Buginese people

Buginese people
To Ugi
ᨈᨚ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ
Pengantin bugis - panoramio.jpg
Buginese couple in traditional costume during their wedding
Total population
6 million (2010 census)
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia 6,359,700[1]
            South Sulawesi 3,618,683
            East Kalimantan 735,819
            Southeast Sulawesi 496,432
            Central Sulawesi 409,741
            West Sulawesi 144,554
            West Kalimantan 137,282
            Riau 107,159
            South Kalimantan 101,727
            Jambi 96,145
            Papua 88,991
            Jakarta 68,227
            West Papua 40,087
 Malaysia (Peninsular and Sabah) 500,000[2]
 Singapore 11,000[3]
Buginese • Indonesian
 • Islam: 98.99%

 • Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic): 0.55%

 • Hindu (incl. Tolotang): 0.41%  • Other (including Buddhist): 0.05%[4]
Related ethnic groups

An estimated 3,500,000 claim Buginese descent.[a]

The Buginese or Bugis people are an ethnicity—the most numerous of the three major linguistic and ethnic groups of South Sulawesi (the others being Makassar and Toraja), in the south-western province of Sulawesi, third largest island of Indonesia.[6] The Bugis in 1605 converted to Islam from Animism.[7] The main religion embraced by the Bugis is Islam, with a minority adhering to Christianity or a pre-Islamic indigenous belief called Tolotang.[8]

Despite the population numbering only around six million, the Bugis are influential in the politics in modern Indonesia, and historically influential on the Malay peninsula and other parts of the archipelago where they have migrated, starting in the late seventeenth century. The former Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, is Bugis. In Malaysia, the sixth Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin have Bugis ancestry.

Although many Bugis people live in the large port cities of Makassar and Parepare, the majority are farmers who grow wet rice on the lowland plains to the north and west of the town of Maros. The name Bugis is an exonym which represents an older form of the name; (To) Ugi is the endonym.[9]

The Bugis people speak a distinct regional language in addition to Indonesian, called Buginese or Bugis (Buginese: Basa Ugi), with several different dialects. The Bugis language belongs to the South Sulawesi language group; other members include Makassarese, Toraja, Mandar and Enrekang.[10]


Aru Pancana We Tenriolle, Queen of Tanette, South Sulawesi. Pictured accompanied by court ladies.


The Austronesian ancestors of the Bugis people settled on Sulawesi around 2500 B.C. There is "historical linguistic evidence of some late Holocene immigration of Austronesian speakers to South Sulawesi from Taiwan"—which means that the Buginese have "possible ultimate ancestry in South China", and that as a result of this immigration, "there was an infusion of an exogenous population from China or Taiwan."[11] Migration from South China by some of the paternal ancestors of the Bugis is also supported by studies of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups.[12]

The homeland of the Buginese is the area around Lake Tempe and Lake Sidenreng in the Walannae Depression in the south-west peninsula of Sulawesi. It was here that the ancestors of the present-day Bugis settled, probably in the mid- to late second millennium B.C. 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, hunting and gathering. Around A.D. 1200, the availability of prestigious imported goods including Chinese and South-East 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. This led over the next four hundred years to the development of the major kingdoms of South Sulawesi, and the social transformation of chiefly societies into hierarchical proto-states.[13]

Migration to other areas

Bugis children in traditional attire in Singapore, circa 1890.

The conclusion in 1669 of a protracted civil war led to a diaspora of Bugis and their entry into the politics of the Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. The Bugis played an important role in defeating Jambi and had a huge influence in Sultanate of Johor. Apart from the Malays, another influential faction in Johor at that time was the Minangkabau. Both the Buginese and the Minangkabau realised how the death of Sultan Mahmud II had provided them with the chance to exert power in Johor. Under the leadership of Daeng Parani, the descendants of two families settled on the Linggi and Selangor rivers and became the power behind the Johor throne, with the creation of the office of the Yang Dipertuan Muda (Yam Tuan Muda), or Bugis underking.[14]

In modern Malaysia, Buginese are classified as Bumiputera (like members of other historical immigrant ethnicities originating from Indonesia).[15]

Long before European colonists extended their influence into these waters, the Makassarese, the Bajau, and the Buginese 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 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 Buginese sailors left their mark and culture on an area of the northern Australian coast which stretches over two thousand kilometres from the Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Throughout these parts of northern Australia, there is much evidence of a significant Bugis presence. Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down on the north-western monsoon in their wooden padewakang. They would stay in Australian waters for several months to trade and take trepang (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 Buggesses in general are a high-spirited people; they will not bear ill usage... They deserve the character given of Malays in general, by Monsieur Poivre, in his Travels of a Philosopher, 'fond of adventures, emigration, and capable of undertaking the most dangerous enterprizes'.”


Bugis traditional clothing.

