Bawomataluo, Nias traditional house

Bawömataluo is the largest and best preserved traditional villages on Nias Island. It is sometimes referred to as the Kings Village. Rather than a king, there was a very powerful tribal chieftain who ruled the surrounding villages from here.

Bawomataluo Village located in District of Teluk Dalam, in the South Nias Regency. The area covers ± 5 Hectares with an altitude of 270 meters above sea level. This kampong is situated on the heights of the hills and is relatively safe from any tsunami threats, despite having a distance of only 4 kilometers from the seashore.

To enter this housing complex, one must go through a concrete stairway that resembles a terraced gravesite with 7 steps in the first section and 70 steps in the second part. The houses face each other with a distance of 4 meters apart and in the middle of the complex, there is a stone arrangement that is placed in an open space used for ceremonial customs and rituals. In between these traditional houses, newly built houses have been erected facing each other in a straight line from the northwest to the northeast. In the middle of the complex, there is a row of houses parallel towards the southeast. Inside the complex, there are 500 houses with a population of 7,000 that consists of 500 household heads. The Chief’s or the King’s house is located in the South West side and is the largest in the complex.

Based on the genealogy/family tree of the community, it is stated that the designer of the houses was King Laowo as the founder of the Kingdom of this region and are descendants of the Gomo family. Later on, the construction of the house was finalized by Saonigeho (Siliwu Gere) who was also the first generation of the Laowo family. Currently, the house is occupied by the heirs from the fourth generation of the Laowo family. The house is estimated to have been built in 18th century.

Many researchers agree that Nias traditional houses (Omo Hada) are some of the finest examples of vernacular architecture in Asia.  They are built without the use of nails and are able to withstand powerful earthquakes. There are over 100 traditional houses in Bawömataluo village. There are variations in architecture across the island; South Nias houses are rectangular and built next to each other. In some villages there are large Omo Zebua houses, which is where the chief used to live. The Omo Zebua house is Bawömataluo is in particularly good shape and is open to visitors.

Megaliths of various sizes and styles are a unique aspect of Nias culture and there are many interesting examples in Bawömataluo village. There is also a ‘jumping stone’ in front of the chief’s house. Stone jumping (Fahombo) is a cultural practise unique to Nias. Originally the stone jumping ceremony was part of an initiation rite for young men to be accepted as adults and warriors. The jump is done barefoot and a lot of practice is required before a jump is attempted. The most famous jumping stone on Nias can be seen in Bawömataluo village, where a team off young men regularly perform the stone jump for visitors.

Apart from cultural artefacts and traditional architecture a visit to Bawömataluo village is a great opportunity to observe daily life in one of the remaining traditional villages in Indonesia. Bawömataluo has been nominated for world heritage listing. Just a few hundred meters down the hill is Orahili Village which is also well worth a visit. A couple of kilometers past Bawömataluo at the end of a narrow road lies Lahusa Fau village.

Getting there:

The turn off to Bawömataluo village is halfway between Sorake and Teluk Dalam and the drive takes ca. 20 minutes. Just follow the main road and turn north at a large intersection (Simpang Lagundri). Continue on this road for one kilometre before turning right and follow the road up the up the hill. The entrance to Bawömataluo is a set of very steep stairs opposite a church.

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