Vol. 8, No. 3, MUKRIMIN


Contents>> Vol. 8, No. 3

“Moving the Kitchen out”: Contemporary Bugis Migration


* School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth WA 6009 Australia; IAIN Sultan Amai, Jl. Gelatik No. 1, Kota Gorontalo, Gorontalo 96124, Indonesia
e-mail: mukrimin[at]iaingorontalo.ac.id

DOI: 10.20495/seas.8.3_349

This article provides a description of Bugis and intra-island migration, analyzing the pattern of migration when Bugis settlers move from their home villages of Bone to the new frontier area of Baras in West Sulawesi, Indonesia. I argue that unlike migrants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their present-day contemporaries, Bugis in Baras are permanent migrants referred to as those who have mallékké dapûrêng (“moved the kitchen out,” in their language). This ethnographic study in Baras presents an alternative interpretation of migration patterns among the Bugis. The findings of this study indicate that farmers are the main participants in this permanent migration. Bugis in Baras commit to mallékké dapûrêng because of their traditional value of siri’ (self-esteem and honor), further influenced by environmental, economic, social, and political factors.

Keywords: Bugis, migration, mallékké dapûrêng, Baras of West Sulawesi, Telle and Timurung of South Sulawesi


The Bugis people were originally from the lowlands of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, an area that they still dominantly occupy. Following Christian Pelras, in this paper I refer to the Bugis as people from major states (Bone, Wajo, Soppeng, and Sidenreng) or groups of petty states (Pare-Pare and Suppa’ regions of the west coast; areas around Sinjai in the south of lowland South Sulawesi). The lingua francas of these areas are very similar, with only minor differences, and are largely recognized by linguists as “constituting dialects” (Pelras 1996; see also Acciaioli 1989). The ethnonym Bugis may also be used for people who are descended from migrants of the aforementioned domains, settling permanently outside their homeland.

Migrants and wanderers are known as passompĕ in the Bugis language (Lineton 1975a; 1975b; Maeda 1988; Acciaioli 1989; Pelras 1996; Kesuma 2004; Ahmadin 2008). Abu Hamid (2004, 46) elucidates how the word is derived from sompĕ, a noun meaning “sail,” with the agentive prefix pa before sompĕ further qualifying the word as “sailor.” According to Hamid, “not every sailor is a passompĕ,” although the Bugis anthropologist often defines passompĕ as a “sailor and trader, who sails across different islands and countries” (2004, 46–47). Hamid further states that the term is closer to a “wanderer” (perantau or pengembara) in Bugis migration (Hamid 2004, 47). Ahmadin (2008, 59) defines passompĕ as having the following characteristics: (1) leaving their homeland, (2) for a short or long period, (3) voluntarily, (4) in search of good fortune (massappã dallè) and knowledge, (5) having both a willingness and an unwillingness to return home, and (6) marked by the sociocultural character of the Bugis community. Excerpts from several texts show that pallaong, the Bugis word for “work,” originates from the root lao, meaning “go,” implying that one should leave one’s home or even wanua (home village).

This article provides a holistic description of Bugis migration, analyzing the pattern of migration of settlers under my care, who migrated from their home villages of Bone to the new frontier area of Baras, West Sulawesi. Proposing an additional type of Bugis migration, I argue that unlike migrants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and present-day migrant contemporaries, the Bugis in Baras are permanent migrants who have mallékké dapûrêng (“moved the kitchen out,” in their language). The evidence in Baras presents an alternative interpretation of an additional type of Bugis migration, based on their traditional value of siri’ (self-esteem and honor) further influenced by environmental, economic, social, and political factors. The article is divided into three sections, the first of which discusses background information on historical accounts of Bugis migration covering the seventeenth century to the present. The second section is an analysis of contemporary Bugis migration, while the third deals with the findings of an alternative interpretation of Bugis migration (mallékké dapûrêng).

According to the 2010 National Population Census of the National Statistics Bureau (BPS), Bugis were ranked eighth among Indonesian ethnic groups, with a population estimated at 6.3 million (2.69 percent of the total population of Indonesia) (BPS 2011, 9, 31). More recent data showed 6,359,700 Bugis spread across the Indonesian provinces (BPS 2011, 153). The census data also indicated that more than 2.5 million Bugis lived in cities and 3.8 million in rural areas (see Map 1). Along with the approximately 1 million Bugis living overseas, there are more than 7 million Bugis worldwide.


