: Minor dialect differences.
Imroing 560 Christian
South Maluku, southwest Babar Island, Imroing village. Alternate names: Imroin.
Masela Central 511 Christian
Marsela Island. 3 villages. Alternate names: Central Marsela, Marsela-South Babar
Masela East 520 Christian
Marsela Island. 3 villages. Alternate names: East Marsela.
Masela West 850 Christian
Marsela Island. 5 villages
Serili 330 Christian
northeast Marsela Island.
Tela-Masbuar 1.050 Christian
southwest Babar Island, Tela, Masbuar villages. Alternate names: Masbuar-Tela, Tela’a
Born in the Netherlands on 23-04-1940 and passed away in Bali on 25-05-2015. Farelli was the pseudonym of a remarkable man who was infused with an obsessive desire to create things that did not yet exist. Born in the Netherlands in 1940 Dolf Versteegh left his home country in 1990 in order to start a new life on the Island of Bali. Without any formal education he reinvented himself as an architect, as a designer of furniture, as a sculptor and as a writer.
As a teenager Dolf spent only three years in High School but he kept studying history and the natural world all his life and during his last 25 years on Bali he revealed himself not only as versatile artist but also as a formidable scholar of biology.
Farelli was a prolific creator of web content and what he has left behind will remain standing as a great monument to his creative spirit, his ingenuity and his never-ending search for knowledge.