Bugis, Makassarese, and Mandarese

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Bugis, Makassarese, and Mandarese

PRONUNCIATION: BOO-gheez, muh-KAHSS-uh-reez, and MAHN-duh-reez
ALTERNATE NAMES: Buginese, Bugis-Makassarese, Mandar
LOCATION: Indonesia (Sulawesi)
POPULATION: Bugis (5 million); Makassarese (2 million); Mandarese (0.5 million).
LANGUAGE: Buginese; Makassarese; Mandarese; Makassar Malay
RELIGION: Islam (Sunni Muslim)
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 3: Indonesians


Although the majority gains their livelihood from wet-rice cultivation, the Muslim peoples of Sulawesi's southwestern peninsula have long been renowned throughout the Indonesian archipelago as seafarers, whether as shipbuilders, traders, pirates, mercenaries, or migrants. While the Bugis, Makassarese, and Mandarese speak mutually unintelligible languages, they otherwise share so much in common that Indonesians often speak of one "Bugis-Makassar" ethnic group.

Austronesian-speaking agriculturalists entered Sulawesi from the Philippines about 4,000 years ago. In comparison with regions farther west, Indian civilization made little impact on early Sulawesi cultures, although pre-Islamic graves full of Chinese, Siamese, and Annamite porcelain attest to a bustling trade at this stopover on the route to the spice-rich Moluccas. First referred to in 14th century Javanese writings, the first kingdoms were founded on control of iron mines in eastern Luwu. Over the next three centuries, local rulers transformed village confederations into monarchies, basing claims to divine ancestry on possession of arajang, regalia believed to have descended from heaven.

Two of these kingdoms, Makassarese Gowa and Tallo, joined to form a power whose hegemony in the early 17th century extended far beyond the peninsula to coastal states in eastern Kalimantan, eastern Sulawesi, and the Lesser Sundas. Its capital, the fortified port city of Makassar, attracted Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Danes as well as Malays, Gujeratis, and Chinese eager to circumvent the monopoly that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was then attempting to impose on the Moluccan spice trade. These widened contacts introduced South Sulawesi to Islam; Luwu converted in 1603, Gowa-Tallo two years later, and the other Bugis kingdoms shortly thereafter, upon being defeated by the Makassarese.

In 1615, Sultan Alauddin of Gowa replied thus to VOC envoys: "God made the land and the sea: the land He divided among men and the sea He gave in common. It has never been heard that anyone should be forbidden to sail the seas." The VOC succeeded in crushing this greatest obstacle to its monopoly only in alliance with Arung Palakka, a nobleman from the Bugis kingdom of Bone, who was able to gather a great army of Bugis resentful of Gowa dominance. As a VOC city rose on the ruins of Sultan Hasanuddin's capital, and power in the peninsula shifted to Bone, many Makassarese and Wajo Bugis found refuge elsewhere in the archipelago, the former fighting alongside other enemies of the Dutch and the latter founding dynasties as far away as Johor and Selangor on the Malay peninsula.

Outside of the VOC strongholds at Makassar and along the south coast, Dutch colonial rule came to South Sulawesi only in the first decades of the 20th century after a series of hard-fought wars from 1824 to 1906 (the last Mandar resistance ended in 1916). After 30 years of stability, Sulawesi again changed hands, falling under the administration of the Japanese Navy from 1942 to 1945. Although the nationalist movement had only the shallowest of roots there, a very effective guerrilla movement sprang up to fight the bloodiest Dutch counter-revolutionary campaign in the whole archipelago. However, even after the Dutch puppet-state of "East Indonesia," based in Makassar, dissolved itself on 17 August 1950, local strong-men who had seized power in the previous years of chaos were reluctant to move aside for the central government, and the central government in turn alienated much of the population by deflating hopes for an Islamic state and local autonomy. In July 1950, Kahar Muzakkar, a modernist Muslim leader and a revolutionary activist, launched a rebellion against the Jakarta government that only ended upon his death in 1965.

Under Suharto's New Order regime (1965–1998), economic development resumed in South Sulawesi, and a new commercial elite emerged to join bureaucrats, military officers, university graduates, and Islamic religious leaders in replacing the aristocracy that had lost power with the coming of the Indonesian independence. Despite the real progress made, South and West Sulawesi continue to lag behind parts of the country try with comparably dense populations and high incidences of poverty, such as Java and Bali. South Sulawesi has experienced a disproportionate amount of the collective violence occurring in Indonesia during the final years of the Suharto regime and immediately after and ranked third in number of incidents of inter-group or village brawls (132 in 1990-2003, compared to 193 for Central Java), as well as high in incidents of vigilante "popular justice" violence. The rioting that destroyed much of the Chinese section of Ujungpandang/Makassar in September 1997 as the Asian/global emerging markets financial crisis was making itself felt in Indonesia is only the most infamous example.


