MALLA OLI ! .... Welcome to the Wanukaka website

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View of Praigoli and Weiwuli villages and the valley floor seen from the edge of the Poti plateau                

Wanokaka or Wanukaka? ...........                               

The name WANOKAKA was entrenched in official documents from around 1906 when the Dutch first set about gaining control of the area. The colonial government took up a new colonial program of intensification of rule, the “Pacificatie van Sumba” from 1906-1913. In the more populous westen part of the island they established two posts at Memboro on the north coast and at Waikabubak in the inland domain of Loli, each staffed by a Dutch officer and about forty Indonesian soldiers.

The posthouder in charge in Waikabubak was a Letnan DeNeeve and from his headquarters there it took only a two kilometre walk to the south to reach the hills overlooking a broad valley on the south coast. The local people must have given him the name "Wanokaka" with an /o/ in the middle and that spelling became acccepted for the next 100 years.

All that time the people of the valley called their valley "Wanukaka" with an [u] sound, even while learning to spell it with an /o/ once schools were established. It was only in 2002 that a separate Sub-District administration was established for the valley and its surrounding region. The name WANUKAKA then became the official name.
In the meanitime almost everything that is written about WANUKAKA has appeared under the old standard WANOKAKA spelling. This includes government documents, the unpublished anthropological notes of early Sumbanese writers Umbu Hina Kapita and Magga Weru and the main ethnography "Hierarchy and Balance, A Study of Wanokaka Social Organisation" by Istutiah Gunawan, published in 2002.  

What's in a name?

Curiously, the origin of the name WANUKAKA takes us back to Waikabubak again.
The story is told of a great feast being held long ago in a village in the upper part of the valley. Guests had come from far and wide and were much entertained by the antics of a tame cockatoo.These birds are often seen in the wild in Sumba but a tamed bird is rarely seen.

The amusing cockatoo strayed to close to a fire, however, and its tail feathers caught alight. The bird flew up in alarm onto the roof of a house and the flames ignited the dry grass thatch of the roof. This is a great disaster for any Sumbanese village, since the houses are packed close together an once one house is alight the fire rapidly spreads to all the others.

Soon the whole village was burned down and the guests fled in disarray back to their homes, taking the story with them. There must have been guests from neighbouring Waikabubak, which is very close by though its language (Lolina) is different. The name WANNO KAKA means 'Village of the Cockatoo' in the Lolina language and this was now a famous cockatoo, the cockatoo that set fire to the village. In Wanukaka itself the word for village is 'paraingu' so the use of 'wanno' tells us the name first took root in the Lolina / Waikabubak region.

Why a Wanukaka website ?

The purpose of this site is to present various aspects of the language and culture of Wanukaka and the neighbouring closely related area of Rua. The intention is to provide a venue for collaboration and coordination of various projects.
The initial focus of the site is the Wanukaka language. A dictionary of the Wanukaka language is published here for the first time  [click here]. There is also a collection of metaphoric couplets, the poetry of the Sumbanese.

Although each of these publications contains a great deal of original material, both projects require further work. It is hoped that readers of this site familiar with Wanukaka language or visiting the valley will contribute additional words to the dictionary and correct any mistakes they may find.

In particular it is hoped that Wanukakans living or studying in other parts of Indonesia will contribute to the website. To facilitate this Indonesian language pages will be developed as soon as possible.Anyone wishing to be involved in this project is encouraged to contact dr. David Mitchell by email to <> or Dr. Tuti Gunawan at <>.

Other pages

We also hope to prepare pages on the calendar, the prehistory, the traditional economy, material culture and many aspects of traditional life in Wanukaka. These projects are all still 'under construction'. This is an open project and we welocme suggestions and contributions for development of the website from anyone with an interest in our little valley on the south coast of Sumba.

To the people of Wanukaka

To so many wonderful patient people, too many to list here, we can only say ...

    Waiwu roru waiwu ana pari piaku,
    Roru wai malangu-wu huhu wei kalala,
    Dewa jara rara ka na wogu-nya wei maringu rehi,
    Ura ahu kaka ka na wogu-nya wei malala lenga.

Subpages (1): HISTORY PAGE