The Fisherman of Lamalera
Project info

The village of Lamalera is located on the south coast of Lembata island, in the archipelago of Nusa Tenggara, in the eastern part of Indonesia. The village, which has about 1,700 inhabitants, has preserved its traditions thanks to its remote location. Lembata is one of the few places in the world where the hunting of dolphins, sharks, marlin, manta rays and turtles is still practiced. This ancestral type of fishing is a tradition that has been handed down trough the generations, from father to son for almost six hundred years. Today, this ritual remains unchanged.

Here fishing is a real fight between a prey and the fisherman, who using an irony harpoons mounted on a bamboo sticks, gives proof of his skills and courage by jumping on the animal in the effort of killing it. This tecnique requires a great deal of practice and precision. In a sort of acrobatic performance, the Lamafa (i.e. the harpooneer) has to stay still on a narrow platform (called "Hemelolo"), which extends over the bow of the boat. Barefoot on wet wood, the Lamafa has to keep his balance while the boat is rocking, holding an heavy bamboo - that can reach 6 feet long.
As soon as the Lamafa sees the prey, he jumps off the boat trying to drive the harpoon into the body of the animal.
The first shot must be a good one to prevent the wounded animal overturning the boat. Once the harpooner has woonded the pray, he has to get into the boat faster he can, to escape any sharks attracted by the smell of blood.

The Lamafa has the most dangerous job on the boat and in the history of hunting many of these men have been killed or seriously injured. Anyone can become a Lamafa but must demonstrate courage, strength, intelligence and discipline. The role is usually passed from father to son and it is considered a place of honor in the village of Lamalera

At the end of the fishing, the game is brought to the shore, where it is directly cut on the beach and divided between all fishermen. Nothing is wasted. What can not be eaten fresh, is cut into small strips of meat and left to dry in the sun on top of bamboo poles.
Even today, fishing is the most important source of livelihood here.