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Tuesday, 18 October 2011


THE Minangkabau people of Sumatra came to settle in Negri Sembilan in the late 16th century. In its early history, Negri Sembilan was not a unified State. It was a loose confederation of nine districts which developed in the secluded valley of the region. They were under the protection of the Malacca Sultanate until its collapse in 1511 when the Portuguese arrived. Here is a brief history of the Minangkabau.

The name Minangkabau is thought to be a combination of two words, minang (victorious) and kabau (buffalo). A legend says that the name is derived from a territorial dispute between the Minangkabau and a neighbouring prince. To avoid a battle, the local people proposed a fight to death between two water buffaloes to settle the dispute.

The prince agreed to it and produced the largest, meanest, most aggressive buffalo. However, the Minangkabau produced a hungry baby buffalo with its small horns ground to be as sharp as knives. Seeing the adult buffalo across the field, the baby ran forward, as it was hoping for milk. The large buffalo saw no threat from the baby buffalo and paid no attention to it. But when the baby thrust its head under the bull, the sharp horns punctured and killed the bull, and the Minangkabau won the contest and the dispute.

The Minangkabau language is a member of the Austronesian language family. It is closest to the Malay language. The Minangkabaus are the world’s largest matrilineal society, in which properties such as land and houses are inherited through female lineage. As early as the age of seven, boys traditionally leave their homes and live in a surau to learn religious and cultural (adat) teachings. When they are teenagers, they are encouraged to leave their hometown to learn from schools or gain experience so that they can later return to become useful members of society and help raise families.
This tradition has created Minangkabau communities in many Indonesian cities and towns which are still tied closely to their homeland. Negri Sembilan is also heavily influenced by Minang culture.

Other than that, the Minangkabau people are also known for their special cultures and ceremonies. Here are some of the ceremonies celebrated by the Minangkabau:

Turun mandi - Baby blessing ceremony
Baralek - Wedding ceremony
Turun ka sawah - Community work ceremony
Manyabik - Harvest ceremony
Hari Rayo - An Islamic festival