SUMBA, LET'S BEGIN THE BATTLE!

 

Arrived on the island of Sumba at the end of March, in the extreme East of the Nusa Tenggara Archipelago, we immediately realize to be landed in a place outside of the main tourist routes.

The sea is turquoise and the beach is pristine. The bungalows, where we have booked for a couple of nights, are immersed in a vegetation of shrubs and trees. There are no volcanoes in the hinterland, but a green savannah cultivated in part of corn and vegetables. The landscape vaguely reminiscent of East Africa, here and there some huts along a narrow asphalt road.

We are here to witness the Pasola, an ancient horses fighting, where some skilled horsemen of rival villages, compete with spears. The last two meetings of the season are scheduled as planned , in the Kodi Bangedo and Wainyapu villages.

In Kodi Bangedo, some children jump on the backs of small horses and launch them into a gallop in the meadow, before the racing begins. They tie in their right hand some blunt spears and throw them in the air. They train to become, one day, the idols of the crowd. The real ones are not there yet. It's 9.00 am, but the heat is already unbearable. The few shelters in the shade are already taken. People are coming near slowly, chewing and spitting Betel nuts.

Again this year, Nyale worms have arrived on the coast in the full moon night, again this year, the horse riders have taken their respective positions inside the camp, the Pasola Racing can begin!

The crowd spur their team. Although the battle no longer provides for the shedding of human blood to appease the spirits and ensure a good harvest, the competition is still very much felt by the locals. Paolo takes a lot of pictures, I seek shelter under the shade of a palm tree, the people look and smile at us curiously. Tourists can be counted on the palm of a hand. The humidity surrounds us, while the spears are thrown in the air with rapid pace to hit the opponent's body at the gallop.

Waingapu Pasola is much larger and picturesque. The village surrounding the battlefield has the typical structure of the island: the thatched roofs soar gently through the tree tops. We are walking through the alleys, when a family invites us to enter their typical house, inside a large rectangular structure, built on stilts and held together by ropes. An impressive piece of engineering, totally made of bamboo. We shake some hands and talk to the head of the family. Today the village is in celebration and the people are preparing for the tournament, offering the holy gifts to Marupo, the spirits of the ancestors, who rest in graves scattered all around.

Arrived the governor of Sumba with a bevy of followers, I sit with him in the covered stands, sheltered from the burning rays, while Paolo remains on the field, in the middle of the action. (Poor man, I do not envy him at all !!) The last Pasola of this season is about to begin.

Many spears will be throw, some jockeys will come out victorious, others will fall from their horses exhausted and overcome, in a medieval joust that perpetuates the centuries.

Written by Sara Falchi - Photos by Paolo Castellari

PASOLA
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Image Title: PASOLA

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE RIDER
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Image Title: THE RIDER

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE FUTURE CHAMPION
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Image Title: THE FUTURE CHAMPION

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE DUEL
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Image Title: THE DUEL

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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TRADITIONAL SPEAR
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Image Title: TRADITIONAL SPEAR

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE CHALLENGE
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Image Title: THE CHALLENGE

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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WALKING ON THE FIELD
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Image Title: WALKING ON THE FIELD

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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RUNAWAY HORSE
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Image Title: RUNAWAY HORSE

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THROUGHT THE AIR
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Image Title: THROUGHT THE AIR

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE HORSE
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Image Title: THE HORSE

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE HIT
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Image Title: THE HIT

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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THE WINNER
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Image Title: THE WINNER

Location: SUMBA - KODI BANGEDO

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BEFORE FIGHTING
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Image Title: BEFORE FIGHTING

Location: SUMBA - WAINYAPU

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THE VILLAGE
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THE HORSE’S FAMILY
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Image Title: THE HORSE’S FAMILY

Location: SUMBA - WAINYAPU

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THE FIGHTER
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Image Title: THE FIGHTER

Location: SUMBA - WAINYAPU

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WAITING FOR THE BEGINNING
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Image Title: WAITING FOR THE BEGINNING

Location: SUMBA - WAINYAPU

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SPEEDY HORSE
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Image Title: SPEEDY HORSE

Location: SUMBA - WAINYAPU

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GOOD SHOT
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FALLING DOWN
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CRAZY AUDIENCE
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