Ngada Villages of Flores
2014 World Monuments Watch
The Ngada villages of Desa Guru Sina, Desa Langa, Desa Bela, and Desa Lina Tiwa are nestled between two volcanos in the remote inlands of the island of Flores. These communities are characterized by a distinctive form of vernacular architecture that has survived despite the globalizing forces of the twenty-first century. The number of houses (sa’o) and shrines for male and female ancestors (ngadhu and bhaga) in a given village is determined by the number of clans or families (suku) in the village, and must remain constant over time. The buildings reflect traditional beliefs and are decorated with images of buffalo, chickens, horses, humans, weaponry, and other forms, each with the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the villages and ensuring their sustainable harmony with ancestral spirits and the environment.
These small rural villages are isolated, connected only by a narrow, winding road to Bajawa, the administrative center of the Ngada District. The mountainous ravines and rainforests separating central Flores from the more visited coasts have in many ways protected these traditional settlements, but they also limit opportunities for younger generations. Thus, while the Ngada communities have demonstrated a strong desire to protect and preserve their architectural heritage, the youngest of their ranks are increasingly seeking education and careers elsewhere. For this reason the villages are emblematic of the great challenges of preserving vernacular heritage in a globalizing world as the transfer of knowledge across generations is fractured and traditional skills and resources become scarcer. The villages were included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to raise awareness about the plight of these villages and that of similar traditional settlements, and to promote innovative thinking about how the tangible and intangible heritage of these cultures can be preserved.