sumba Culture

Sumba culture

About Sumba,


The Island of Sumba is located on the south-east side of the Indonesian archipelago. Within an hour's flight from Denpasar it is attracting a rapidly increasing number of visitors domestic as well as international. For its unique geography you can witness a wide range of different sceneries like open stretched savannas, long white beaches, beautiful waterfalls and dense jungle mountains. Meagrely populated, the majority of the Sumbanese people still have very traditional ways of living.


The famous Pasola Festival is an exceptional display of these traditions, including horse riding, hand woven clothing and more. 

Sumba culture and traditions
Sumba culture and traditions

Sumba has a very strong Adat tradition


When someone wishes to take a lady as his wife, he must perform multiple ceremonies where the dowry is paid in instalments in the form of livestock such as horses, cows, or buffaloes. This signifies the status of the groom's family and the seriousness with which they want to integrate the future bride into their family. This can involve dozens of horses/cows/buffaloes.


The bride's family accepts/responds to this dowry, and they will give pigs with Sumbanese Ikat to the groom's family. This Adat tradition is well known far beyond Sumba.

Sumba culture and traditions

The other side of the Adat tradition comes into play when someone passes away.


People still have close contact with their ancestors, and the final journey to the grave is accompanied by many ceremonies where buffaloes and horses are sacrificed.


The gravestone can only be transported by physical strength, which can be an intensive process as these stones sometimes weigh tons and are carved far from the cemetery. Family relationships are complicated, and there are exceptional protocols with certain family members.

Hierarchical relationships determine whether you study or not, where and as what you work, and regarding the choice of your life partner.


In the interior, the majority of the population still adhere to an animistic belief (Marapu), which focuses heavily on their ancestors through offerings and belief in the powers of nature.

Since natural phenomena could not be explained in their history, they were explained through numerous folklore tales and myths.

Sumba culture and traditions

In Sumba, there are also small kingdoms (Kampong Raja) with families of higher status. They have a monopoly on land ownership and often hold all the important positions in the government of their region. Their influence is enormous. Additionally, they have modern-day slaves who work for them. These are families who live with them, work for them, and are directly linked to the members of the elite family. They are 100% dependent on what their "Raja" gives them for their livelihood.


The Raja has a slave, his wife has a slave, and their child has the child of their slaves, and so on.


Once born as a slave, you cannot escape this status unless you run away from your region (many young people do this and flee to Bali in search of a better life).