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Restoring Traditional Houses in Desa Lingga, Indonesia

In the Karo Highlands, about 100 kilometers from Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province, there is a village called Desa Lingga (Lingga Village) where the residents still retain the same customs of Karo culture as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Lingga is about 5 kilometers from Kabanjahe, the capital of Karo District, and about 15 kilometers from Berastagi. The village is located on a plateau about 1,200 meters above sea level, not far away from the foot of Mount Sinabung, one of the highest peaks in North Sumatra Province. The fascinating thing about Lingga Village is its age, which is estimated to be about 250 years old. The village itself is the former Lingga Kingdom of Karo Land, headed by a king (landlord) named Sibayak Lingga.

Today, the village is divided into Lingga Lama (the Old Lingga) and Lingga Baru (the New Lingga). The Old Lingga, named Desa Budaya Lingga (Cultural Village of Lingga) by the local government several years ago, is the former capital of Lingga Kingdom. The New Lingga is an administrative village established by the government in 1975 to relocate residents and establish a more structured form of the village, as well as to maintain the sustainability and authenticity of the Old Lingga as a culture village.

The remaining traditional houses called siwaluh jabu have made Lingga Village famous as a tourism site for locals and international visitors. The houses have been here since the early establishment of the village. Each house is usually inhabited by eight families that are related or have a kinship. True to its name, the Karo word waluh means eight, and jabu means family or the main living room. However, this type of home has only one room, no partitions, and no privacy according to modern standards.

The building is raised two meters above the ground by stilts. The space under the house is used as a storage place for timber and to keep livestock. The house has two doors, one facing west and another facing east. In front of each door there is a porch that is called ture, made of bamboo. Meanwhile, the thatched roof is covered with palm fiber (ijuk) sheets. On both pointing ends of the roof there are triangular woven bamboo sheets called ayo-ayo. At the tip of the ayo-ayo are placed buffalo “heads” made of timber, but with real buffalo horns. According to traditional beliefs, these horns ward off bala (bad luck, evil spirits, and disaster).

After the successfull nomination to the 2012 World Monuments Watch Watch, Lingga Village received funds for repairing of four traditional buildings: geriten (a place to store the bones and skeletons of family's ancestors), sapo ganjang (rice barn), and Belang Ayo House and Gerga House (extremely rare traditional Karo dwellings). These traditional building restoration activities are integrated with educational programs for university students from a variety of disciplines, including architecture, history, and tourism.

These activities have been ongoing since mid-October and the restoration of two of the traditional buildings (geriten and sapo ganjang) have been completed.