Ata Sikka - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In central Sikka and Sikka Natar, marriage is effected by the payment of bride-wealth, reckoned in goods classified as "male" (horses, elephant tusks, gold and silver coins, and cash). Counterprestations from wife givers to wife takers must be paid in classificatorily "female" goods (cloth, pigs, rice, and household furnishings and utensils). Men representing the wife-giving and wife-taking parties in a marriage formally and ceremonially negotiate bride-wealth. When agreement is reached a pig is provoked until it squeals, thereby announcing the marriage of the couple. A Catholic marriage ceremony follows within a few years, in some cases only after the birth of the first child. Marriage is monogamous. Marriage is forbidden (1) between a parent and child, an uncle and niece, or an aunt and nephew; (2) between siblings; (3) between the children of two brothers or the children of two sisters; and (4) between a boy and his father's sister's daughter. According to Arndt, in the past, the desired marriage was between a boy and his mother's brother's daughter. Since the beginning of this century the marriage of first cousins has been discouraged by the church. The people of Sikka Natar follow a rule of empat lapis (Indonesian: "four layers")—marriage between persons related no closer than as third cousins.

The relations of alliance groups in central Sikka, and most remarkably in Sikka Natar, are ordered by complex exchanges of ceremonial goods and ritual services. Particular exchange cycles are initiated by bride-wealth and its counterprestations. While ceremonial exchange and affinal alliance are generally asymmetric, instances of symmetrical exchange occur within the asymmetric pattern. The mutual obligations of affinally related groups last during the marriage of two of their members and are especially important on the occasion of the death of a spouse. Reduced obligations to exchange goods and ritual services continue to link alliance groups after the death of both a husband and wife. Goods received either as bride-wealth ( ling wéling, "the clink of the coins"), classificatorily "male" goods, or as counterprestations ( 'utang labu wawi paré, "cloths, blouses, pigs, and rice"), classificatorily "female" goods, are distributed within the receiving group to persons standing in particular kin or affinal categories to the bride and groom. Of special significance are elephant tusks and ceremonial textiles ( 'utang ) made by the women of alliance groups. Elephant tusks are nonconsumable goods whose individual movements through exchange chart the histories of alliances in the community. Textiles of a kind and quality suitable for exchange for bride-wealth must be cut, sewn into sarongs, and worn by the women who receive them. They are thus consumable goods that must be constantly replaced by the labor of women. The ceremonial 'utang of Sikka Natar are especially notable in that motifs and the structure of motifs incorporated into the overall design of a cloth encode the maternal and paternal identity of the weaver. Once given in return for bride-wealth and worn by recipient women, these cloths exhibit publicly the identity of the wearer in terms of the alliance system of the community.

Throughout Sikka, marriage is by preference villageendogamous, except that royal and noble houses maneuver to increase their political influence by becoming wife givers to nobles of other villages. Arndt reports that a man may spend a year or more in the house of his wife or alternate residence between his own parents' and wife's parents' house before establishing a residence of his own, a practice still followed in Sikka Natar.

Domestic Unit. A household may include the elderly parents of either husband or wife and a recently married child with spouse. Ten Dam and Arndt report royal houses with up to fifty persons, although the average in Nita is ten per household.

Inheritance. Property is divided among male siblings, but, according to ten Dam, an elder brother may act on behalf of his other brothers to retain intact for another generation the household's dry fields. One child, with spouse, continues to reside with his or her parents and eventually inherits the house.

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