2 II 3 k-i Niha: öri
The north of Nias is characterized by the primacy of the clan as a mark of identity, referred to as a physical and political territory, the 'on'. The villages of each on partake of a customary law and are associated in a defensive and economic alliance. The chiefs of the villages do not have the same status. The chief of the eldest branch of the clan has the higher position and the government IS assumed by the assembly of all chiefs under his authority.
When a man in a village wishes to attain the highest ranks, he must create a new village, the final stage being to become chief of an on by founding one. Thus this system associates social and spatial mobility.
The villages are generally small (from a few houses to a few dozen). The buildings are set on both sides of a central square, this being seldom paved and often muddy. In front of the buildings, a row of megaliths - menhirs, fiat stones, anthropomorphic statues and cenotaphs - commemorate the social rank of the owner. There are many different layouts. Several villages can be close to each other, or buildings dispersed over a relatively vast territory can belong to a single village.
The houses are built on small mounds or on oval cobbled platforms bounded by rain-water ditches. The surface sheltered by the roof is used for domestic tasks or as storage space. The dimensions, in particular the height of the pillars, the entrance system and the decoration, vary with the location, the period of construction, and the rank of the owner. The oldest
houses date back nine generations They are built on piles up to 3 m (10 ft) high rhe entrance, under the building, is closed by a sturdy trap door The most recent, fifty years old, have piles between i 2 m (4 ft) and i 6 m (5 ft) Ihc access is through a veranda along one of the half-round sides of the building
The oval house is like a huge umbrella four central pillars going from the ground through the floor carry the whole framework, the ridge-pole is carried by two central pillars resting on the dwelling floor In larger buildings, four other pillars resting on the floor help to carry the framework The understructure is composed of a forest of vertical and oblique piles bracing the whole The ones under the centre of the house are sometimes loaded with stones or beams to make the structure more resistant
The oval of the floor is obtained by the understructure's
beams, their different lengths determining the limit of the semicircular sides I our low beams, two lengthways and two half-round, |oin the heads of the understructure beams Ihe semicircular shape of the beams is obtained by halving the |oint assembly of several units
The roof framing is organized from pairs of superimposed frames perpendicular to the facade, borne by the four central pillars, and strengthened by transverse purlins Resting over each level of frame, longitudinal joists of different lengths according to their level complete the roof framing Tied to their ends, a bamboo ring purlin gives its roundness to the roof
The number of levels of the roof, usually three to five platforms, depends on the rank of the owner Old chiefs' houses had up to seven
The flexible bamboo rafters cross at their top over the ridgepole, and are tied at each level to the bamboo ring purlins and side purlins of the roof framing. The panels, as in the whole island, are made of folded sago leaves sewn onto split bamboo. This ensures their stiffness and enables them to be fastened onto the rafters with rattan ties. To render the covering waterproof double panels are placed overlapping both vertically and horizontally, the result being a covering six layers thick.
The ficades are completely independent of the bearing structure.
A large, public front space takes up half to two-thirds of the building, on the entrance side. It is used both for receiving visitors and as a working or resting place. Guests and male unmarried children sleep here. Before Christian times, numerous statues of house gods and ancestors were fixed to the pillars and walls. On the right-hand wall, near the long frontal bench, is a shelf where the figures of ancestors formerly stood.
The rooms and hearths are in the last third, their number varying according to the number of nuclear families living in the house. The kitchen is arranged at the back of the house, or below in an extension. The hearth is a wooden box filled with earth, and where three cooking pots are disposed for water, rice and vegetables. It is surmounted by a wooden structure with shelves to store heating wood, utensils, food and seeds. The rice containers can be either chests, as elsewhere in the island, or large cylindrical bark receptacles.