Map 1 Number of Bugis in Each Province of Indonesia

Source: BPS (Statistics Indonesia) (2011, 40), adapted by author.


As is evident from Map 1, millions of Bugis live outside their homeland in South Sulawesi; their main settlements are in the provinces of East Kalimantan, Southeast Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, West Kalimantan, and Riau. According to a national survey (BPS 2017), there were more Bugis residing outside their homeland than in South Sulawesi. There were approximately 728,465 Bugis living in Malaysia and more than 15,000 in Singapore (BPS 2017). A 1930 Netherlands East Indies census showed about 4,961 Bugis in the Malay Peninsula that year (Departement van Econische Zaken v.5 1930, 20–21, in Acciaioli 1989, 10). It is evident that Bugis are to be found in various parts of the globe.

Bugis Migration

A variety of evidence over time has demonstrated that migration is of paramount importance within Bugis society. One of the first scholars to conduct research on Bugis migration was Jacqueline Lineton (1975a; 1975b). Her groundbreaking research on settlers in Sumatra created a portrait of the passompĕ Ugi (Bugis migrants) as wanderers and migrants. Lineton traced the rivalry between the Portuguese and Dutch over the control of trade routes between the ports of Melaka (Malay Peninsula) and Makassar (southwest Sulawesi) from the 1500s until the end of the 1600s. According to her, the fall of Makassar to the Dutch in 1669 was the point when Bugis and Makassarese began engaging in inter-island trade from their base in South Sulawesi, which led to the establishment of the Bugis diaspora. During this period a large number of Bugis groups moved out to the Malay Peninsula, reaching the Siam areas (Lineton 1975b, 174–175; see also Andaya 1975; 1981), while many Makassarese settlers tended to move to Java, Sumatra, and the Bima region of eastern Sumbawa and farther eastward into Nusa Tenggara Timur and beyond. A majority of the migrants were merchants and peasants (Lineton 1975b, 174–179).

Thousands of refugees from Sulawesi, particularly among the Wajo people, were created as a result of the 1669 defeat of the Wajo kingdom (a close ally of Gowa and Tallo), the destruction of Tosora (Wajo’s capital), and the burning of Wajo’s fields in 1670 by the Dutch East India Company, while the Bugis Bone King Arung Palakka and his successors reigned in the South Sulawesi region (Andaya 1975, 116–117; 1981, 208–227). However, the most spectacular Bugis movements were noted by Robert Cribb (2000) (see
Map 2) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These refugees were the initiators of the Bugis diaspora in the Malay world (Andaya 1995, 120); there is concrete documentation of this in the form of the installation of five Bugis princes as local king and lords in Siantan, Johor, Matan, and Menpawah (Andaya 1995, 127). The waves of refugees continued across areas such as Aceh and Palembang in Sumatra; Sulu in the Philippines; Kutai, Banjarmasin, Pasir, and Sukadana in Kalimantan; and even Bali, Buton, and Flores (Anderson 2003, 70).


Map 2 Bugis Migration in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Source: Cribb (2000).


In the 1970s Pelras, studying aquatic populations of the Malay Peninsula—particularly the Duano, Selatar, and Sama of Johor—observed that Kuala Benut (a Bugis village) had been established long ago. He also noted that Bugis had played important roles as merchants and politicians and had strong connections to Malay sultanates, particularly Johor (Pelras 1972).

The period of the Kahar Muzakkar movement (1950–65) in South Sulawesi saw another wave of Bugis emigration to Jambi, Riau, and Tanjung Priok (Jakarta), among other regions. This migration continued through the 1970s, to Lake Lindu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi (see also Lineton 1975b, 174–177; Ammarell 2002, 59–61). Accounts by Narifumi Maeda (1988; 1994) and Jan van der Putten (2001) highlight the Muzakkar rebellion as a significant factor in the movement of Bugis from their homeland to Malay regions. During this period of rebellion villages were attacked, cattle were stolen by perampok (robbers) at night, and villagers’ limited supplies of rice were forcibly taken by the Muzakkar’s men. The situation was compounded by compulsory military enlistment. Lineton (1975b) notes that most villagers, seeing no solution to their predicament, viewed merantau (migration) as the only means to survive (see also Acciaioli 1989, 55–59). The Bugis of Wajo (compared with the previous generation) did not dominate migration in this period, although the Bugis from Bone and Amparita in Sidenreng Rappang did take part.

