Remembering and Recreating Origins: The Transformation of a Tradition of Canonical Parallelism among the Rotenese of Eastern Indonesia


This paper examines and illustrates key oral traditions of canonical parallelism among the Rotenese of eastern Indonesia. The Rotenese are concerned with maintaining a knowledge of origins and the poets who perpetuate this knowledge are known for their ability to recount long chants that reveal these origins. On Rote, a traditional ritual canon of origins that recounts relations between Sun and Moon and the Lords of the Sea has now been complemented by a Christian canon based on the appropriation of Biblical knowledge. This Christian canon strictly adheres to the paired lexicon and rules of composition of the traditional canon, but has developed its own appropriate lexicon of theological pairings. Another, lesser canon has also begun to emerge to recount the celebration of national origins. All of these canons now form part of a continuing body of creative traditions expressed in the paired language of parallelism.



Fig. 1. The domains of Rote.

Map: © Carto_GIS ANU_10-095.

Fig 2. A tentative dialect map of Rote.

Map: © Carto_GIS ANU_14-027.

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