The topography of Sulawesi's southwestern peninsula ranges from the precipitously rising limestone mountains of the north to a broad plain in the center (its lakes are the remnants of a shallow sea) to a volcanic range in the south. December and January bring the heaviest monsoon rains, while the hottest and driest season runs from June to August. The 1.5 million Makassarese (Indonesia's thirteenth largest ethnic group) reside along the mountainous southernmost coast of the peninsula, on Selayar and other offshore islands, and on a bit of fertile lowland north of Makassar city. The 5 million Bugis (the country's eighth largest ethnic group) live to their north, stretching as far as the northern highlands and farming the peninsula's lowland midriff, eastern Indonesia's greatest rice-bowl (while linguistically closer to the Sa'dan Toraja, the Massenrempulu of the northern highlands and the Luwu at the head of the Gulf of Bone are usually classified as Bugis due to their adherence to Islam). The Mandarese (500,000) occupy the mountainous westward bulge of the island, comprising half of the population of the new province of West Sulawesi (separated from South Sulawesi in 2004).

In addition, Bugis communities (and to a lesser extent Makassarese) can be found scattered along the shores of eastern Indonesia's islands; they have traveled as far as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and northern Australia and have settled in Sumatra, Malaya, and in the cities of Java. According to the 2000 census, Bugis, 42% of their ancestral province of South Sulawesi constitute the second largest ethnic group in the following provinces: 19% in Southeast Sulawesi; 14% in Central Sulawesi Tengah; and 18% in East Kalimantan Timur. An opposite movement has recently affected Luwu and Polewali Mamasa (directly east of the Mandar region): transmigrants from Java, Bali, and Lombok have compounded ethnic diversity in those areas. Makassar has long been a multiethnic city (the city's official name from 1971 to 1999, "Ujungpandang," recognized this reality); in addition to Makassarese, Bugis, Mandar, and Toraja, its population includes Chinese, Javanese, Minahasans, Ambonese, and representatives of virtually every group in eastern Indonesia.


Buginese, Makassarese, Mandarese, and Sa'dan Toraja constitute a discrete group of closely related Austronesian languages. Regionally prestigious, Bugis has over 500,000 second-language speakers, and Makassarese has over 400,000 (this does not include the many ethnic Chinese in Makassar for whom Makassarese is the first language). As its lingua franca, the multiethnic city of Makassar has long had its own dialect of Malay, distinguishable from the now-common Bahasa Indonesia by, among other features, its use of Makassarese sentence-final particles (e.g., for "One only," "Satu ji" instead of the standard "Satu saja").

Reflecting Islam, personal names generally are Arabic in origin. Family names are not used.


Running to thousands of pages, the Bugis epic I La Galigo, the greatest repository of the pre-Islamic mythology common to all the peoples of South Sulawesi (including the Sa'dan Toraja), recounts the adventures of the Tomanurung, beings descended from heaven whom South Sulawesi's kings claimed as ancestors. The epic begins with Batara Guru, the eldest son of the principal god of the upperworld, descending through a bamboo tube to eastern Luwu, then creating the earth's flora and fauna. After he completes a 15-day fast, other heavenly beings join him to cultivate the earth, and his cousin, a princess of the underworld, emerges from the sea to marry him. The rest of the epic focuses on six generations of his descendants, beginning with his son Sawerigading who, unable to consummate his love for his twin sister, embarks on adventures in the upper, middle, and lower worlds, finally gaining the hand of the princess We Cudai'. They have a son, La Galigo, whose exploits in love and war occupy most of the remaining narrative.


Virtually all Makassarese, Bugis, and Mandarese adhere to Sunni Islam. These peoples are considered among the strongest believers of any in the archipelago, comparable in devotion to the Acehnese and the Minangkabau. Although Muslim Malay traders had sojourned in the peninsula's port since at least the 15th century, tradition attributes Islam's initial propagation to Minangkabau holy men arriving at the beginning of the 17th century.

