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Lembata Island
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Whale hunters of Lembata (Lomblen) island

Lembata island, also known as Pulau Lomblen, is the largest island of the Solor Archipelago. The island measures about 80 km from the southwest to the northeast and it is about 30 km in width. It rises to a height of 1533 m.

To the west lie the islands of Solor, Adonara and Flores. To the east is the Alor Strait, and to the south, across the Savu Sea, lies the island of Timor. To the north is the western part of the Banda Sea which separates Lembata from Southeast Sulawesi.

Lembata has several volcanoes, among others the Ililabalekan, Iliwerung, and Lewotolo.

The capital city Lewoleba (also known as Labala) is located on the Western part of the island at a huge bay facing the Ilê Ape volcano in the north. Ships frequently connect the coastal towns and surrounding islands, but the only large harbour is at Lewoleba at the north of the island.

HOW TO GET THERE

Lembata island can be reached by boat. From Lewoleba there are daily connections to Larantuka, Flores, and Waiwerang on the neighbouring island of Adonara.



Map of Lembata island
(click to enlarge)

Map of Lembata island - click to enlarge
   

Whale hunting

Lamalera village (population ca. 2,500 people) is located on the southern tip of Lembata Island. Lamelara and Lamakera on the neighbouring island of Solor are the last two remaining Indonesian whaling communities. Here, sperm whales have been hunted for centuries, just with hand made equipment. The spears, ropes and boats, everything is locally made in the village. Also, the boats of the whale hunters of this region don't have engines. All parts of the whale are used and are either consumed or traded for food with other islanders, most of whom are corn and cassava farmers.

Given the facts that the Lamelaras only use primitive equipment when hunting whales and that whale hunting is of vital importance to them, and taking into consideration that whale hunting has been done by them for generations on end, the United Nations do not object to the whale hunting by these communities.


Traditional boat of Lembata island
Traditional Lembata boat


Whale hunting village Lamelara, Lembata island
Whale hunting village Lamelara, Lembata island


Lembata ikat

Like those of Rote island, the ikats of Lembata are made from locally grown and hand spun cotton only, and dyed by the weaver with locally gathered dyes such as indigo and morinda citrifola (Mustard fruit tree or Mengkudu). Their art contains ceremonial symbols known as patola and figures of humans as well as those of marine plants and animals.


   Ikat weaving at Lembata

The art of traditional ikat weaving has existed for many generations on the island of Lembata. Most of the ikat textiles of Lembata island are ceremonial pieces, in particular the framed bride wealth cloths. Each piace has its own meaning and carries cultural identity and heritage. Until today these ceremonial pieces are important to the people of Lembata because they are traditionally exchanged for ivory tusks, as wedding presents, between the families of bride and groom.

Places like Atadei, Labala bay and Lamalera are all well known for their ikat weavings which have identical patterns and motifs of human figures, symbolic mantra rays, sharks and boats. The patterns and motifs of the weavings encountered in Ile Api, on the other hand, have more to do with the landscapes.


 

 

 


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