Wolotopo, a rather large and lively village built into a quite steep hillside, is well worth a visit to encounter the Lionese people within their past and present way of living. The people there still strongly adhere to their adat and keep their traditional ceremonial houses in good shape. These houses are not only a relic of history but are also still inhabited by several families. Taking a stroll around the village, you will get an idea of the local daily activities – above all ikat weaving, which is practiced by almost every household – and the interplay of adat and Christian beliefs, expressed in the mix of traditional and Catholic graves.
Wolotopo’s keda kanga – a small wooden building used to store ancestral bones – is situated in an elevated position at top of the village. It features some prominent Lionese symbols: carved on its central pillar you can see a horse and a boat; and on the keda kanga’s four corners hangs the blue wooden seko, a depiction of fruit that symbolizes abundance and satisfaction. Peek inside the keda kanga to catch sight of the bhaku, a carved wooden box containing ancestral remains.
The sao ria, the ‘big house’, functions as an office for adat issues. It is still inhabited by the ria bewa – the village’s decision maker and legal authority – and his family. The sao ata laki stands elevated from the ground on rock pillars. It is inhabited by six families that include two who are mosalaki. Full of symbolism, the sao ata laki is a reflection of the female body. Its function as a communal house and a place for gatherings is expressed in the drum and gong reliefs at the entrance door; these instruments function to call people to gather.
Right next to the sao ata laki, the sao su’e is the place for holding major communal rituals and ceremonies. Inside this house, there is an elephant tusk surrounded by round rocks. It is a place that people visit after having bad dreams. They bring along a stone, put it down next to the tusk, and pray that the bad dreams will not materialize.
If you visit Wolotopo, please do not forget to register in the guestbook at the local village office and to leave a small donation – or ingredients for betel nut chew – at the elephant tusk after you enter the sao su’e. You can easily combine your trip to Wolotopo with a trip to Ndona Village, which is only about 6km from Wolotopo. Ndona Village is famous for its unique Lionese ikat.
Ende is the closest city, which offers some hotels, restaurants, and shops.
How to get there
Wolotopo is located about 12km from the city of Ende. The village is easily reachable by private transport (motorbike as well as car) or by ojek. From Ende, head eastwards towards the Wolowona Market. Turn right at the roundabout and follow that road until you arrive in Wolotopo Timur (East Wolotopo). The traditional houses are located in Wolotopo, the adjacent village, and are just a short walk away past the modern houses from Wolotopo Timur.