Sunday, December 5, 2010

The indigenous group; Orang Betawi

The Betawi

The Betawi, also known as the People of Batavia, is the original inhabitants of Jakarta. The Betawis are mostly descended from various Southeast Asian ethnic groups, Portuguese and Dutch plus Arab, Chinese and Indian brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs, including people from various parts of Indonesia.

They have a culture and language distinct from the surrounding Sundanese and Javanese. The Betawis are known for their music, traditions and food as well as their short temper, directness and their openness to others.

Language among Indonesia’s estimated 746 indigenous languages, Betawi is one of the most widely-spoken. Also known as Batavi, Betawi Malay, Jakarta Malay and Melayu Jakarte, this language is listed as one of the country’s active local languages. The Betawi language is a Malay dialect with 2 main forms: kota (city) Batawi, and pinggiran (outskirts) Betawi each of which has several subdialects. Most Betawi people in Indonesia can also speak Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian national language.

The language of the Betawi has been adopted by the fashionable younger generation of Jakartans from all ethnic origins, whereas the more formal Betawi Malay is only spoken by the more conservative older generation Orang Betawi.

Religion and beliefs

A majority of the Betawi people are Muslims just like the majority of the people living in Jakarta. Despite of their strong faith in Islam, many Betawi believed in animistic beliefs such as spirits in the trees, graveyards and many more.

A certain percentage of the Betawi believed in Jesus and practiced Christianity after the spread of this religion by a small number of Jesus followers in the area. Due to their religion differences, it is difficult for them to be a part of the Betawi community. Nevertheless, they still continue to practice the religion and the exact number of followers in the community is unknown.

Pockets of Betawi life are still culturally alive throughout Jakarta with celebrations of wedding the Betawi arts and the rhythms of a distinctive style of music. Betawi culture is a treasure trove of color, tradition, song, dance, clothing, cuisine, language and dialect. However, modernization has caused certain elements of the culture to change. Culture is often evolving and as a result, traditions of the natives will be different from what is know in the past.

Get ready as I reveal the interesting elements of the Orang Betawi culture and traditions and discover if the culture of the Betawi and its people are being affected by modernization.

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