Islam as practiced in South Sulawesi often includes elements of the pre-Islamic religion: offerings to ancestors and spirits of the sea, earth, and rice (an homage rendered also to Muslim saints); healing, agricultural, house-, and boatbuilding rituals; the care of saukang (supernaturally charged places); even a (now almost entirely vanished) transvestite priesthood (bissu) to care for the arajang regalia and perform oracles. In the 20th century, modernist Muslims, who considered many of the local traditions idolatrous, have worked with considerable success to eliminate them. However, pre-Islamic religious traditions are still observed by the To Lotang of Sidenreng (the government has classified their beliefs as Hinduism) and the Amma Towa of Bulukumba (who defend their identity as Muslims).


See the article entitled Indonesians.


Getting married among the Bugis and Makassarese entails the following steps. The man's family pays a formal visit to the woman's family to sound out the possibility of a union. If a proposal can be made, the man's family sends a representative to negotiate the bride-price, a wedding date, wedding expenses, and feast arrangements. After this, the wedding can be announced to all the kin of both sides. On the wedding day itself, the groom with a procession of kin, young and old, male and female, arrives at the bride's house bearing the bride-price, women's clothing, and different kinds of food. Then, the wedding ceremony itself follows. For the reception, guests are invited inside the house; they give presents or money (formerly, paddy fields, gardens, or livestock) as a kind of competition between the bride's and groom's sides. A few days after the wedding, the new couple visits first the groom's family and then the bride's, giving out presents to all family members. The couple stays with the bride's parents before setting up their own household.

If the woman's family refuses the man's proposal or sets the wedding expenses too high (a kind of subtle refusal), the couple may elope. The elopement causes the woman's family to lose face, and her male kin might pursue and kill the man, if they catch him. The man seeks the protection of a powerful person who will try to assuage the anger of the woman's side. If the woman's family shows signs of accepting the union after all, the man's family takes the initiative to make a reconciliation meeting.

For additional information on rites of passage, see the article on Indonesians.


The central value governing interpersonal relations is siri', a powerful sense of face that demands that the individual or the group strive as hard as possible to win prestige as well as uphold honor at all costs, even going as far as dying in the attempt to kill offending parties.

Traditional society distinguished three classes: nobility ("descendants of kings"); commoners ("freemen"); and slaves (war captives, violators of custom, and those selling themselves to pay debts). In the 20th century, the category of slave has disappeared. Noble titles (Karaenta, Puatta, Andi, Daeng, Puang) are still used, but, since World War II, education and bureaucratic position earn as much or more deference than ancestry alone.

Although linguistic etiquette is far simpler than in Java or Bali, one does modify one's speech according to whether the addressee is one's social superior, equal, or inferior: e.g., "Where are you coming from?" can be rendered in Bugis as Pole tegai petta? (deferential), Pole tegaki? (polite), or Pole tegako? (brusk, appropriate towards children or people of greatly inferior status). To show greater respect, euphemistic or indirect expressions can be employed: e.g., Leccekki yolo mabbura, "Please transfer there and take the remedy," rather than Lokkakki yolo manre, "Please go eat." To persons of the highest status, such as religious teachers or royalty, an appropriate greeting is to bow and kiss the person's hand.

Contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex outside the surveillance of older family members is still strongly discouraged, although modern education and work provide some opportunities for this. For a young man to show interest in a girl, one strategy acceptable to custom is for him to steal her underwear while she (covered in a sarong) is bathing by a river. He then returns the underwear to her without telling anyone else about it. If the theft does become known to others, the girl's family loses face and may harm the young man.


Villages consist of 10 to 200 houses facing either south or west or backing onto a river if there is one; a banyan tree and a mosque or prayer house lies at the town center..

Traditional wooden-frame houses are raised on 1.5-m to 2-m (5–7 ft) stilts. For floors and walls, richer houses use wood with zinc roofing, while poorer ones use bamboo with leaf-fiber roofing. The house is divided vertically into three parts: the spirit-inhabited area immediately under the roof; the middle area for human living; and the area under the house floor for storing tools and keeping animals. Horizontally, beginning in front facing the road, the house is partitioned into: an un-roofed veranda; a vestibule where the family relaxes and guests wait before being invited in; a second room where the family eats, containing heirloom weapons and the house's central pillar (the place of the house's protective spirit); and a sleeping room, further divided into a front section for the parents and a back section for the daughters (sons sleep on the front veranda or at the village mosque). Commoner houses will have one lower roof over the vestibule and another higher one over the rest of the house; aristocratic houses may have as many as five further roofs. Cooking takes place at the back or behind the house.

