Baweanese, Orang babian, Oran Boyan, Orang Bawean or Boyanese

The Baweanese are the inhabitants of Bawean Island, on the north of Java, in the Java sea. This island is part of Indonesia. The original Baweanese  migrated there from Madura in the end of 14th century and today the Baweanese speak a dialect of Madurese, although they consider themselves to be different ethnic groups, as Bawean Islander, Orang babian, Oran Boyan, Orang Bawean and Boyanese. The Island population includes Diponggo, Kema, and Madurese. The first three have been essentially assimilated into Baweanese society, while the Madurese remains separate and are today economics rivals with the Baweanese. Outside of Indonesia they sometimes refer to themselves or are referred as Oran Boyan or Boyanese, the name which they are registered in Singapore, to focus their traditional migrations. Bawean is located on the north of Surabaya.

Strong migration ideal causes many Baweanese to leave. Conversely, people from Madura have migrated to Bawean. For this reason, Madurese numerically dominant group on Bawean. Another population group is represented by a village in north Bawean, called Diponggo, whose inhabitants originated in Java. The third group is Buginese from Sulawesi, as Diponggo people, they have long since been fully integrated into Bawean society to the point of losing their original cultural identity. The fourth and the most interesting subgroup is the Kemas, who originate from Palembang, Sumatra. Before the world war II, they dominated the economy of the island, but today they are economically no longer important. There are no exact population figures of these groups. The Madurese represents the largest group estimated about 20%. The other are much smaller, and the Kemas only counting several hundred members.
Encyclopaedia of the South-East Asian Ethnography: Communities and Tribes by Narendra S. Bisht,T. S. Bankoti

The language spoken by Baweanese is rather course Madurese, much influenced by Malay as spoken in Singapore and Malaysia. The long migration tradition to those countries is responsible for this phenomenon. The younger generation usually speaks national language. Roman script is comon, although the older generation prefers to write Indonesian with Arabic characters.

Geologically, Bawean is an old volcanic island, the volcano being no longer active. The highest peak in central Bawean is 2.100 feet asl. It encloses a large lake, Kastoba Lake. The climate is mild,and the difference between the monsoons are small. A coral reef surrounds the island make for rather dangerous sailing. The population inhabits the coastal areas with the exception of the village of Candi in central Bawean.

Large part of the island is covered with forest. However, the influx of Madurese, who grow maize and sweet potatoes on the slopes of the mountains, has resulted in deforestation. Communication with the outside world is maintained by sailing boats or prahu and ferry service from Gresik scheduled few times in a week.

The most outstanding feature of Bawean culture concerns the complex migration, merantau. It focuses on Singapore and Malaya west coast as merantau destination. Political developments after the WW II resulted in cutting off these traditional areas, but new areas were soon found within the archipelago with the Riau archipelago as the most popular substitute.

Baweanese orientation to merantau influenced other aspects of Bawean life. According to the migration tradition, only for men, but for women they remain stay in Bawean. As the result, society has very strong matrifocal. Women outnumber men inhabit the island, that this island is popular as pulau Putri Women Island. Merantau is still very strong withing Baweanese and even men migrate with their families.

Merantau to Singapore has strong Islam root. The will to make pilgrimage to Mecca appears as the dominant motive to migrate. Baweanese worked hard for period of time to continue journey to Mecca. And after pilgrimage, they worked again to make enough money to return home in Bawean. Finally, Singapore became the only purpose of migrating, to work as settle.

As Baweanese are staunch moslem, most social institutions such as marriage and inheritance are regulated by Islam laws. IN cases of disputes, religious courts bind both parties. Polygamy occurs as good thing to do, but still uncommon matter. There is a preference for arranged marriage with both parallel and cross cousins. Marriage nature is matrilocal.

But nowadays, free choice marriages prevail. Divorce rates are due to few factors such as long absence of the men in merantau areas and also by the arranged marriage by parents. Both factors seems to be not so important today.

Two typical of Baweanese personality affect their relationship with other people and related to their life style. They are very staunchy independent, perhaps a reflection of merantau tradition that takes independent action.  They do also participate in some communal activity such as mosque of madrasah building, cooperative action is not the norm. At the same time, they are not particularly enterprising and prefer a slower rather than faster pace of living.

Though they are originally from Madura, Baweanese developed their own culture and later influenced by Malay customs and values. Baweanese feel they are quiet different from Madurese, a feeling strengthened by economic rivalry. The Madurese attitude towards agriculture and life and leisure in general is more interesting. Madurese are more succesful economically. They harvest better crops, live thriftily and spend money buying new land.

