Our Programs and Activities
Apart from the core museum activities of managing the exhibition and conserving the collection the Nias Heritage Foundation have a number of programs and activities aimed at strengthening public understanding and support for the cultural heritage of Nias Island. Some of our programs and activities are:
Cultural education program for children
Some areas of Nias have less connection to their heritage than others. To counteract this the Foundation arranges cultural programs for school children. The two day program is aimed at the students but teachers also benefit from this training. These programs have been held regularly since 2009. The aim is that the younger generation should learn and understand about their own culture and also feel appreciation for the role of museum in the community. During the two day program the children attend classes about Nias culture, visit the exhibition and learn about the collection, study common Nias flora and fauna, learn to recognize traditional medicinal plants, practise playing traditional musical instruments, and spend one night in the traditional houses at the Nias Heritage Museum.
In 2016 the program involved 550 students and 44 teachers from primary schools in Nias and West Nias Regency. The first programs were sponsored by the World Bank via the Ministry of Home Affairs & Community Development. Since a few years the programs have been sponsored by grants from Deutsche Ordensobernkonferenz (DOK), the German Foreign Ministry and Kindermissionwerk (Germany).
Traditional dance and music
To encourage the preservation and revitalisation of Nias traditional dance and music the museum is involved in several activities:
Traditional dance group
Many villages have a “Sanggar Budaya” which is a dance group that regularly practice and perform traditional dances and music. Through these cultural groups the dances and music of Nias are kept alive in the community. The museum has its own Sanggar that is trained by museum staff. The performers are students from the local community who regularly attend training at the museum. The dance group also put on monthly public performances at the museum which have been very well received. As a result of this the museum dance group have been asked to perform at many local events. Increasingly there are also performances put on for visiting tourists, who get a chance to experience the living culture of Nias. Anyone interested in booking a cultural performance can contact the museum.
Manufacture of traditional musical instruments
Many Nias instruments are unique and cannot be found elsewhere. To avoid that Nias ethnic music is forgotten, the museum staff is making traditional Nias musical instruments. Some of these instruments are used regionally throughout Sumatra, others are unique to Nias Island, such as the Tutu Hao, an instrument made from bamboo. Visitors can purchase these instruments and also can learn to play them from the museum staff.
Recording of traditional Nias "Hoho" songs
Hoho songs are a type of singing unique to Nias. It is a form of storytelling and sharing of ancestral wisdom through songs. In order to preserve these original songs for the future the museum have been recording some of the best examples. Famous Hoho signers from Hilinawalo fau and Hili'ametaniha villages in South Nias were invited to the museum to make professional audio recording. These songs are now available on CD from the museum.
Recording of traditional handicraft techniques
Traditional knowledge is not limited to ceremonies and cultural practices. Nias people developed many unique tools and skills in their everyday life. There are still people in remote areas of Nias that have skills in pottery and the making of other household items. To preserve this traditional knowledge the Museum have been interviewing local people about their skills and documenting the procedures. One such example is a short documentary film recording and explaining the process of how Nias people used to make clay cooking pots from soil. This film is available at the Museum.
Training for carpenters in traditional building techniques
Traditional Nias houses are often mentioned as some of the best examples of tribal vernacular architecture in the world. Omo Hada houses are famous for being built without nails, yet they are strong enough to withstand the frequent earthquakes rocking the Island. The skill of the carpenters to build these beautiful houses was passed down from generation to generation. Young people used to work as handymen and assistants during construction of new houses. In this way each generation was able to learn from practical experience. As less and less houses are built today this knowledge is disappearing. The museum has been involved the rehabilitation of hundreds of traditional houses and always assist and train the carpenters when necessary. The museum also employs a crew of traditional carpenters for various projects, and young people are able to learn from them. At the museum there are several traditional buildings of different styles that serve as an example for local people who want to build traditional houses.
Large trees suitable for construction are becoming rare and very expensive on Nias Island. Without a regular supply of wood the maintenance and construction of traditional houses on Nias is under threat. Importing building material is also not a good solution as it is expensive and often not the right kind of wood. In order to prevent this, the museum is encouraging people in traditional villages to plant trees that can be used as building material. The museum have distributed seedlings to several communities and advised them on how to manage their tree plantations. Apart from producing building material, tree planting is positive for Nias as deforestation is becoming a serious threat to the environment on the island.
Student work experiences and internships
The Nias Heritage Museum is a place of learning and regularly offers students the chance to take part in various work experience programs. There is an ongoing cooperation with vocational tourism schools, and small groups of students attend 3-month practical work experiences at the museum where they work side by side with museum staff. Apart from learning about Nias culture the students also learn about the various aspects of operating a tourism attraction, such as hospitality, housekeeping, events management, etc.
Besides the local students, the Museum also provides internships for international volunteers and students to work and get practical experience at the Museum. Almost every year there are Master students from Europe at the museum. These students tend to focus on a particular area, such as museum management or heritage conservation. Most of them come through the German ASA program.
Promoting and developing Cultural Tourism
Well planned and managed cultural tourism can help to preserve the cultural heritage of Nias. Income from tourism and outside appreciation often give local people a strong incentive to preserve their culture. The museum is also a tourism attraction in itself and as such an important part of tourism on Nias Island. The foundation has facilitated discussions and seminars on tourism for the community and local tourism industry. Relevant museum staff has also undergone training in guiding and hospitality. In 2016 hospitality staff from the museum undertook a 6 week work experience at a well-known resort in Bali. Australian volunteers from AVI placed at the museum have assisted with tourism surveys, training and promotion of Nias Island as tourism destination. The museum is hosting the website www.visitniasisland.com which is the main source of information for tourists about Nias Island.
Preparing traditional villages for Cultural Tourism
The museum actively assists and advice traditional villages who want to be part of the tourism economy. Part of this is to encourage the preservation of traditional houses and overall style of Nias traditional villages. This may include moving unsightly parabola antennas and cables to the back of the house, and improve sanitation and cleanliness in public spaces in the village. In addition, local people have been adviced on how to host visitors, basic hospitality and handicraft manufacturing. These programs have involved well known traditional villages such as Hili'amaetaniha and Hilimondregeraya in South Nias.
Protection and rehabilitation of heritage sites
The museum is not only caring for the collection in the museum but is also working across the Island to protect the cultural heritage of Nias. This includes the rehabilitation of hundreds of traditional houses, several megalithic sites and a significant archaeological excavation site near Gunungsitoli. Learn more about our conservation rehabilitation work around Nias here
Production of musical instruments
Bamboo String Instrument
Bamboo Clap Sticks
Bamboo Mouth Harp