South Sulawesi, comprising the ancestral homelands of the Bugis and Makassarese, has a Human Development Index (combining measures of income, health, and education) of 68.1 (2005 score), while that of West Sulawesi, the homeland of the Mandar, is 65.7, both figures considerably lower than the national HDI of 69.6. South Sulawesi's GDP per capita is US6,913, relatively low for Indonesia (US9,784 for West Sumatra, US8,360 for North Sulawesi, but US6,293 for Central Java and US6,151 for West Nusa Tenggara).


Ideal (but not obligatory) marriage partners are cousins of the first, second, and third degrees; marriage with a sibling, a child of a sibling, or a grandchild, however, is taboo.

A household consists of one nuclear family, including grandparents and unmarried adult children. In wealthier urban households, relatives from the countryside may stay for considerable lengths of time, joining in household chores. Traditionally, husbands and wives address each other respectively as "Father of [child's name]" or "Mother of [child's name]," e.g., in Bugis, "Ambonna/Ambenna Beddu" or "Indonna/Emmakna Beddu" (Beddu being the child). Parents call sons "Baco" and call girls "Becce." Children address fathers with a variety of titles (Ambo, Abba, Puang, Petta, and others) and mothers with Indo, Emmak, Ummi/Mi or a shortened form of the mother's name (e.g., "Lima" for "Halimah"). Older siblings call younger ones by their name or with Anri; younger siblings address older ones with Kaka, Daeng, or sometimes with their name.


House clothes are shorts with or without a shirt for boys, and a shirt and a skirt down to the knees for girls. Adult men wear a plaid-patterned sarong with or without a sleeveless undershirt, while adult women wear a batik sarong with a kebaya blouse or a shirt with sleeves down to the elbow. In contrast to the practice elsewhere in Indonesia, men and women both wear the same type of tubular sarong, the only difference being that traditionally men kept the sarong in place with a knot while women draped the edge over their right forearm.

For male street wear, although Western-style trousers and shirts are common, so too is the sarong with a long- or short-sleeved shirt. It is impolite to go out in public without a head-covering (a black velvet cap, a white hajji cap, or, now rarely, the sangkok rucca, a traditional brimless, flat-topped cap woven of palm-leaf fibers). For traditional ceremonies, a man adds a buttoned-up jacket to the shirt and sarong (often silk).

Female street wear consists of the sarong-blouse combination or modest Western dress. Traditional clothing, now largely ceremonial, is a silk sarong with a baju bodo, a blouse with wide, short sleeves (now over an undershirt). Before Indonesian independence (much less so now), the color of the baju bodo had to fit age and status: light reds for teenage girls and still-childless married women; dark reds for married women with children; green for the daughters of aristocratic families; purple for widows; white for nursemaids; and black for the elderly.


Daily food consists of rice with fish, soupy vegetables, pickles, and chili sauce. Grilled fish, shrimp, and other seafood eaten with dipping sauces are popular, as are curries and meats stewed in coconut milk. Nationally famous are the region's sweets and cakes, konro Makassar (a beef-rib soup), and coto Makassar (a soup of water-buffalo lungs, intestines, liver, and tripe eaten with rice steamed in palm leaf packets).

Men eat first in the front room of the house, while women eat later there or in the kitchen. According to folk belief, one should close windows and doors before eating.


In 2005, South Sulawesi's level of literacy stood at 84.6%, low by Indonesian national standards and even below other densely populated provinces with large numbers of poor, such as East Java and Bali. (See the article entitled Indonesians. )


Played solo or in small ensembles, traditional musical instruments include the drum, gong, kesokeso (a two-string vertical fiddle with a pot-bellied soundbox), a boat-shaped zither (ke-cape in Bugis or kacaping in Makassarese), the pui-pui (a high-pitched oboe-like instrument), and the Mandarese jarumbing (a pronged bamboo cane). Popular songs following national or international models are sung in the local languages, such as in the genre lagu Makassar.

Traditional dances divide into court and folk dances. Among the former are the Bugis Pajaga (danced by 12 aristocratic girls), the Makassarese Pakarena (12 girls and 12 boys), and the Mandarese Pattudu (6 to 8 girls); these contrast the restrained movements of the dancers with dynamic drumming. A similar aesthetic governs a wedding dance in which the bride remains impassive while being taunted by a pair of older male dancers. Folk dances include martial dances accompanied by the rebana flat drum, the Pattenung depicting weaving, the Mappuka, which imitates fishing, the Bugis Mappadendang harvest dance (an occasion for much horseplay among young man), and the Makassarese Ganrang Bulo, a highly syncopated dance with young boys beating time with bamboo rods.