From the 1980s, Greg Acciaioli (1989; 2000; 2004) studied Bugis settlers in Central Sulawesi as he expanded the conceptualization of migration motivation in Bugis society into the symbolic dimension of the Bugis notion of “searching for good fortune.” Holistically, what was noticeable about these Bugis settlers was their expanding patterns of occupation, as trading and farming were no longer dominant (Acciaioli 1989, 53). The most important feature among Bugis settlers in Lindu was that the quest for “good fortune” was seen to “draw people forth on searches outside their native region, through ancestral and local spirit beliefs, related to their homeland and new areas of settlement” (Acciaioli 1989, 325). The Bugis in Lindu “also seek to control their new surroundings, which includes its resources, people and spirit” (Acciaioli 1989, 325; see also Acciaioli 2000; 2004).

Similarly, Gene Ammarell (1999; 2002) investigated a community of Bugis ancestry in Balobaloang, Sabalana archipelago, located in the Strait of Makassar (just west of Makassar city). Exploring Bugis migration to Dili, Timor-Leste, he reported that Bugis and Makassarese immigrants made up approximately 80 percent of traders in Dili, hence dominating the trading scene. However, by the end of the 1990s the conflict in Timor-Leste had led them to leave for West Papua and Kalimantan (Ammarell 2002, 61). Bugis from Pinrang, Sinjai, and Bone were among these migrants, and they created “social control through assimilation,” further “recreating their own social order to maintain political and moral authority.”

Previous scholars and researchers (e.g., Lineton 1975a; 1975b; Andaya 1981; Acciaioli 1989; Ammarell 2002) also linked the waves of Bugis migration to war, security, and economic reasons. Likewise, Pelras (1996, 320–326) emphasized the historic drivers of different phases of Bugis migration, linking the eighteenth-century wave of migration to Bengkulu and Riau in Sumatra and Pasir and Samarinda in Kalimantan with war, security, and economic reasons. Places such as Palu Bay and Valley (Central Sulawesi), Sumbawa, Indragiri, and Johor were also involved in this wave of settlement (as shown in Map 2).

Migration in the Indonesian context is rendered in Bahasa Indonesia as merantau, with John Echols and Hassan Shadily (1992, 449–450) translating rantau as “abroad, foreign country.” Thus, merantau means to (1) leave one’s home area to make one’s way in life, (2) wander about, and (3) sail across rivers. A perantau, according to Echols and Shadily, is (1) someone wandering about the country, (2) a settled foreigner.

Oftentimes, Bugis use several words related to the notion of merantau or migration. My informants told me about the phrase mattana bare’, which literally means “to go to the west,” implying migration to Sumatra and the western parts of the Sulawesi region. Sompĕ or massompĕ is another term mostly used for “going abroad.” The terms mattana bare’ and sompĕ, according to the informants, are related to the perampok attacks in the early 1980s in Telle and Timurung villages. However, some migrants also went sompĕ and mattana bare’ due to economic factors.

The term mallékké dapûrêng, often used by the Bugis (for examples of dapûrêng [kitchens], see Fig. 1), refers to migration, which is the focus of this study. In literary studies the term was initially mentioned by Benjamin Frederik Matthes (1864) in his Boeginesche chrestomathie (Bugis chrestomathy). He talked about pao-pao ri kadong as an old Bugis lontara’ (alphabet), when the king (mappajungè) of Luwu was no longer trusted as an honest leader; this led to his people engaging in mallékké dapûrêng. In the lontara’, the people of Luwu said: “We the people of Luwu wish to mallékké dapûrêng to Palopo, as our border now is Baebunta” (maelo’ni atanna mappajunge mallékké dapûrêng lâo Palopo, gankanna Baebunta) (Matthes 1864, 2–3). Luwu’s capital city at the time was Malangke (now a subdistrict of Luwu Utara in South Sulawesi). The Luwu natives implied that they terminated their political contract with their king, as the lontara’ of pao-pao ri kadong, mallékké dapûrêng, contrasted with the idea of ipoppangi tana (being expelled). In the past, if a Bugis king or leader did not like a person or a group of people, the latter faced possible banishment (diusir) from the kingdom. Important examples of banishment among the Bugis are the case of Arung Palakka in the late seventeenth century (Andaya 1981; 1995) and popular stories among South Sulawesi people concerning Kahar Muzakkar during the early period of Japanese colonization. The story of Muzakkar centers around the accusation against him by Luwu King Andi Jemma, who welcomed and collaborated with the Japanese army in Sulawesi before Muzakkar was banished to Java. Later Muzakkar returned to Sulawesi, and he led a rebellion against the new Indonesian government in the mid-1960s (on Muzakkar’s movement, see Harvey 1974).