Baweanese generally are strict moslem who take their daily obligation seriously, while Madurese immigrants absorbed as they are with their agricultural pioneering, take a much looser view of religious practice.

Madurese migrate to Bawean either alone or in groups of men only. They marry Bawean women, of whom there is a surplus. As soon as they are settled, they tend to integrate themselves into Bawean culture.

Relation between the Baweanese and the former dominate Bawean economy, the Kemas settled on the island, they intermarried with Baweanese. But the Kemas still live a rather separate life because of their former socially and economically higher status. Islam is an integrating agent as the Kemas participate in religious life of the island.

Farming, fishing and mat weaving are the most important economic aspects of Bawean. The income of Baweanese are supplemented by their families living in merantau areas. 60 per cent of the island is used for growing rice and maize. The individualism if islanders does not facilitate well irrigation system , dependent as that is on cooperation. Men and women involve in farming, but as the absence of men, women play major role. Baweanese use animals and even man power to plow soil. Baweanese non agricultural attitude does not make them enthusiast farmers, and the results are kinda poor.

Approximately 10% of the population is engaged in fishing or in related industries. The most important is mayang fishing, carried out most of the year, The fish in mayang, ikan layang (Desapterus kurra) are caught with large nets from boats, some of them motorized. The fish is sometimes sold on sea to traders from Java and Madura while the sea brough to Bawean is sold to local traders and part of it is made to pindang or salted fish, which is later sold in Java.

Mats weaving was once a well known product of Bawean, but it deteriorated as it requires intensive labour, which today is not economical. This is exclusively women’s work except for harvesting the pandanus leaves, the raw material of this mat, which is carried out by men.

Baweanese are moslem people and no other religion followed on the island. But substratum of the old influences can be observed everywhere, especially with magic and related practices.  Not much is known regarding the conversion of Baweanese to Islam. It is probably that Islam was brought by Baweanese migrants themselves, who were converted Islam when they are in merantau to Java. The population in Candi was only recently converted. They were known as animist but because of political and social pressures became moslem in 1960s.

The Baweanese are Sunni moslems. The greater part of them are orthodox, as opposed to small group of reformist who received their religious training at the well-known Islamic institute, Pondok Pesantren, in Gontor on Java Island. The differences are from the aspects of religious ceremonies such as selamatan held on occasion of birth, circumcision, marriage and death. Other differences are concerning the dress attending Friday prayer, burning incense, white magic use, special prayers for the death and mosque architecture.

The power and influence of local ulema or kiai is considerable. Ulema has prestige attached to professions, and occupies the highest position surpassing the formal worldly leaders. Ulema influenced is felt everywhere, and Baweanese consult with him for an important decision.

Baweanese observe all Moslem holy days- Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Isra Miraj and two special festivals to celebrate the birthday of The Propher, Maulid Nabi. Maulud Masjid is organized by kiai or ulema who also decides material contribution made by participating villagers.

Maulud Lurah is organized by village leader, and is celebrated two days before Maulud. This occasion is used as a mean to show-off material wealth in the form of extravagant expenditures with the sole purpose of accentuating social status.

Two Sufi brotherhood, Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya are active on the island. Participants usually belong to both. They are a small minority since most Bawean kiai do not cooperate with leader of both brotherhood who is the same person. The members of the brotherhoods are engage in a rather practical kind of mysticisc, usually culminating dzikir coupled with rhythmic movements of the body. Members are usually unsophisticated fishermen and peasants and their activities are often cause comminication gaps and isolation from the rest of population. Most feel they tend to neglect the worldly duties.

Islamic values dominate the Baweanese code of bahaviour. They distinguish among allowed, encouraged, tolerated and forbidden behaviour an the law of The Koran. According to ultimate ideal, a Baweanese should live merantau, in Singapore or Malaya, to get perfect knowledge of The Koran and Hadits, go for pilgrimage to Mecca and then settle in Bawean as kiai. Some younger generation might take a looser religious attitude, certainly outside the island, but conform to the Islamic rules one he returns in fear of criticism and even ostracism by Bawean society.

Extensive experience as a migrant considerably enhances one’s prestige. However, boasting is abhorred. Unwillingness to participate in mutual cooperation or gotong royong such as building mosque is criticized. Abhorred and feared are the activities of tokang seher, the magician who uses magic for actisocial purposes. The society tolerates magic of minor importance, but in severe cases when tokang seher is considered to be against the society interests, they will liquidate him.

from various source