Houses built 1985-1992 (Nicholas Herriman)
"Capt Ross & Mr Liesk live in a large barn-like house open at both ends & lined with mats made of the woven bark: the houses of the Malays are arranged along the shore of the lagoon".Furthermore, the captain of HMS Beagle noted that Ross and Liesk:
had wives (English) and children, the whole party residing together in a large house of Malay build—just such a structure as one sees represented upon old japanned work.Syms Covington's sketch seems to match the "large barn-like house".
Late 1800s: Two residential areasIn the late 19th century, there were two residential areas or kampong. In one the descendants of the original settlers resided. They were called "Orang Cape" (Cape People), as the original settlers had lived in the Cape of Good Hope before moving to the Cocos Islands. In the other kampong resided Orang Banten (Bantamese). These were convicts who had been sent out from from West Java, to serve part of their terms as indentured laborers on the Cocos Islands.
Houses have changed markedly in the living memory of Cocos Malays. This change came in three stages, discussed in the following three sections respectively.
1920s-1950s Rumah Atap
They were plain, rectangular buildings, about eighteen feet wide and twenty-six feet long. In most cases the interior was divided by partitions to form two small rooms, which were used for sleeping, and a large room which was used for the reception of visitors. There was a door in the centre of each end, and usually one half way along one of the sides.
A diagramatic representation of a house in the kampong on Home Island, with part of the wall and roof removed to show the internal structure. The supporting beams have been labelled with their local Malay names. (Gibson Hill 178)
|Layout of the Home Island village in 1941 (Gibson Hill 176). Note the neat rows of houses.|
constructed with local building materials. They were built off the ground on top of short stumps. The walls are made from a kind of cane, obtained from the spine of the palm frond, the frame was made from local hardwood and the roof from layers of woven palm fronds (Bunce 92).
This is what we call Kampong Atas; it's close to the beach. It wasn't all that comfortable. We oil lamps so we couldn't really see [inside the house]. Many rats lived in the coconut leaves. The rats and people lived together. There were six in my family while I was young. I often stayed with my grand[mother], [Nek] Daniel
1950s-1980s Rumah Batu (Stone Houses)
walls were cast in such huge moulds and the design was similar to the earlier atap model. Wooden kitchens, storage sheds and wash houses were built separately at the back, as before. Water for household use was drawn by hand from backyard wells right up until the 1980s (Bunce 92)
The 1950s style of house.
Nek Soe recalled:
We called these "Rumah Batu" (Stone Houses). The kitchen was on the outside there wasn't a kitchen inside. There were two bedrooms and a lounge room. There must have been built in the 1960s. My father, Mochta Saleh, built these because he was the chief carpenter. We got the concrete from the back of the island. The parts were numbered 1, 2, 3 and then put together. The rocks were from here.
The plans for the next style of home, the New Houses, depict and "Existing Ablution Block". It thus appears that the ablution blocks which are still used today were built at some point while the Stone Houses were used.
Rumah Baru (New Houses) 1980s-now
|New House (left) and Stone House (right) (Bunce 92)|
The decision to build new houses was reached in 1983. The program was called "the Home Island Development Plan", or "HIDP" for short. According to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Annual Report 1983-84 "in December 1983 the Government announced its commitment to a development plan for Home Island...the community has chosen the house design to be constructed under the Development Plan... Construction by the Cocos Co-Operative and Department of Housing and Construction will commence early in the 1984-85 financial year.
The design appears to have been democratic. Writing in the 1980s, Bunce (92) notes "The current housing design was developed from the results of extensive surveys of family living patterns and expressions of community desires".
The first houses were finished in 1985. The 1986-87 Annual Report states that "the first home completed under the plan was opened...on 1 May 1985" . The email continues that "the first home completed under the plan was opened...As of the 30 June 1985, four houses had been completed and four more were under construction."
One recurring theme is the use of outdoor kitchen. It appears in all the home designs, Cocos Malays cooked out the back. Even though the latest plan was equipped with a kitchen inside, people have preferred to cook outside.
Now, I think, the kampong is, informally divided into 3 Kampong Baru (on the West by the lagoon); Kampong Tengah (in the middle and incorporating the mosque); and Kampong Kangkung (on the East).
SummaryAt each of these three stages, the old houses were entirely replaced. Instead of every house being built to an individual’s own design, all houses were built to the same design, around the same time. Thanks to the hard work of Cocos Malay builders, in effect three entirely new villages have been built, each replacing the earlier one!
Thank you to our new hosts Ayesha and Nek Soe for their hospitality and their help with this blog!