Friday, February 11, 2011

Wooden house in mountains of Arfak

The traditional wooden house in Arfak mountains is called rumah kaki seribu or a thousand feet house. It is not a modern wooden house whose interior is well varnished and insulated to create a comfortable dwelling place for its owner. The house has a lot of small pillars below to support it some 1 to 2 meters off the ground. Timber, bamboo, and tree bark are used as the main construction materials for the house. They are all renewable resources in tropical rainforest of West Papua. At the present time the exploitation of wood has destroyed vast areas of tropical rainforest in the region. This timber industry is not expanded to meet the demand of the one-thousand feet house but modern timber-framed house construction and furniture industry that are growing exponentially in Manokwari city, the capital of West Papua province. The traditional wooden house in the mountains of Arfak does not consume a lot of logs. However, improvements in the designs need to be done to make them more comfortable to the indigenous Arfak tribes who develop them.

When most of the villages in Arfak mountains were still isolated, modern home building materials could not be supplied into those villages. Now with the construction of new roads between the Manokwari city and the Arfak mountains, villagers can easily go to the city to buy nails, corrugated metal roofs and portland cement to build their houses. Unfortunately, what I see is not improvements in the design of the Arfakkers wooden house but the adoption of new style house which the indigenous people see in the coastal region of the city. Manokwari city is located along area of Doreh bay. The traditional "kaki seribu" wooden houses with a lot of supporting pillars are now being abandoned with the construction of timber framed concrete houses that are built directly on the ground. Portland cement is used to make foundation and floor. Because the air temperature in Arfak mountains is quite cool, such houses are actually not suitable for the moutainous tribes.
In my opinion, people from Arfak tribes can still make their kaki-seribu wooden houses more comfortable to them by making some improvements in the designs. The the addition of windows the allow sunlight to enter the rooms and adjustable ventilation holes to allow air to circulate into and out of the rooms, and finally chimney as an exhaust pipe to direct the smoke  out of the wooden houses are needed to make them a good comfortable living place. Lastly, corrugated metal roofs have widely replaced the palm leaves that were not resistant to water. The palm leaves could easily burn and endanger the villagers who live inside the such house.
I hope that the traditional wooden house in the mountains of Arfak can still be preserved as one of the most important cultural heritages that the Papuan people can give to their future generations. by Charles Roring
Also read: Old wooden house of Minahasa