A Promise in Sumba

Imagine waiting ten years to become engaged because you are the fourth child of a royal household and needed to wait for your older sisters to marry first. This was the case for the fourth daughter of Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti and her husband Umbu Kanabu Ndaung.

But finally the day came and the delegates from the prospective groom’s family were invited to make their intentions clear.

In most traditional communities throughout Indonesia, the groom’s family needs to make a formal visit to the intended bride’s family to ask for permission to proceed with a betrothal.

A small group representing the man’s family from Kaliuda arrived at the royal compound of Prai Yawanggu to negotiate the betrothal. The man’s family sat on one side of the family pavilion and the groom’s father along with his negotiators sat in the middle.

The woman’s family sat in the kitchen feeling nervous about how the negotiations would proceed.

The man’s family offered four horses and one buffalo along with a gold mamuli and a gold woven rope kanatar ornament, which are typically used for bridewealth exchanges. The woman’s family acknowledged agreement by sending two textiles, a woman’s lau and a man’s hinggi to the man’s delegation.

And with this exchange complete, food was served. After the food, the women of the household including the daughter to be betrothed brought betelnut as is customary.

It was wonderful to see the young would-be groom looking so happy.