Overseas Minangkabau

Overseas Minangkabau

The Overseas Minangkabau are people of Minang birth or descent who live outside the province of West Sumatra.[citation needed] Nowadays, over half of the Minangkabau people can be considered Overseas Minangkabaus. They make up the majority of the population of Negeri Sembilan (in Malaysia) and Pekanbaru (in Indonesia). They also form a significant minority in the populations of Jakarta, Bandung, Medan, Surabaya and Palembang in Indonesia as well as in Kuala Lumpur, in Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. The matrilineal culture and economic conditions in West Sumatra have made the Minangkabau people one of the most mobile ethnic group in Maritime Southeast Asia.

The young people usually have to go outside the region since their teens, both as a trader or a student. For most of the Minangkabau people, wander is an ideal way to reach maturity and success. By wander not only wealth and scientific knowledge gained, but also the prestige and honor individuals in the midst of indigenous environment.

The immigrants usually send part of the wealth to hometown for be invested in family businesses, such as by expanding the ownership of paddy fields, control of land management, or pick up the rice fields of the spout. Money from the Diaspora are also used to improve village facilities, such as mosques, roads, or the rice field.


Waves of Migration

The Minangkabau people have a long history of migrating overseas. They would leave their homes and travel in search of knowledge and to seek their fortunes. The first migration in 7th century when the Minangkabau Merchants sold the gold in Jambi and involved to formation Malayu Kingdom.[1] In 13th century, the Minangkabau people started colonies along the west coast of Sumatra island; from Meulaboh to Bengkulu when they were spice traders under the Aceh Sultanate. In Aceh, they were known as Aneuk Jamee.[2] In the 15th century, the overseas Minangkabaus settled in Negeri Sembilan under the protection of the Malacca Sultanate and, later, under the Sultanate of Johor. After Portuguese captured of Malacca in 1511, many Minangkabau family moved to South Sulawesi. Datuk Makotta and his wife Tuan Sitti were pioneer of Minangkabau family in South Sulawesi. They supported kingdom of Gowa, as trader, ulema, and administrator.[3] By the 19th century, most of the Minangkabau people moved to the Kingdom of Siak and the Deli in East Sumatra as traders when the Dutch East Indies colonies opened their tobacco plantations.[2]

Intellectual migration

After the Padri War, most of the Moslem reformists went to Mecca and Cairo. Among them were Ahmad Khatib, Tahir Jalaluddin, Abdul Karim Amrullah, and Muhammad Jamil Jambek. In Mecca, Ahmad Khatib served as the Imam of the Shafi'i school of law at the mosque known as Masjidil Haram.

In the early 20th century, many young Minangkabaus migrated to Java and Europe as students. In Europe, most of them studied in the Netherlands and Germany. Abdoel Rivai, Mohammad Hatta, Roestam Effendi, Nazir Pamuntjak, and Sutan Sjahrir were overseas Minangkabaus who studied in Europe and later became activists in the movement for Indonesian independence.[4] Another activist was Tan Malaka who lived in eight different countries including the Netherlands and the Philippines. He was a member of the Indonesian Communist Party and was also a candidate for the Netherlands' member of parliament.[5]


Cultural Factors

There are many explanations of this phenomenon, one of the causes is the matrilineal kinship system. With this system, control of treasures held by women while men's rights in this case quite small. In addition, after a period of puberty the youth are no longer able to sleep at his parents' house, because the house is reserved for women and their husbands, and children.

The nomads who returned to their hometown, usually will tell the experience to children in the village. The appeal of nomads lives is very influential among the Minangkabau society childhood. Anyone who has never tried to go abroad, then he will always be humiliated by his friends.[6] This is what causes Minang men choose to go abroad. Now the woman was already prevalent Minangkabau wander. Not only for reasons follows husband, but also because they want to trade, career and continuing education.

According to Rudolf Mrazek, the Dutch sociologist, two typologies of Minang culture, the dynamism and anti-parochialism give birth spirit of independence, cosmopolitan, egalitarian, and liberal-minded, this causes the embedded culture of Minangkabau people migrated.[7] The spirit to change the fate of the pursuit of science and wealth, and Minang proverb which says Ka ratau madang di hulu, babuah babungo balun, marantau bujang dahulu, di rumah paguno balun (better go wander, because in kampong not useful) result in Minang youth to go wander since young.

Economic Factors

Another explanation is that population growth not accompanied with the increase of natural resources that can be processed. In the past, result of agriculture and plantations are the main source of living to support family member. Nowadays the resources no longer enough to sustains all member, because it must be shared by several families. These factors are encouraged Minang people to go wander and speculate in foreign countries. In the foreign, usually the first immigrants settled in the house family regarded as landlady. The new nomads job are usually as small traders.

Meanwhile, the economic history of the Minangkabau people since long ago has been bolstered by the ability to trade and distribute their crops. Minangkabau inland area has geological reserves of raw materials especially gold, copper, lead, zinc, mercury, and iron.[8] The nickname Suvarnadvipa that appears on legend in India was referred to the possibility of Sumatra as island of gold.[9] In the 9th century, the Arab traders reported that Sumatran people have been using a number of gold in trading system. Continued in the 13th century, king of Sumatra used the crown of gold. Tomé Pires around the 16th century, says that gold was trade in Malacca, Barus, Tiku and Pariaman, originated from Minangkabau inland area. He also mentioned that in the Indragiri area on the east coast of Sumatra is the central port of the Minangkabau kingdom.[10] The manuscripts written by Adityawarman also mentioned that he is the ruler of the earth's gold. It is then encouraged the Dutch to build a port in Padang.[11] And arrived at 17th-century, Dutch still call a gold ruler to the king of Pagaruyung [12] and then asks Tomas Diaz to investigate the matter, which he tried to enter the interior of the Minangkabau from east coast of Sumatra, and Diaz' noted he had found one of the Minangkabau king at that time (Rajo Buo) and also mentioned main of the people jobs was gold miners.[13] The geological record of the Netherlands noted that on Batanghari found 42 places of mined gold with the depth reaches 60 metres, and in Kerinci they met the miners of gold.[14] Until the 19th century, the legend of gold in Minangkabau hitterland, still pushing Raffles to prove it, and he is listed as the first European to successfully achieved Pagaruyung through the west coast of Sumatra.[15]


