Nusa Tenggara:: Roti Island

East Nusa Tenggara, Pulau Dana. The uninhabited Dana Island (also called Ndana), just south of Roti, with an area of 14 km2 (5 sq mi), is the southernmost island of Indonesia. (Bjorn Grotting)

East Nusa Tenggara, Pulau Dana. The uninhabited Dana Island (also called Ndana), just south of Roti, with an area of 14 km2 (5 sq mi), is the southernmost island of Indonesia. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Just south west of Timor, about three hours by boat from Kupang, is the small island of Roti, size 1.214 sq. km. Like on Sawu much of the life here depends on the “lontar” palm tree, used for everything from nutrient to building material. The population are mainly occupied by fishing, some agriculture and weaving of “ikat”. Traditionally Roti was divided in as much as 18 districts, but after a bloody campaign the Dutch in 1681 put their own allied as rulers of the island. Roti became a source for slaves and other resources to the Dutch base in Kupang.

The Rotinese began the convertion to Christianity in the 18th century and with aid from the Dutch they built a good education system. From having a status as slaves they became a sort of elite in this region, but their openness for outside influence also led to some loss of traditional culture compared to islands like Sawu. Still it is possible to see traditional festivals in some areas, and the island is famous for it’s unique music and dance. The music is played on a 20-string instrument called “Sasando”, related to the guitar.

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