Bawean Tribe, Bawean Island

Written by on October 1, 2010 in Java Tribes with 0 Comments
Bawean Tribe

The Bawean homeland is a 200 square kilometer island 120 kilometers north of Surabaya (East Java) in the middle of baweanthe Java Sea. Bawean has been known as the “island of women” because the majority of its inhabitants are women. This is because the men tend to look for employment in other lands. A man from Tanjung Ori village who worked for 20 years in Malaysia said, “A Bawean male is not considered an adult until he has stepped on foreign soil.” Merantau (going to distant lands to seek success) is a major aspect of Baweanese culture, and it influences most every other facet of their society. A significant number of the Baweanese reside in Malaysia. In fact, the Baweanese population there far exceeds that found on the island itself, which numbers 60,000 inhabitants. Other areas of Baweanese migration include Singapore, where they are known as the Boyanese people, and Perth, Australia.
The culture of merantau creates some interesting dynamics for the Baweanese people. On one hand, their homeland is isolated and cut off from modern Indonesian life. On the other hand, they are very exposed to the world through their family members who migrate and then return to Bawean Although early settlers came from the island of Madura (as seen in the similarity of their lan-guages), over the centuries the Baweanese have developed their own unique culture. Influences are evident from Madura, Java, S. Sulawesi, Su-matra and Kalimantan. Because of this, a Kompas reporter Emmanuel Subangun wrote in 1976 that the Baweanese people are a “crystallization of In-donesian ethnic variety.”The main sources of income for those living and working on the island are farming and fishing. Apart from this, some residents make grass mats from palm leaf fiber as a local handicraft, own small shops, or harvest the high quality onyx which is found on the island, and ship it to Java or elsewhere in the world. Most of the income on the island however comes from the family members who live and work overseas and who send money back to their families on Bawean.
Originally the Baweanese embraced animistic beliefs. Then Hindu and Buddhist influences entered the island until the 1600’s when the Baweanese people converted to Islam. Their religious devotion is extremely strong and they pride themselves in the fact that 100% of the island’s inhabitants follow Islam. There are many mosques (mesjid), small Islamic prayer houses (musholla) and traditional Islamic schools (pesantrans) in every village. Boys and girls from six or seven years of age receive religious instruction including lessons in reciting the Qur’an, and sometimes live in the house of a kiai (Islamic teacher). Kiais are greatly respected by the Baweanese.

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