Preserving a Hairy Tradition: Maria, West Nusa Tenggara

mini-hairy-tradition.jpgWhile fewer Indonesian women are choosing to keep their hair long these days, women in one village in West Nusa Tenggara are hanging on to their long locks to preserve an old tradition. Maria village is located some 35 kilometers from Raba, the capital city of Bima regency. Most women in the village sport hair stretching at least to their hips, while some have hair stretching down as far as their calves. According to tradition, Maria women must not cut their hair before they are married. Once married they are free to do as they choose, but most women find it hard to part with their hair and decide to leave it long.

Many women in the village use traditional hair care products rather than more modern and easier alternatives.

Most believe that using natural ingredients keeps their hair black, thick and beautiful.

“It is not easy to take care of long hair, but we have to in the name of tradition,” Hasnah, 20, said.

Hasnah and her friends gather most Saturday nights to exchange hair care tips.

While shampoo and conditioner is readily available at several small kiosks in the village, most women rarely stray from traditional and natural ingredients, including candlenut, tamarind and mango.
Even Maria women who have moved away from the village to study or for work generally continue to preserve the tradition of having long hair.

“I sometimes wash my hair with shampoo when I’m studying in Mataram, but I much prefer to use natural ingredients, especially when I go home to my village,” said Nur, 23, who is studying at Mataram University.

Maria village is becoming an increasingly popular destination among domestic and foreign tourists, who wish to see the spectacular landscape and the long hair of Maria women.

HM Yasin, an anthropologist from Wawo district, said Maria women had maintained this tradition for hundreds of years.

“This tradition is to promote motherly instincts among Maria women,” said Yasin, adding that Maria residents originally came from Southeast Sulawesi.

Panca Nugraha