The Don Donggo “Mountain People” are small minority ethnic group who occupy the cloudy highlands west of Bima Bay. Basically, directly across the bay from Bima. The Don Donggu fled to the highlands over 400 years ago to escape Islamisation. In the isolation of the mountains, they maintained a distinct ethnic identity, religion, social organization, dress and architecture.
Like many indigenous cultures, the Donggo beliefs are closely linked to the natural environment. The worship a triad of gods; Dewi Lang, the god of heaven, Dewa Oi, the god of the water and Dewa Wango, god of the wind. The clan based villages are led by a high priest called a Ncuhi who performs an annual cycle of rituals such as the Keraso, a fertility ritual. The Donggu believe that these rituals must be performed in a traditional house called an Uma Leme, a stilted house with a high A-frame thatched roof that meets the floor. The interior is accessed by a single ladder which is pulled up at night to prevent unwanted visitors. Whilst all villagers lived in Uma Leme traditional houses, the largest was reserved for the Ncuhi and his family.
Over the last 50 years many Donggo have converted to Islam and adopted other lowland influences but they maintain a foot in both camps and continue to actively practise their centuries old Donggu traditions. The Donggo women are particularly well-known for their woven and indigo-painted fabrics, tembe sangga, from which of which they make traditional clothing.
On the slopes of Mount Soromandi, there are 11 traditional Donggo villages to found; Bajo, O’o, Rora, Punti, Sowa, Mbawa, Kala, Doridungga, Palama, Sai and Sampungu. You can visit at least some of these villages quite easily from the Dompu-Bima Road by heading up the mountain from Sila. A network of roads and tracks across the mountain side links all the communities which are clustered within about 10km2 of each other. Mbawa village, about 11km and 45min drive northeast from Sila is probably the pick of them due to efforts by the villages to preserve the last three remaining Uma Leme and rice granaries. Most of the other villages lie in a triangle east of Mbawa and down towards the western shore of Bima Bay. The views back over the Bima Bay as you gain elevation are sublime.