Fig. 1 A Traditional Dapûrêng (Kitchen) in Telle, Bone (Left); A Group of Bugis Women around the Dapûrêng in Motu, Baras (Right). Men Are Discouraged from Entering the Dapûrêng.

Sources: Photos by author.


A dapûrêng (kitchen) is not only a place within the house for cooking but a sociocultural symbol of status, with Bugis families focusing on the appearance of their kitchens. Hence, this study discovered that when a family moved out to the rantau world, there had to be agreement among family members, particularly from the wife, who was the “owner” of the dapûrêng.

Since the kitchen is usually located inside the house, it is regarded as a private and intimate space; in fact, the local word for “kitchen” is the same as the word for “inner” or “inside.” Also, the way a dapûrêng is arranged symbolically reflects its owner’s social status, as it is directly related to food supplies for the family, especially storage of rice (pabbarésséng). In a traditional house there is a ladder adjacent to the kitchen, providing direct access to the rakkéang (attic) above the ceiling, where rice paddy and other materials such as gold, implements, and heirlooms are stored (Lathief 2010, 72). According to Pelras (2003, 260), when there are male guests in old Bugis houses, the family’s unmarried females sleep in the attic. Furthermore, in relation to the significance of the dapûrêng and pabbarésséng, there is a famous saying: “It is better to die in blood than to die in hunger” (lebbimi matè maddara’e, na mate temmanrè). In other words, all activities, efforts, and achievements of a family in any profession are aimed at fulfilling needs symbolically represented by the dapûrêng.

Symbolically, the kitchen is culturally, economically, and socially the central focus of the family, besides being the possi’ bola, or the home’s navel. Pelras (2003, 260, 280) refers to the kitchen as “the hearth, which is always oriented transversally to the house’s axis.” The authority to arrange and manage the dapûrêng belongs to the woman or wife, as issues involving the kitchen are often referred to as “domestic matters.” Similarly, Susan Millar (1989, 26) states that the dapûrêng is “firmly under the authority of women, who share close and cooperative relations.” The dapûrêng is not only a symbol of household prosperity, it is also the core of the domestic household and therefore attracts the core attention of the family. Therefore, as we see in the next section, when a household’s family members move to another place, the first and foremost thing to be considered is an agreement between husband and wife over dapûrêng matters.

Contemporary Migration

Bugis migrants spread around the Indonesian archipelago (Map 1), encroaching on western Sulawesi (especially Polewali Mandar, Mamuju, Central Mamuju, and North Mamuju), where they played pivotal roles in the formation of West Sulawesi Province (Sulawesi Barat, or Sul-Bar for short). In Southeast Sulawesi, the Bugis dominated districts such as Kendari, Kolaka, North Kolaka, and East Kolaka, participating in the establishment of the new district of Pohuwato and eventually the new province of Gorontalo. Until very recently, they played pivotal roles in the transformation and establishment of these regions (Mukrimin 2019).

Outside Sulawesi, Bugis are concentrated in urban and relatively resource-rich areas. In Kalimantan, for example, they continue to take over Samarinda, Balikpapan, Pasir, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kutai, Bontang, Tarakan, Nunukan, and other districts. Andrew Vayda and Ahmad Sahur (1985, 95; 1996) note that Bugis farmers have continued to penetrate the area of Loa Janan since the early 1960s. These spontaneous settlers were active participants in deforestation in East Kalimantan, as they filled the farther eastern Indonesian regions of Sorong in Papua Island and Ternate and the newly founded city of Sofifi in Maluku. Bugis migration has intensified over the last two decades, complementing those generations who have been in the rantau world since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

It is safe to say that the Bugis (both permanent and non-permanent migrants) have played important roles in transforming Makassar, Batam, Pekanbaru, Samarinda, Balikpapan, Sorong, and Mamuju into Indonesia’s metropolitan cities (Mukrimin 2019).

Outside Indonesia, the Bugis have long resided in various parts of Malaysia, such as Linggi (Hamid 1986), Sabah, Johor, and Selangor (Omar et al. 2012). Nurul Ilmi Idrus’s study in Malaysia shows that there is a recent pattern of illegal migration labeled makkunrai passimokolo, which refers to “women who smuggle themselves into Malaysia under the cover of night by boat, in order to avoid Malaysian officials” (Idrus 2008, 155).

Bugis have had a significant impact on the trading and economy of the island-state of Singapore. According to my estimates, there are about 1 million Bugis settlers (both residents and newcomers) in Malaysia and Singapore. Indeed, I was surprised to find myself sitting with a group of youths from Sinjai on a plane to Western Australia to begin my studies in January 2013. They were working far from their ancestral homeland as miners in Pilbara. I was also impressed during my stay in Makassar, on the way back from my fieldwork research in November 2014, when I met with their labor leader from Pammana, who was preparing for his journey to Nigeria for oil-drilling activities.

Bugis migrants engage in various occupations ranging from entrepreneurship to agriculture, although a significant but smaller number go on to become pegawai negeri sipil (civil servants), contributing to the chain of migration when they receive postings far from their homeland. This itself has led to the spread of Bugis citizens everywhere, with horizons expanding beyond their homeland.

Previous researchers and scholars (particularly non-Indonesian ones) have not acknowledged the other type of migration among the Bugis, which is mallékké dapûrêng; instead, they generally label all migrants as passompĕ. However, local scholars have distinguished modes of Bugis migration as either sompĕ or mallékké dapûrêng. For example, analyzing the migrant behavior of Kalola villagers in Wajo District, Cik Hasan Bisri (1985) identified both seasonal migration (sompĕ) and permanent migration (mallékké dapûrêng) practices. For Kalola migrants, economic achievement was a crucial means to attain social status (Bisri 1985, 24), with Ida Bagus Mantra (1997, 12) translating mallékké dapûrêng as “perpindahan kaum bersama-sama ke tempat atau negeri jiran” (the movement of a family together with its members to a neighboring place or country).

Further study of Bugis migration in Johor (especially the migration led by Prince Opu Dang Rilakka) by Andi Kesuma (2004) clearly distinguishes the types of mallékké dapûrêng as being closer in connotation and motives to permanent migration than sompĕ. Kesuma (2004, 30–31) furthermore suggests that mallékké dapûrêng refers to “movement caused by a particular fundamental reason related to the Bugis value of siri’, while sompĕ is mostly motivated by the goal of obtaining a better life, with the intention to return home sometimes.” This statement is in line with the argument of Graeme Hugo (1982, 60), who suggests that the key difference between temporary and permanent migration “lies in the intentions of individuals, coupled with their level of commitment to particular places” (see Scheme 1).


Scheme 1 Pattern of Bugis Migration

Source: Adapted by Author


One Bugis scholar characterizes mallékké dapûrêng as “protest through actions by citizens against their leader or king, expressed through moving out of their homeland to another country” (Mattulada 1995, 449). This action usually occurs if the people of a kingdom consider their king or leader incapable of solving their critical problems. Quoting from chapters 139 and 225 of Latoa (Mattulada 1995, 449), it is indicated that those committed to mallékké dapûrêng announced freedom from their king by declaring: “We the people discharge the king, releasing ourselves free from his power; and therefore, moving out from this wanua.” This implies that mallékké dapûrêng was not only an economic decision but also an environmental, social, and political reaction for Bugis.

Mallékké Dapûrêng to Baras

During my ethnographic study of Baras in North Mamuju, West Sulawesi Province, some informants were able to tell me about their merantau experiences. For example, among the 100 Bugis I met at a field site, I paid particular attention to at least 12 people who had lived somewhere else before settling in Baras. For example, Daeng Mattirodeceng spent more than 6 years in Jambi and 10 in Palembang, while Daeng Pallontara lived in Palembang for about 7 years. Similarly, Ibu Hajja Tang lived in Sumatra before moving to Malangke, Luwu. Daeng Macuwa, the oldest man among the Bugis in Baras, spent more than four decades in Jambi, Palembang, Riau, and Kolaka. A rich man known as Pak Haji Tinulu was from Sumatra, and Pak Haji Ponggawa, a kepala desa (village chief) in SP 8, spent his youth in Makassar. Daeng Magado and Daeng Mappoji worked on an oil palm plantation in Malaysia for more than five years. Haji Daeng Mabonga arguably became the richest Bugis in Baras, living in Batunon, Kolaka, for three years and Tawau, Malaysia, for four. These informants are those Bugis who first began settling in Baras, West Sulawesi (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1). Most of these informants who had lived somewhere else before settling in Baras maintained that they would not move again or return to their home villages (see Fig. 2).1)


Fig. 2 Some Bugis Migrants from Bone in Baras, North Mamuju

Sources: Photos by author.


It is important to note that with the exception of two or three settlers in Baras, about 80 percent of both men and women from Telle village possess the title of daeng. Therefore, the settlers in Baras are similar in social rank to many of those who settled in Lindu, Central Sulawesi, whom Acciaioli (1989, 54) classifies as “the lowest nobles and highest commoners.” These migrants (among my informants interviewed) are former transmigrants who have been in Baras since 1988 and 1989 (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1); they hail from Telle and Timurung, Bone District, and have notable merantau experiences.

Looking for confirmation of the distinction between the concepts of sompĕ and mallékké dapûrêng, I realized the interviewees often used the words interchangeably. But when I asked, “Do you intend to move somewhere else?” or even “Do you intend to move back to your homeland?” most of my informants answered, “No.” One informant even expressed his wish to be buried in Baras: “I have been here since 1988, and hopefully my akhirat will be here as well” (Daeng Macuwa, pers. comm., 2014). The only exception was Pak Haji Ponggawa, who expanded his lands by buying new properties in Palu for business; however, he is neither a genuine farmer nor a transmigrant, but a merchant who spontaneously migrated to Baras to establish a new business and on that basis enter into local politics (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1; forthcoming 2).

The social rank of Bugis settlers in Baras has been one of the key ingredients to their successful migration. For instance, a 50-year-old man in Balanti told me: “Iyyaro rekkanenge koe lalo tenggai risesena abbatirenge, de’ namatanre akka; jaji makawe dalle’e” (Our families here have a middle-ranking social status, and therefore we do not show off our rank, which has resulted in good fortune for us). This rank system is similar to the distinguishing feature between the Bugis and Makassarese in the diaspora during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Andaya 1995).

In comparison, the well-known Indonesian ethnic group Minangkabau follows the concept of merantau cino (endless migration). Tsuyoshi Kato (1982, 29–31) differentiated the types of merantau into three categories: “village segmentation,” a type of migration predominantly “from the legendary period to early nineteenth century”; “circular migration,” “from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s”; and merantau cino, “from the 1950s to the present day.” According to Kato, merantau cino is commonly practiced by nuclear families. And according to my colleague Donard Abu Hamdi (a University of Western Australia student researching Minangkabau entrepreneurship in the rantau world), it has become an important stage of voluntary migration, requiring men’s willingness to remain permanently in their new residences. In the past, a man usually set off alone as a wanderer in search of a better life, after which he came back to pick up his family. Nowadays, because life is harder in the ranah (homeland) while the rantau world offers better opportunities, there is a tendency for families to prefer merantau cino as their mode of migration. While they may have no intention of going back to West Sumatra, they may still feel connected to Minangkabau through relatives visiting during Hari Raya. However, such visits are no longer regular (Donard Gomes, pers. comm., 2015).

Minangkabau migrants tend to concentrate in urban areas or big cities, such as Jakarta and Bandung, while Bugis prefer to reside in rural or frontier areas. There are Bugis who move to cities such as Makassar and Palembang, but the numbers are less significant. Equally important are the occupations of these migrants: Minangkabau are usually merchants or traders (Kato 1982, 27), while most Bugis are farmers. This distinction is particularly interesting because the Minangkabau have a matrilineal system that creates “more pressure” for men. In this system, men are not tied to the homeland (unlike women), although they have to prove their worth as marriage partners to their spouse (Lyn Parker, pers. comm., 2015). By contrast, Bugis who are committed to mallékké dapûrêng often go together as husband and wife. Hence, in terms of “obtained properties” in the rantau or “acquired good fortune” (to borrow Acciaioli’s term) in the new settlement, Bugis couples have mutual ownership and responsibility.

