Ile Ape is a district area in Lembata Island. Astronomically positioned at 8°10′ – 8°11′ LS and 123°12′ – 123°57′ BT, Lewoleba is the Capital City of Lembata. Ile Ape is also well known for its active Mountain called Mt. Ile Ape or Ile Lewotolok. Ile means Mountain and Ape means fire. So, it means Fire mountain.

Ile Ape or Ile Lewotolok

Fiona Callaghan at the summit of Ile Ape

Ile Ape woman’s complete traditional costume

1. Handmade woven sarong (Kwatek Hebak)
The woven sarong are made for bride price from the groom to his bride parents or family. Then the man usually receives back a woven sarong called senawek.
These kwatek are made from natural threads which are from cotton. Modern days they use factory threads usually for souvenirs but for traditional needs cotton threads is a must. For colouring, they use natural dyes such as from plants and other organic source. It can take around 3-4 years to dye one colour. But the making process for this sarong can take up until 3 months.
The motifs of the sarong are usually based on their ancestors patterns. So, the motifs are passed on to generations. If other tribes or clan copied somebodies family motifs, one said that somebody will lose their mind or death will encounter. Sarong for men are usually plain without motifs.
2. Separate handmade woven top.
The dyeing process and the making of thread are the same process as sarong but this is much quicker to make in terms of size. To make the top, it could take up for one week.
3. Necklace
As a sign that Ile Ape woman wears beads. These beads are made out of clay.
4. Earrings (Belaong)
This is specially for women. For marriage, if the man goes to the brides place he usually needs to handover an animal – probably goat is one of the choice and a pair of these bronze earrings which will be given to the bride’s Mother.
5. Elephant ivory bracelet
The ivory bracelet is also one of the important thing for marriage. It is used as a bride price and the women have to wear it in every traditional events or parties.
The ivory bracelet’s has to have a total of five bracelets. Three for the left hand and two for the right hand. It is okay to wear the local creativity bracelets (like the picture above) for occasional wear but to follow the tradition and for marriage it has to be ivory bracelets (picture below).
They also might follow an old local saying ‘Watetow kala lema’ that means Watetow (one sarong), Kala (bracelet) and lema (five) – one sarong with five bracelets.

Ivory bracelets usually for bride price

6. Crown
As you can see its uniqueness, the crown is made of woven fabric shape like peci and on top of it are chicken feathers. Indonesian language for chicken is ayam and the local language of ayam is ‘manu’. In every traditional ceremonial they always use chicken as the substitute for human soul. They believed that, chicken is the highest level for ceremonial needs.
7. Hair
Tied as a bun at the back of the head behind the neck area.
Before the year 2000’s if the hair is tied as a bun it is a symbol for woman who is married but if it is made as a pony tail or leaving her hair loose then she is a maiden.

Fiona Callaghan in Ile Ape’s traditional Costume

How Ile Ape women beautify their selves
They wash their hair with coconut milk, wear kebaya and sarong. They don’t use any powder or cosmetics during long time ago.

Fiona Callaghan in Ile Ape’s traditional Costume

All photographs are Fiona Callaghan’s collection.
Note from The Adventuress:
Always stay as a Conscious Adventurer with The Adventuress spirit of Peace, Love, Adventure, Nature, and Positivity or PLAN+ in short. With that, you wouldn’t want to harm the nature and destroy it. Rather you would want to explore the earth to learn its beauty as your private experience that will teach you to be a better person each day and value the wonderful creation of God.
Peace & Light,
The Adventuress
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