Reba, Thanksgiving Celebrations and Hopes for a Better Year
Ngadha or Ngada, is a famous region of Flores’ indigenous cultural richness and famed for its preservation of ancient rites, physical and non-physical artifacts that is searched for, observed and enjoyed by travelers coming to the island.
Bena, a village approximately 13km from Bajawa on the southern mountainous landscape, Ngada’s capital city, has been exposed by many travel guidebooks including the traveler’s bible “The Lonely Planet” as “the” place to experience the amazing Florinese tradition and culture. The existence of Bena can be traced down to the Megalithic remains found in most areas of the village. Lying at the feet of Mount Inerie, Bena offers not only a scenic view of the blue-colored mountain but also a hiking trip along its winding hilly path. For the art lovers, Florinese Ikat weaving is an inseparable artistic feature of Bena.
December is an important month for the community of Bena who holds an annual celebration called Reba. Reba is the festival similar to Thanksgiving, paying respect to the Almighty for the blessing of the great harvest and the people’s wealth. The three-day festival consists of communal ceremonies where rituals involving a huge amount of crops and livestock collected. Historically, Reba tells the story of the community’s ancestors who traveled from time to time to different places in search of better livestock and crops, especially yam, as well as seeking farmland in the neighborhood.
It is amazing to see that the villagers still hold up their traditional way of life with a strong commitment inherited and inspired by their ancestors. The role of the ancestors is not only admitted but respect of their existence is also shown in every part of their lives.
For religious reason and based on communal consensus, the yearly ceremony of Reba is held on 27th of December annually. Bena is being considered as the eldest village compared to surrounding related sibling villages, which makes it the first place to hold Reba, followed by other villages after a certain number of days.
Animal offerings are part of the sacred rituals during the festive days. A series of ceremonies will be held in the Kisanatha, the village’s yard, where all the rites and meals will be held and served. Nga’dhu, a tall wooden trunk with carvings and a conical thatched-roof on top, representing the first male ancestor and Bhaga, a miniature of a traditional house representing the first female ancestor will be at the center of the rituals.
Rites related to Reba actually already started one week before the actual festival. Some pre-ceremonial rituals as the initiation of Reba, like Paki Sobhi (comb making), a thirteen-rowed comb made of thin bamboo believed to prevent the village from wind or storm, and Bui Loka, a ceremony meant to clean the Loka or Lanu--structured stones where the blood of the offered animals is spilled on, both rituals are held at the outskirts of the village.
In general, Reba in Bena is performed in the following stages:
Dheke Reba is the initial stage where materials or ceremonial instruments including animals to offer such as pigs, dogs and chicken are collected. The collection process called Ngapa is done by the members of the clans (Woe). At this stage, Kobe Dheke is the gathering where all attending participants discuss about the work to be done, problems, and observations to each member of the family. The discussion is usually held in Teda One, the main house of the Ngadanese. The night will be closed with a communal dinner called ‘Ka Maki Reba’.
Sedo Uwi is the day when all members of the village proudly dress up in their best traditional costume and dance together. Songs telling stories adoring the yam, a typical staple food in their olden days, accompany the dancing. ‘O Uwi’ meaning “oh yam” is sung many times during the song. The ceremonial dancing is commonly done the day after the first night of Reba. In this special occasion, the cheers are shared to all including any visitors who are encouraged to participate in the amusing dance.
Kobe Dho’I is claimed to be the most expressive part of the ongoing Reba ceremony when people of the village invite relatives from other villages or any outside traveler to enjoy meals served in the house.
Su’i Uwi is the most sacred ritual in Reba where the Tua Adat (the elderly chief) cuts a yam and recite poetic verses telling an ancient story of their ancestor’s journey from a land called ‘One Sina’ that has long been interpreted by some anthropologists as China. They had sailed across oceans and hiked mountains, then migrated through Java, Bima, Sumba and then on to the north until they arrive in Ngadha. Yam is adorned in many lines of the verses as their ancestors’ staple food.
Rora Wuki Uwi or throwing out the yam peels at the village’s backyard closes the festival of Reba.
If you wish to experience this inspiring and rich-of-Florinese culture festival, Reba, please circle these important dates:
• 1 January 2011, in Gurusina, 4 km South of Bena, (Lat: 8°53'44.18"S, Long: 120°59'24.68"E)
• 15 January 2011, in Langa, 8 km North of Bena (Lat: 8°49'34.91"S, Long: 120°57'49.19"E)
Other villages such as Nage in Jerebu’u, Wogo in Golewa, and Beiposo in Bajawa will also hold Reba in January, while Deru in Jerebu’u, Ruto in Aimere, Turekisa in will do Reba in February. It is recommended to dress up politely if you wish to participate. Even though not obligatory, it is advisable to wear Ngada traditional costume especially during the sacred ritual procession.
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