They exercised great influence in the politics of many kingdom and states in Maritime Southeast Asia. Raja Baginda migrated to south Philippines and founded the Sultanate of Sulu in 1390.[2] In 1603, the Overseas Minangkabaus ulamas or religious figure taught Islam in Sulawesi, Borneo, and Nusa Tenggara island. Dato Ri Bandang and Dato Ri Tiro, both of whom were prominent ulamas spread the word of Islam to the Gowa and Luwu kingdom in south Sulawesi.[16]

The Overseas Minangkabau were also involved in political rivalry with the Bugis after the death of Sultan Mahmud Shah II in Sultanate of Johor. In 1723, Sultan Abdul Jalil Rahmad Syah I or known as Raja Kecik, founded Sultanate of Siak in Riau.[17] In 1773, Raja Melewar was appointed the Yang di-Pertuan Besar in the state of Negeri Sembilan. The mid-twentieth century, many overseas Minangkabau like Ahmad Boestaman, Abdullah CD, Rashid Maidin, Shamsiah Fakeh, and Khatijah Sidek[18] were involved in the Malaysian independence movement.


Many Minangkabau have established themselves as merchants, government employees and white collar workers in the places that they have settled. A number of them work as merchant, teachers, ulamas, and also in the field of medicine. Many Overseas Minangkabaus are affiliated to the Muhammadiyah Islamic organisation. In the big cities, they are greatly involved with the mosque activities as well as the modern Moslem organisation. They are also present in the field of academics and many Overseas Minangkabaus hold posts as headmasters in high schools.[2]


Today, most of kanagarian (literally 'little state") in Minangkabau have an overseas link. They have branches and are found in all the big cities in the Malay Archipelago as well in Thailand, the United States and Europe. Their objectives are the promotion of the social, physical, intellectual, cultural and general welfare of its members. An example is Gebu Minang, which is one of the largest overseas Minangkabau organization.

Merantau and Art Workers

The phenomenon of wandering in Minangkabau society, it often becomes a source of inspiration for art workers, primarily literary. Hamka, in his novel Merantau to Deli, telling stories about life experiences Minang nomads who went to the Deli and married with Javanese woman. Another novel Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wijck also told the story of children who return to home. In the village, he faced obstacles by indigenous peoples who is his father's family. Besides Hamka novel, a novel by Marah Rusli, Sitti Nurbaya and Salah Asuhan Abdul Muis also tells the story of the Minang nomads. In these novels, narrated on the intersection of Minang tradition and western culture. Novels Negeri 5 Menara of Ahmad Fuadi, tells immigrants who study in boarding schools in Java and eventually become successful. In a different form, through his work entitled Kemarau, A.A Navis invite the overseas community to build their Minang hometown.

Merantau is a martial arts film from 2009 which tells the story of a young Minangkabau man who leaves his hometown to teach silat and the trials and tribulations his journey.

See also


  1. ^ Munoz, Paul Michel (2006). Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. 
  2. ^ a b c d Naim, Mochtar. Merantau. 
  3. ^ Raja Ali Haji
  4. ^ Poeze, Harry A. In het Land van de Overheerser: Indonesiër in Nederland 1600-1950. 
  5. ^ Poeze, Harry A. Tan Malaka Autobiography. 
  6. ^ Radjab, Muhammad (1950). Semasa Ketjil di Kampung (1913-1928): Autobiografi Seorang Anak Minangkabau. Djakarta: Balai Pustaka. 
  7. ^ www.antara-sumbar.com Prof. Dr. H. Ahmad Syafii Ma'arif, Satu Nomor Contoh Produk Tradisi Merantau
  8. ^ Bemmelen Van R.W., (1970), The Geology of Indonesia, The Haque.
  9. ^ Wheatley P., (1961), The Golden Khersonese, Kuala lumpur, pp.177-184
  10. ^ Cortesao A., (1944), The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires, London:Hakluyt Society.
  11. ^ Marsden W., (1811), The History of Sumatra, London
  12. ^ NA, VOC 1277, Mission to Pagaruyung, fols. 1027r-v
  13. ^ Haan, F. de, (1896), Naar midden Sumatra in 1684, Batavia-'s Hage, Albrecht & Co.-M. Nijhoff. 40p. 8vo wrs. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Deel 39
  14. ^ Tobler A., (1911), Djambi-Verslag, Jaarboek van het Minjwezen in Nedelandsch Oost-Indie: Verhandelingen, XLVII/3.
  15. ^ Raffles, Sophia, (1830), Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, London: J. Murray.
  16. ^ "Sejarah Islam Nusantara" (in Indonesian). http://swaramuslim.net/galery/islam-indonesia/index.php?page=sabili-1b-risalah_islam_indonesia. 
  17. ^ Sejarah Singkat Kerajaan Siak
  18. ^ Nasir, Zulhasril. Tan Malaka, Gerakan Kiri Minangkabau di Indonesia, Malaysia dan Singapura. 

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