Lamafa - The world's last traditional whale hunters

Lamalera’s Lamafa – Papa Ignasius

Ignasius Blikololong (Papa Ignasius) – Ata Molan and whale song specialist

With my 75 years, I have retired from being a Lamafa, but I’m very proud to have made it 50 long years at sea. 2 years ago I gave my place to my grandson (also called Ignasius) who was 40 years old at that time. I still work as an „Ata Molan“ – a Paledang builder. This precious skill  has been passed on from generation to generation within my family tree. It took me approx. one year to learn from my father how to build a seaworthy Paledang without any sketch. Ever since I have constructed 5 Lamaleran Paledangs with the assistance of my crew – It usually took us one month to finish building one.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

My Ancestors are people of the sea, fond to venture to the vast ocean
Passing through tides without of fear, coming through storms everyday
Wind Blows, Sail unfurled, tide crashes onshore

Brave young men, rise now, to the sea together we go…

I’ve heard you are the master of all spiritual whale songs?

We Lamalerans have a song for every occasion, in case we successfully caught something or when we’re about to set sails fo a voyage. We may sing a special one when being in search of big mantas, another one for hunting whale sharks, and there is one especially for whales. These songs are usually taught by our fathers. I remember well, every night when I couldn’t sleep or when I was crying, my father sang these songs for me. So you’ll pick it up automatically, and there is enough time at sea to practice with your comrades.

How did you meet your wife?

Normally, if you’d tell a woman in Lamalera; „I love you“, they ask you straight away if you are a Lamafa – if yes, they’d stay well away from you because they know there won’t be that much of sex during our Leva Season which spans over 6 months every year. We Lamafa obey strict rules, as we need to be perfectly focused. Every small distraction could have an influence on the whale hunt. Obviously, I’m a very fortunate fellow; my wife wanted to be with a Lamafa because she intended to cling on a man of dignity and courage. Thus, I consider her as a gift of God. Just after my family, my greatest gift is the respect given to me by the entire village, which I still can enjoy even I have retired. 

What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?” – “Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices. “Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically thrown them. “And what do ye next, men?” – “Lower away, and after him!” “And what tune is it ye pull to, men?” – “A dead whale or a stove boat!  Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters