Saturday, September 11, 2010

West Sumatra

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The land of Minangkabau, West Sumatra, has a distinct culture and architecture, which distinguishes it from the rest of the island.

A land of scenic beauty with green lakes and blue mountains. West Sumatra's centre of culture and tourism is Bukit tinggi in the highlands, north of the propovincial capital of Padang.

Most prominent in the West Sumatra landscape is the horn shaped roofs of the houses nestled in coconut groves. The shape of the roofs, like those of the women's headdress is in honour of the legendary buffalo calf who won the fight against a bull and there by gave the people of West Sumatra their freedom from Javanese over lordship.

According to the legend, the West Sumatra once challenged invaders from Java a bullfight and fielded a starved buffalo calf with sharp knives tied to its short horn. Mistaking the opponent's bull for its mother, it ran to suckle and stabbed it, winning the day for West Sumatra. The name Minangkabau means triumphant bufallo.

The Minangkabau follow a community and family life basf on a matrilineal system by which all inheritance passes throught the womenfolk. The Moslem religion plays a important role in communities, which cluster round mosques and the traditional adal house.

As it is the women who own the properties, the men are known for their wanderlust and entrepreneurship. Travelling is considered a mark of success and there for many of them are found on merantau (travel) in other parts of the country. Proof of this is the many Minang or Padang restaurants, serving very spicy food, found in all major towns.

The people are hospital table and eloquent in a poetic style of speech and ceremonies and festivals are colourfull occasions.

West Sumatra province comprises a broad coastal belt where the capital is situated and the hinterland is range of high mountains, which dip into picturesque valleys and lakes. Among them are the remnants of the old Minangkabau Kingdom of Pagaruyung, the art centres for silver, hand weaving, embroidery, and woodcarving.

Padang is an hour's flight from Jakarta and the highlands are accessible by regular bus service and taxis.

West Sumatrans are cultrured in music and dance and in the art of selfdefence called silat which is perfomed to music and has highly stylised movements.

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