Most present-day Buginese now earn their living as rice farmers, traders or fishermen. Women help with the agricultural cycle and work in the homes.

Most Bugis people live in stilted houses, sometimes three metres (9 ft) or more off the ground, with plank walls and floors.

Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents and ideally take place between cousins. The Bugis recognise a cousin up to the ninth degree. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage (matrilocal).

The Bugis diet consists mainly of rice, maize, fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and coffee. On festive occasions, goat is served as a special dish.

The Bugis people recognise five separate genders.[16] These are makkunrai and oroané, which correspond to cisgender male and female respectively, as well as calabai and calalai, which correspond to transgender men and transgender women respectively, and bissu, which is considered neither male nor female but representative of the totality of the gender spectrum.[17]


Around 16th century South Sulawesi was a center for trade of the region with Malay Muslim traders as well as Portuguese traders frequently visited the area. Native rulers were generally uncommitted to either Christianity or Islam and allowed both to maintain presence. Around 1537 Padre Manuel d'la Costa visited Gowa court, alongside with Portuguese representatives from Ternate. From Portuguese records some Gowan aristocracy decided to converted to Christianity. Around a decade later, Antonio de Payva, Portuguese trader and missionary from Malaccas, stayed in Suppa for around three years. He managed to convinced the kings of Suppa and Siang alongside its people to convert to Christianity. Datu Suppa la Makkarawie, king of Suppa was baptized Don Luis. While King of Siang was baptized Don Joao. At their requests, four bugis nobleman were taught in Jesuit school in India. A mission later in 1538 led by Vicente Villegas converted the rulers of Alitta dan Bacukiki. According to Manuel Godinho de Erédia, descendant of king of Suppa, ruler of Sawitto and Sidenreng were also present in that event. Early Portuguese missions were generally more successful in the western kingdoms which were member of the confederation of Ajatappareng which include Sidenreng, Rappang, Suppa, Bacukiki, Alitta, and Sawitto. By 1545 all Ajatappareng kings were baptized, however relationship with Portuguese suffered because circumstance of Manuel Godinho’s birth. Since his mother, a descendant of Suppa King eloped with a Portuguese officer and married officially in Malacca. The failure by the Portuguese at Malacca to provide more priests and military aid meant that Gowa king Tunipalangga conquered Siang, and conversion did not become widespread to other regions.[18] [19]

According to Payva, when a Portuguese missionary tried to convert 14th Gowa king, I Mangngarangi Daeng Manrabbia, he was reluctant to change his ancestral faith and will invite Malay priests to compare both religions first. Around 1593, He decided to embrace Islam and adopt the title of Sultan Aluddin. He then set Islam as the official religion of Gowa. Payva noted that Malay traders and priests are generally more accepted and trusted compared to Portuguese. Gowa had maintained relationship with traders from Java, Sumatra, Pattani, Pahang, Champa, and Johor ever since the ninth Gowa king, Tum’parisi Kallona. According to the text Lontarak Patturiolonga, under the rule of 11th Gowa king, Tunipalangga, these traders were allowed to practice islam and had special privileges. These communities requested Sultan Muda Alauddin Riayat Shah of Aceh to provide ulama for South Sulawesi, as he is known for sending ulama outside of Aceh.[19]

Three Minangkabau ulama, Dato Ri Bandang, Dato Ri Tiro, and Dato Ri Patimang were sent to spread Islam in South Sulawesi. They visited Riau and Johor to learn about South Sulawesi culture from Bugis-Makassar sailors there. Facilitated by Sultan of Johor, they learned from Wali Songo of Java before eventually arriving in Somba Opu harbour in early 17th century.[20] The Bugis converted from indigenous animistic practices and beliefs to Islam. There are similarities of Islam with native practice of Dewata Sewwae in Luwu Kingdom, which was considered the spiritual center in South Sulawesi. Hence, when the rulers of Luwu converted first, they pushed for conversion in Gowa-Tallo, since they had the power and authority for pushing conversion in South Sulawesi which Luwu lacked. Conversion began slowly and peacefully and adapted with native Ammatoa practitioners centered in Bulukumba. [19]

By 1611, most of the Makasar and Bugis kingdoms had converted to Islam. According to Nurman Said 95% of the Bugis are Muslims. There are a small number of Bugis who do not take Islam as their religion. Some Bugis converted to Christianity mixed with local beliefs by means of marriage and descendants of the earlier catholic converts from Ajatappareng regions, but their number remain small. Smaller protestant communities were also present and members of GKSS (Gereja Kristen Sulawesi Selatan). A Bugis community living in Amparita in the Sidenreng Rappang Regency retain their pre-Islamic beliefs, called Tolotang, though usually registered under official census as Hindu.[8]

Because most Bugis people are Muslims, the Hajj is seen as a prestige by them.

In literature

A settlement of Bugis people in the fictional country of Patusan plays a key role in Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim.

Notable people

See also