The Bugis and Makassarese have written extensive literatures in their own script called aksara lontara', after the lontar palm leaves used as paper (the Gowa king Daeng Pamatte standardized the letters in the 16th century). This literature encompasses customary regulations, augury books (especially for planting and harvesting times), genealogies, dynastic origin myths, factual chronicles, and court diaries (the last two genres are unique in Indonesia).

There is also a religious literature written in Arabic-derived letters called aksara serang, presumably introduced via Seram in the Moluccas. Local literary works were also composed in Malay, the most famous being the Sya'ir Perang Mangkasara about the defense of Makassar against the Dutch.


In earlier times, South Sulawesi exported rice, livestock, and dried fish to the food-deficient Eastern Kalimantan, Southeast Sulawesi, and the Moluccas. Decades of warfare ending only in the mid-1960s left the province among the poorest in Indonesia, and income remains below the national average, though it is rising rapidly as the region begins to fulfill its potential as eastern Indonesia's service and production center. In the past, the Bugis in particular have been dependent on rice cultivation for a livelihood but now are diversifying into coconuts, coffee, cloves, kapok, candlenut, and tobacco. Erosion caused by deforestation, however, threatens agricultural expansion. Fishing, and the collection of sea products such as sea cucumber for the Chinese market, is also an important occupation, particularly among the Makassarese and Mandarese.

Unlike certain other groups such as the Javanese, there is no prejudice against manual labor; what is important in a job is the extent to which one is free of other's commands.


One traditional sport is paraga in which boys or young men attempt to keep a rattan-work ball in the air with their feet to the sound of the drum and pui-pui playing.


See the article entitled Indonesians.


The first European travelers admired the region's boat builders, the premier center being Bira at the southwestern tip of the peninsula with its access to the ironwood of Bulukumba and Selayar. Bira boatbuilding teams travel all over the peninsula and even to Kalimantan and Java in order to sell their skills. The boats are built from memory without written designs and with the simplest tools: a vertical saw, hand drill, adze, and a plane, and no nails. Only bolts are used to secure ribs to the hull. Traditional boat-types include the large, elegant pinisi and smaller outriggered lepa-lepa and sande. Today, the biggest boats are motorized and reach 500 tons.

Until the early 20th century, South Sulawesi exported silk and cotton; weaving still provides supplementary income for village women. Two styles are best known: sarong Mandar, cloth of very fine weave with checkered patterns in sober colors, widely traded in the archipelago; and sarong Bugis, brilliantly colored silk cloth with large patterns reminiscent of Thai fabrics.

Other highly developed crafts are blacksmithing (now using scrap metal rather than freshly mined ore), gold- and silver smithing (a specialty being fine filigree work), and mat- and basket-weaving.


See the article entitled Indonesians.


South Sulawesi's Gender-Related Development Index (combining measures of women's health, education, and income relative to men's) is 56.9, significantly below Indonesia's national GDI of 59.2. The province's Gender Empowerment Measure (reflecting women's participation and power in political and economic life relative to men's) is 45.6, also lower than the national GEM of 54.6.

According to anthropologist Christian Pelras, Bugis culture overall emphasizes the equality and complementarities of the two genders, despite Islamic influence often appearing to put men in the foreground and women in the background. The freedom and power of women in Bugis society struck early European observers; many instances are known of woman rulers (even one ruling her kingdom without interference from her husband, the ruler of another kingdom!) and woman warriors (female fighters participated in the Indonesian struggle for independence and female squads fought in the rebellions of the early post-colonial years). The strict barriers between classes in traditional Bugis society actually permitted a woman ruler to have men of lower rank, men who could never marry her, as her vassals or retainers. Although village leadership tends to be male, these male leaders are called "mothers of the people," another indication that political power and womanhood are not considered incompatible.

Women are not regarded as inherently weaker or more delicate than men (one type of "women's work," pounding rice, is very physically demanding). In the first years of his marriage, a man generally moves into his wife's parents' house and for that reason is not likely to be domineering towards his wife. The home is the domain of the wife, but this does not mean that the wife does not contribute to the family's economic livelihood; on the contrary, she, in addition to helping out with farming, engages in weaving, petty trade, or other activities to bring in income (in the case of fishing families, it is the wife who supports the family while the husband goes to sea, his earnings going largely to sustain him while he is away from home with the surplus he brings back serving as a mere supplement to family resources).


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—revised by A. J. Abalahin