How does Poetry Weave Life Through Time? Changes in Verbal Performance and Social Concerns among the Lio, Flores

Eriko Aoki (Ryukoku University)


This article aims to understand how the life of the Lio, central Flores, has been changing by analysing changes in their verbal performance and social concerns. Among the Lio in the 1980s, knowing ‘ancestors’ (embu mamo) and ‘earth’ (tana watu) was esoteric and believed to make its owner powerful. Many people, especially ambitious men, were fascinated with gaining such knowledge. This relation of knowledge and power is similar in certain respects to that in the societies dominated by the modern system of school education, where knowing time and space in case of natural science, and history and world in case of social science relates the experts to the political power. In terms of knowledge form, however, the Lio knowledge, which was abundant in poetic phrases gifted by ‘ancestors’ and ‘earth’, is different from that in the latter societies.

In the 1990s, the influence of Global market economy through cash crop agriculture and emigrant labor in Malaysia and other regions in Indonesia changed the Lio’s relationship to ‘earth’. The inalienable land (tana watu) has gradually changed into alienable patches and knowledge about ‘earth’ has become abstract. Under the influence of decentralisation the esoteric knowledge in poetic forms was collected as important items of the Lio local culture and printed in sub-textbook. The people’s concerns of tourism started to commoditise the rituals, which were one of the sources of their esoteric knowledge. In addition,
recent inflation of higher education discourages younger generation to pay attention to the poetic knowledge of ‘ancestors’ and ‘earth’ although poetic speech is affluent in sub-textbooks and commoditised rituals.

This article examines the fundamental changes and resilience of the Lio social life in terms of poetic language.

Keywords: changes and resilience, poetic language, market economy, alienability