Expression of Time in Nias Tradition

Monday, June 8, 2009
By borokoa

About 30 years ago, before watches and clocks (aralozi / tandra luo) were common things for Nias people, they usually relied on ’pragmatic’ ways to estimate time of day related to their daily activities such as farming, raising animals, cooking, sleeping etc.

Mid night (00.00) is called talu mbongi.  An hour after the mid night is called “aefa talu mbongi” (after mid night).
Nias people named 2.00 am as “saraö tö mbongi” – (another one third part of the night).

From 02.00 – 02.30, the roosters crow for the first time in the early morning (miwo manu siföföna), meanwhile at 03.00, the roosters usually crows for the second time (miwo manu si mendrua).

What if we cannot find any chicken in the village? Long time ago, the Nias people always breed chicken or pig as a way of accumulating or increasing wealth. They considered this as an integral part of their daily activity of cultivating, farming, and planting cassava and sweet potatoes. During the harvest time, their animals multiply whilst during the famine period their animals reduced in numbers.

04.00 is the time for roosters to crow for the third time – miwo manu si tatalu or si medölu, while at 05.00, the roosters usually crow continuously (miwo manu si fadoro). Morning time (05.00) is also the time for sweet palm tree (Caryota urens) tapper (sogai akhe = samölö) to work and collect the palm sugar. Fifteen minutes later (5.15), the roosters crows the last time in the morning (miwo manu safuria) inside the coops before they are released to feed themselves.

Afusi wali – is the time when the houseyard looks brigther in the eyes of the people who were just awake from a long-night sleep – It is about 05.30.
From 05.30 – 6.00, crickets (cicada – Tibicen canicularis) – riwi-riwi – usually produce particularly high pitch sounds – muhede riwi.

As described in the table, we cannot find the activity of rubber tapping (fogai / fangai gitö) but we find the sugar palm tree tapping (mogai akhe). In fact, fangai gitö is one of the main sources of income of Nias people. Why is it so? We do not really know. There might be because fangai gitö is introduced later than the fogai akhe. It would be interesting to do more research on this.

At 6.00, the sun rises (tumbu luo) and at 06.30, early morning, people go to work (ahulö wongi, mofanö niha ba halöwö).

07.30 in the morning – aefa zi möi tou – is the time when people just back from hõma (a Nias word for toilet) and start to work (te’anö niha ba halöwö) and at 08.00, the morning mist starts to dry (otufo namo).

Workers in the field (rice, sweet potatoes farm, cassavas plantation) usually go home at 11.00 to prepare food for lunch. We call this as mangauwuli zimilo (the people go back from farm field).

Laluo is the Nias term for mid day 12.00. Sun starts to move north* – ahole yöu – at 13.00, and at 15.00, the sun starts to fall – aso’a yöu.

The position of sun at 16.00 is called alawu adogo (“short fall”).

In the afternoon, 17.00 is the time people go home from working (mangawuli zimilo / zoroi ba danö).

The animals (chicken) are usually released at noon and put back to the coops at 17.30 (mondra’u manu).

From 17.00 – 18.00, the noisy chicken then remain silence in the coops (manuge manu).

At 18.30, sun has fallen and the day is dark (ogömigömi); therefore people turn on the lights (manunu fandru).

Long time ago, before kerosene was introduced in Nias, villages had simple lighting system using coconut oil as the the main source of energy for lighting their lamps which they called ta’a-ta’a wandru (fandru nifota’a-ta’a). This lamp is made from a glass bottle cut in half and filled mostly with water whilst the remaining space (about 3 fingers height) filled with the coconut oil. The length of the wick is such that it only floats within the oil and does not touch the water.

Another simpler source of light is dögö (chunk of wood lit without flame and let stay as such usually for whole day/night), sulu (lamp made of bamboo filled with kerosene), or sandrari (a source of illmunation made from the dry cover of coconut bloom which needs no oil). Soon after the Nias got familiar with kerosene, they used a more ‘modern’ lighting system named latera (lantern), fandru ndrindri (wall lamp), fandru ganefo, and fandru gasi (see article: Yaahowu Wanunu Fandru).

For one hour (18.00 – 19.00), the people spend their time to cook ordinary food for dinner (mondrino gö). If the food is more ‘special’, such as pork or chicken, it will take longer time, two or three hours, to prepare.

Afterwards, at 19.00 – 20.00, foods are ready for the early dinner (manga niha sahulö) particularly when people get home from the field much earlier.

When they go home late, they will have late dinner (manga niha sara) at 21.00. The people go home late because they have to finish their work immediately or when they have another business to do before evening.

Since TV and other entertainment were not available in Nias long time ago, people usually go to bed earlier. Ten o’clock is a proper time for bed (mörö niha). People normally fall asleep faster in the night, say  22.30 – 23.00 (ahono mörö niha), because they work hard during the day.

At 23.00, people are awake for the 1st time (samuza kiarö).

Note: This Indonesian version of this article is titled: Ungkapan Waktu Dalam Tradisi Masyarakat Nias which is a revision of the original article published in Yaahowu blog, March 18th, 2006, titled: “Hauga Bözi ? – Menyatakan / Menaksir Waktu di Nias…” The time division in the table above is a revision and ‘combination’ of (1) the time division found in A. G. Moller’s book Den Gamle Tidsregning pa Nias as quoted by P. Johannes Hammerle in: Nidunö-dunö ba Nöri Onolalu (1999) page. 144, and (2) the time division that appeared in the articled published in blog Yaahowu, March 18th 2006. The revision and combination presented here are based on author’s conversation with a number of Nias elders. Send your comments and suggestion to Yaahowu at: nias.online@gmail.com. *English translation by Mona P. assisted and edited by the author.

One Response to “Expression of Time in Nias Tradition”

  1. 1
    Falakhi Zega Says:

    well, I hope this lesson can last futher to help us to widen our horizon of thinking. By accidently I have a particular attention to learn it. Thanks.

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