Moko from the Solor Alor Archipelago

Wonderful Moko (Image courtesy by Scott Bickell) – The Solor Alor archipelago is home to some indigenous tribal groups that are renowned for their Moko drum culture. Alor’s chief fame lies in its mysterious Moko – Bronze drums about 50cm high and 33cm across, tapered in the middle like an hourglass and with four ear-shaped handles around the circumference.

They sound a bit like a bongo when thumped. Thousands of them are scattered around the island – the Alorese apparently found them buried in the ground and believed them to be gifts from the gods, though they were probably brought by traders from India, China or Makassar.

Wonderful Moko (Image courtesy of Scott Bickell)

Most moko have decorations similar to those on bronze utensils made in Java in the 13th and 14th – century Majapahit era, but others resemble earlier Southeast Asian designs and may be connected with the Dongson culture that developed in Vietnam and China around 700 BC and then pushed its influence into Indonesia. Later moko even have English or Dutch influenced decorations.

Today, moko have acquired enormous value among the Alorese, and families devote great time and energy to amassing collections of them, along with pigs and land. Moko form an essential part of a bride’s belis (dowry). In former times, whole villages would sometimes go to war in an attempt to win possession of a prized moko. The export of moko is restricted by the government.

There’s a good collection in Kalabahi’s museum. Kalabahi’s modest museum (Jl Diponegoro. 8am-3.30pm Mon-Sat)

Happy Green Travels!

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