Ngada district is famed for its extraordinary cultural richness. A distinct architecture and fascinating expressions of the Ngada people’s ancient belief system, such as massive stone altars and a vivid ceremonial life, are just a few features that attract so many visitors each year. It is amazing to see how traditions are upheld with a strong commitment that is based on the honor and respect towards the Ngada people’s long-gone ancestors. The most important ceremony is Reba, an annually held thanksgiving celebration to respect God and the ancestors for being blessed with a good harvest and wealth.
Reba usually lasts for three days full of ceremonies and ritual activities which involve huge amounts of food crops and livestock that had been collected in advance. It focuses on the legend of the community’s ancestors who traveled from far in search of a better place to grow their crops and raise their livestock. As yam used to be the most important staple food in the past, it is not surprising that many rituals focus on this nutritious tuber.
Generally, Reba consists of several different ceremonial stages, beginning with collecting the offerings, receiving guests, dancing, reciting original myths, and praising the yam root. However, initial rituals related to Reba start one week ahead of the actual festival. Some of these rituals are held at the outskirts of the villages. One of them is called Bui Loka, a ceremony to clean the loka or lanu, a ritual site outside the village, with sacrificial stones where animal offerings are sacrificed.
Some of the Reba ceremonies are then held in the kisanatha, including the communal meals. Other rituals are centered around the ancestral shrines. Ngadhu is a tall wooden trunk with carvings and a conical, thatched roof that represents a clan’s first male ancestor. Bhaga, which looks like a miniature of a Ngada house, stands for the first female ancestor. The festival ends with throwing all the yam peels out of the village. Animal offerings are also an important part of the sacred rituals during the festival. he famous village of Bena is considered to be the mother of all Ngada villages. Thus, Reba festivities are first held in Bena before other villages follow suit with the celebration. With Bena starting Reba on the 27th of December, other villages – Gurusina, Langa, Nage, Wogo, and Beiposo – follow in January. Some others, such as Deru, Ruto or Turekisa, celebrate it in February. If you wish to participate in this inspiring cultural festival, it is recommended to dress conservatively. Even though not obligatory, it would be appropriate to wear traditional Ngada costume, especially during sacred ritual procedures.