The traditional long houses of the E De ethnic minority are becoming a rare sight in the central highlands and are in need of restoration if their architectural legacy is to survive.
These houses normally house between seven and nine couples. Shelves in the houses are also a prominent feature as a place to showcase valuables and display a family’s wealth.
The E De people often divide house space into two parts. The “Gah” section is considered a sort of living room and common space, while the “Ôk” are private rooms for couples.
In past years, around 600 E De and M’nong villages had 100% of households built and used in the traditional way, with 50-60 homes in use in each village. According to the Dak Lak provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism the total number fell to 2,680 long houses as of late 2011.
Truong Bi, Deputy Director of the Dak Lak Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism told DTiNews that the reason for the loss of these houses is the trend of urbanisation and the residents, who prefer more modern buildings to old ones.
Also, he said, the materials used for building these houses has increased. Many of the people living in these villages have prospered in recent years, opening enterprises such as coffee, pepper and rubber plantations, affording them the choice to build modern homes. Many villages keep traditional house structures only as a communal meeting place.
The loss of these structures is not limited to people who live in Buon Ma Thuat City, but also those in more remote regions, such as Krong Ana, Ma D’Rak, Krong Buk and Cu M’Gar.
“The long house endemic to the central highlands is disappearing. But what worries me most is the loss of other traditions. The playing of gongs and other traditional ceremonies are fading away along with the houses,” Bi said.
Dak Lak authorities are in the process of carrying out a pilot preservation programme for the long house in Ako Dhong, M’lieng or Jul villages.