Bugis

From Academic Kids

The Bugis are a people from the island of Sulawesi or Celebes in Indonesia. Dutch colonialism in the 17th Century led to their entry into the politics of Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra.

The Bugis is one of the high-spirited, status-conscious nomadic tribes of Sulawesi, the fertile rice-belt of Indonesia. In Sulawesi, there are three main sea nomadic groups, namely the Makassar, Bajau and Bugis (or 'the Buginese'). They capture the imagination of storytellers and travelers such as Captain Forrest, Joseph Conrad and Sir Stamford Raffles, all of whom described the exploits of these peoples with admiration, awe and more than a touch of fear and misgiving.

Respected and feared as pirates, sailors, traders and adventurers, the sea-farers of southern Sulawesi looked outwards, seeking their fortunes over the horizons, throughout the Indonesian archipelago and beyond. So feared were they that the word bogeyman, corrupted form of bugis man were coined to describe these fighters.

Long before western colonialists extended their influence into these waters, the Makassar, the Bajau and the Bugis built elegant, ocean-going schooners in which they plied the trade routes. Intrepid and doughty, they travelled as far east as the Aru Islands, off New Guinea, where they traded in the skins of birds of paradise and the medicinal masoya bark, and to northern Australia, where they exchanged shells, birds'-nests and mother-of-pearl for knives and salt with Aboriginal tribes. The products of the forest and sea that they brought back were avidly sought after in the markets and entrepots of Asia, where the Bugis bartered for opium, silk, cotton, firearms and gunpowder.

The extraordinary history of the interaction between the Bugis and the Australian aboriginals is little known. The Bugis sailors left their mark and culture on an area of the northern Australian coast which stretches over two thousand kilometers from the Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Throughout these parts of northern Australia, there is much evidence of a significant Bugis presence.

There are the remains of Bugis buildings on islands, Bugis words have become part of the Aboriginal languages and Bugis men and their craft feature in the indigenous art of the people of Arnhem Land.

Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down on the northwestern monsoon in their wooden pinisi. They would stay in Australian waters for several months to trade and take trepangg (or sea cucumber) before returning to Makassar on the dry season off shore winds. These trading voyages continued until 1907.

While trade was the sea-farers' main goal, the Makassar, Bajau and Bugis often set up permanent settlements, either through conquest or diplomacy, and often marrying and blending into local society. Throughout Eastern Indonesia, the kings and sultans of a hundred minor courts are the descendants of these sailors and traders, as are the fishing folk who live on the coastlines.

As Forrest wrote in Voyage from Calcutta, "The Bugis are a high-spirited people: they will not bear ill-usage...They are fond of adventures, emigration, and capable of undertaking the most dangerous enterprises."ms:Bugis id:Bugis

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