Wologai, Flores – Where Guests Meets Breasts

Submitted by mumunmumun on 27 October 2018   •  Destination

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In a sense, it feels like Indonesia is moving backwards in terms of TV in terms of censorship. One of the most confusing is the blurring of women’s cleavage on TV. I’ve heard this was to prevent breaking pornography laws causing shows canceled or fined, yet definition of pornography is unclear. As a B-cup size girl, it’s hard for me to understand the workings of this censorship. Any B-cup size or above girl would know, our breasts are not easy to hide behind ‘decent’ clothes. From time to time, we also like to wear something that flatters our body shape, because we don’t always like wearing rice sacks. Cleavage is then sometimes flaunted, on purpose or accidentally, but still has its ‘eastern’ limits. Clearly, somebody needs to get out more and see that breasts are more than just association to pornography. Maybe, they should travel to Wologai, Flores.

Wologai door step
Uncensored breasts in Wologai, Flores.

I stumbled upon Wologai village when leading a trip of Ibu Penyu. Intrigued that no one I know of has mentioned it, I went rogue off the itinerary and took the whole group to this small village located just about 30-minute drive from Moni. Luckily, they were willing. In a glimpse, this village is no different to other traditional Flores villages. I signed in the guest book in the front house.

“Don’t go straight up in the middle and don’t touch the rock on your left side,” said the man at the guest book signing. Vague, but I nodded in agreement understanding not to climb anywhere and touch anything. After a little donation, we walked into the village and found an empty village. Intrigued by the carvings on the wooden houses, we approached only to find every door opening had breasts carved on them, perky nipples and all. None of them were censored, in fact they were in your face once you enter one’s home!

The principles of Wologai

I found a house with only a few women inside making noise and seemingly getting ready to leave. Anxiously, I waited half-patiently at their door step with breasts popping out on the wooden ledge. I hoped to catch just 5 minutes of their time. Not long after, four women dressed in their traditional sarongs, came out with weaved baskets on their heads. They smiled with blood red teeth from the betel nut they’ve been chewing.

Wologai women off to funeral
Two of the four women wearing traditional sarongs.

“Somebody died not long ago, and we’re paying our respects. That’s why the village is empty,” said one woman while placing the heavy basket over her head. To pay respect, neighbours, friends and relatives visit the family of the deceased barring goods, mostly rice. This is a common tradition in Flores Island.

In between them organising their goods, I pleaded to ask one question. They smiled and nodded in kindness. I asked THE ultimate question: “Why do you have breasts carved on your doors?”

It’s a symbol to remind us that people come from breast milk. We are nothing without them,” said the eldest of the four. “It’s the first thing we drink and what forms our body,” she continued. I nodded, realising every truth she stated.

Wologai woman
She spent 5-10 minutes to explain about her village.

Old Wologai traditions.

I would imagine some parties would have a problem with this culture, and possibly would want to censor it too. But if anyone has a problem, I suggest you back away. The people of Wologai were once a feared group. It wasn’t so long ago, the government asked them to ban one of their obligatory traditions of skinning a human’s back, held annually, to exchange the skin on their sacred drum. If not trespassers or felonies, members of the royal family had to sacrifice themselves. If not changed, the people of Wologai believed misfortune would come for them. That one time of the year, everybody, including other village near by, was scared. Despite the tradition banned, doesn’t mean you can get on their bad side.

“It’s that place in the middle. Anyone who steps in that area, that isn’t an assigned person, will be skinned for the next skin exchange,” said Raka, a senior guide I met a few days later. I was then reminded of the warning. Goosebumps! I’m so glad my ears and brain worked at the same time that time.

Wologai mid section that is forbidden to outsiders
The forbidden area of Wologai, Flores.

“But, they compromised probably about 5 years ago. Now, they hunt monkeys for the skin,” says Raka, a senior guide in Flores.

It looks like their way of thinking is pretty advance when it comes to breasts. They acknowledge it as something sacred and essential, more than just an object of lust. Now, can’t we follow their principles? Because once we can acknowledge breasts in a better light, we can start addressing more important things such as breast cancer. And it’s the cancer that we want to censor, not the breast, right?

Wologai from the main Trans Flores road
Wologai from the main Trans Flores road.

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2 years ago

This reminds me of the breast carvings I saw on Samosir. I won’t be surprised if in some other parts of Indonesia the local people use breasts to symbolize fertility or else — for sure pornography is the last thing they think of. It’s so sad to see how self-censorship from Indonesian TV channels has become so ridiculous. I mean, really, do they have to censor Doraemon and Spongebob Squarepants as well?