Get to know the Buginese

by Penulis Palontaraq | Minggu, Apr 21, 2019 | 223 views
The Buginese (photo source:*)

The Buginese (photo source: KITLV/*)

By:  Etta Adil

THE BUGIS are ethnic groups – the most of the three main language groups and ethnicities of South Sulawesi, in the southwest Sulawesi province, the third largest island in Indonesia. Thus the author quoted from the book, “Gender pluralism: southeast Asia since early modern times.” (Michael G. Peletz, Routledge, 2009)

Austronesian ancestors from the Bugis settled in Sulawesi around 2500 BC. There is “historical linguistic evidence from some of the late Holocene immigrants from Austronesian speakers to South Sulawesi from Taiwan” – meaning the Bugis have “the main hope in South China”, and the results of this immigration, “there is an infusion of exogenous questions from China or Taiwan.”  Thus the author quoted from the book, “Quaternary Research in Indonesia.” (Susan G. Keates, Juliette M. Pasveer, Taylor & Francis, 2004)

Migration from South China by some of the Bugis ancestors is also supported by haplogroup studies of Human Y chromosome DNA.  Thus the author quoted from the book,  “Paternal genetic affinity between Western Austronesians and Daic populations”. Li, H; Wen, B; Chen, SJ; et al. (2008).

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The Bugis in 1605 converted to Islam from Animism. Thus the author quoted from the book, “Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, From Angkor Wat to East Timor.” Keat Gin Ooi, ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Some Bugis support their pre-Islamic beliefs called Tolotang, and some Bugis convert to Christianity through marriage; But they remain a minority. Thus the author quoted from the book, “Religion and Cultural Identity Among the Bugis (A Preliminary Remark)” Said, Nurman (PDF – Summer, 2004).

Even though the population is only around 6 million, Bugis are very strong people and they influence politics in the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore today. Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister, Najib Razak and Indonesia’s current Vice President, Jusuf Kalla are both Bugis.

Although many Bugis live in major port cities in Makassar and Parepare, consider farmers who grow rice in the lowlands in the north and west of the city of Maros.

Bugis names are exonyms which represent a longer form of name; (Ke) Ugi is the endonym.  Thus the author quoted from the book,  “Encyclopaedia of Southeast Asia and Its Tribes”, Volume 1. Anmol Publications. p. 47. Shiv Shanker Tiwary & Rajeev Kumar (2009).

The Bugis speak different regional languages ​​besides Indonesian, which are called Basa Ugi, Bugis or Bugis.

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In the end, there are several dialects, some of which are quite different from others to be considered as separate languages. Bugis language belongs to the South Sulawesi language group; Other members including the languages ​​of Makassar, Toraja, Mandar and Enrekang, each of which becomes a combination of dialects.  (Mills, R.F. 1975 in “Proto South Sulawesi and Proto Austronesian Phonology.” – Ph. D thesis, University of Michigan)


The homeland of the Buginese is the area around Lake Tempe and Lake Sidenreng in the Walannae Depression in the southwest peninsula of Sulawesi.

It was here that the ancestors of the present-day Bugis settled, probably in the mid- to late second millennium BC. The area is rich in fish and wildlife and the annual fluctuation of Lake Tempe (a reservoir lake for the Bila and Walannae rivers) allows speculative planting of wet rice, while the hills can be farmed by swidden or shifting cultivation, wet rice, gathering and hunting.

Around AD 1200 the availability of prestigious imported goods including Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics and Gujerati print-block textiles, coupled with newly discovered sources of iron ore in Luwu stimulated an agrarian revolution which expanded from the great lakes region into the lowland plains to the east, south and west of the Walennae depression.

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This led over the next 400 years to the development of the major kingdoms of South Sulawesi, and the social transformation of chiefly societies into hierarchical proto-states. Thus the author quoted from the book, “Power, state and society among the pre-Islamic Bugis.’ by Caldwell, I. 1995) Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 151(3): 394-421 and “Land of Iron: The historical archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana valley.” by Bulbeck, D. and I. Caldwell 2000. Hull: Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull.


Most Bugis currently earn a living as rice farmers, traders or farmers. Women help with the agricultural cycle and work at home.

More than one Bugis lives in stilt houses, sometimes three meters (9 feet) or more than the ground, with plank walls and floors.

Many marriages are still carried out by parents and ideally occur among cousins.

New bride and groom couples often stay with family for the first few years of their marriage.

Bugis food consists of rice, corn, fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and coffee. On festive occasions, goats are served as special dishes.

The Bugis, five separate sexes, namely makkunrai and oroané, which are similar to male and female cisgender, and calabai, calalai, and bissu, are not easily compared to Western ideas about gender. This is according to Graham, Sharyon (July 1, 2004). “This is like one of the puzzles: Conceptualizing gender among Bugis”. Journal of Gender Studies.

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Regarding these five sexes, M. Farid W Makkulau, a cultural observer and cultural researcher from South Sulawesi, denied that there were only two sexes in the Bugis Makassar community, namely men and women.

As for Calabai, Calalai and Bissu, it is not a different sex, but rather a sexual orientation with a different appearance than most.


In the early 17th century, Minangkabau scholars, Dato Ri Bandang, Dato Ri Tiro, and Dato Ri Patimang started Islam in South Sulawesi.

The Bugis switch from the practice of animism and indigenous beliefs to Islam.

Some rulers of the west coast embraced Christianity in the 16th century, but the failure of the Portuguese in Malacca to provide priests meant that this did not last long.

In 1611, all the kingdoms of Makassar and Bugis had embraced Islam, as well as adherents of animism between Bugis to Lotang in Amparita and Makassar Konja in Bulukumba, which are still maintained today.  Because most Bugis are devout Muslims, the Hajj is considered a prestige by them.

Migration to Other Regions

Malay Peninsula and Sumatra

In 1669 there was a prolonged civil war which led to the Bugis diaspora and their entry into the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra politics.

The Bugis played an important role in defeating Jambi and had great influence in the Sultanate of Johor.

Apart from Malays, other influential factions in Johor at that time were Minangkabau people.

Both Bugis and Minangkabau people realized how the death of Sultan Mahmud II had given them the opportunity to mobilize power in Johor.

Under the leadership of Daeng Parani, the descendants of two families settled on the Linggi and Selangor rivers and became a force behind the Johor throne, with the creation of the Yang Dipertuan Muda (Yam Tuan Muda) office, or Bugis subordinates. (Source: History, Embassy of Malaysia, Seoul Archived April 30, 2008 at the Wayback Machine)

In Northern Australia

Long before European colonialists extended their influence into the waters, the Makassarese, the Bajau, and the Buginese built elegant, ocean-going schooners in which they plied the trade routes.

Intrepid and doughty, they travel as far east as the Aru Islands, off New Guinea, where they are traded in the skins of birds of paradise and new medicinal masks, and to northern Australia, where they exchanged shells, birds’-nests and mother- of-pearl for knives and salt with Aboriginal tribes.

The Buginese sailors left their mark on an area of ​​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 evidence of a significant Bugis presence. Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down the northwestern monsoon in their wooden pinisi.

The Australian waters for several months to trade and take in China (or dried sea cucumber) before returning to Makassar on the dry season off shore winds.

As Thomas Forrest wrote in A Voyage from Calcutta to the Mergui Archipelago (1792), S.78 ff.

“The Buginese in general are a high-spirited people; “They will not bear the usage … They deserve the character of Malays in general, by Monsieur Poivre, in his Travels of Philosophy,” the foundation of adventures, emigration, and capable of doing the most dangerous enterprizes. ” (*)


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