The festive Lio people live in the Ende district of Central Flores, where they make up the ethnic majority. The Lionese people use a fascinating range of artwork – architecture, carving, ikat weaving, jewellery, and more – which bursts with symbols that tell about their history, social life, and cultural values. Some of the most prominent motifs in Lionese culture are boats, snakes, horses, and humans. With natural attractions like the world-famous Kelimutu crater lakes, the Lio area is a hiker’s paradise and worth at least a couple of days of exploring.
The influence of adat belief systems is still quite strong in the Lio area. This may be explained by the fact that most of the Lionese people settled in mountainous terrain, therefore never gave up dry-rice farming. Consequently, many ritual and ceremonial activities related to the agricultural cycle of dry rice are still considered important, be it at the time of starting a new dry-rice field, the planting, or harvesting.
A characteristic of many Florinese cultures, the traditional Lionese belief system, is also centered around the notion of a highest divine being that unites opposites, called du’a gheta lulu wula, nggae ghale wena tana – the old one up on the Moon, the ruler on Earth. The Lionese people believe in an afterlife. Therefore, the dead are buried with gifts to take to their afterlife. Good and bad spirits, as well as magic practices, are other important elements of the traditional belief system. Many of these ideas and practices live on, quite smoothly paralleled by Catholicism and Islam.
The Lionese people used to have and still have a distinct political system dominated by the mosalaki – leadership personalities with different responsibilities. At the very top of the hierarchy stands the ria bewa, or the ‘great long one’. As he has an all- encompassing decisive power, he may be called the highest authority of a Lionese village. The ria bewa is followed by the mosalaki pu’u, the ‘first mosalaki’, who takes the role of the ria bewa’s executive and assistant in ritual matters. If, for example, the ria bewa decides that measures have to be taken to bring rain, the mosalaki pu’u will ensure that the necessary rituals will be arranged and performed properly. Depending on the size of a community, there is a number of additional mosalaki, each with his own specific responsibilities.