The government’s political policy through Indonesia’s transmigration program was the main reason why people from Timurung and Telle moved to the frontier area (Baras). Answering my question “With whom did you come to Baras?” or “Are there any family members who came with you?” informants from among the Bugis settlers in Baras all responded, “My nuclear family,” which included their wife and children. The majority of first settlers came to Baras with their spouses, since it was one of the prerequisites of transmigration to have a man come along with his wife and children where applicable (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1). One informant stated:

I sold the only harta [property] I had along with my house in the kampung for pocket money. But now, my house here is actually twice as big as the previous house in my village. My wife and I are happy here. (Haji Daeng Macenning, pers. comm., 2014)

This further implies that mallékké dapûrêng is a political reaction to the conditions of the (particularly local) government at the time. Encountering situations where they could not expect any economic or sociopolitical changes from their local government, villagers were often motivated to migrate. A former village officer from Timurung told me: “In the 1970s and 1980s, we felt that there was no tau mapparenta [government], as we sought for prosperity in our wanua (kampung)” (Pak Sareppek, pers. comm., 2014).

Environmental factors were also a contributing factor to the migration of villagers from Telle and Timurung, when they found it difficult to eke out a living from their lands. What I remember vividly of these informants during my interviews is their cries when I asked “What made you to move to Baras?” The answers were always to the effect of “The lands in the kampung are no longer suitable to make a living.” Hence, maddare’ (dry land farming) became the only way to survive, with the farmlands providing diminishing returns (see the left photo in Fig. 3, for example) and consequently motivating countless villagers to leave their homes. A 40-year-old man recounted his story in tears: “One thing I can tell you is that at that time I just thought if I did not leave Telle, my family might die from hunger.” His cousin Daeng Macenning (a 60-year-old widow) added to the story:


Fig. 3 A Comparison of Houses between Those Who Go Sompĕ (Right) and Those Committed to Mallékké Dapûrêng (Left)

Sources: Photos by author.


Sitongenna ndi’, wettunna leppe jataki, touki mangrasa-rasa, paina pai’e iruntu; tapi masiriki lisu kampong, gangkangna maddapi nenniya mengre’I ellinna cokla’e taung 1997. Mappamulani irasai cenninna gollana onronge ri Baras.

Actually, we really suffered a bitter life in Baras, particularly after the living cost stipends [subsidies from the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration] were stopped. This led to a shame of returning back to our ancestral homes (masiri’). The situation continued until 1997, after which we started to enjoy the sweetness of life as a result of a boom in cocoa production and sales.

The dire environmental conditions in their home villages became the main reason for migrants to move out of Baras; an agricultural frontier provided them with massive lands and a promise of a better life (for further discussion on the frontier in West Sulawesi, see Mukrimin, forthcoming 1). Hence, environmental factors were a key push for Bugis in Baras to engage in mallékké dapûrêng. Mallékké dapûrêng was frequently mentioned among themselves as matesiri’ (social death), implying the possibility of dying due to hunger because of a lack of land for cultivation. In a no-win situation, most Bugis prefer to die struggling to survive than to live in poverty, a testament to their spirit of survival in any kind of environment.

Another major factor distinguishing the concepts of sompĕ and mallékké dapûrêng in Baras is that sompĕ refers mainly to anyone (with any kind of occupation) who goes outside his/her homeland, while mallékké dapûrêng is enacted primarily by farmers who move to a new adopted homeland with no intention of going back home. This distinction can be traced by elaborating on the perantau houses from Timurung and Telle (see Fig. 3).

However, those engaged in non-farming occupations, such as gold mining in South Kalimantan or entrepreneurship in big cities such as Makassar or Jakarta, are mobile migrants, riding the wave of individual migrants.

Most times, peasant migrants are committed to mallékké dapûrêng because they have to go with their nuclear family to a frontier area in order to kick-start a new life. This implies that the household, not the individual, is one entity. Sompĕ participants often leave their houses to relatives or friends, while mallékké dapûrêng participants often sell their houses (if owned) in order to raise capital for resettlement. When I visited Timurung and Telle, the village heads directed me to houses belonging to sompĕ and mallékké dapûrêng participants. The houses of passompĕ migrants were occupied by family members left behind (because those migrants occasionally came and went), while those of mallékké dapûrêng had been sold or left to rot.

The timing of the departure of Bugis settlers for their migration destinations sometimes follows a seasonal pattern. Massompĕ often stay in their villages during the rainy season in order to harvest rice paddies after the rains. In contrast, for mallékké dapûrêng there is no seasonal pattern, because they end up selling all their possessions (including house, livestock, and farm). In fact, the first wave of settlers from Telle and Timurung moved to Baras en masse (sekaligus) (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1).

All in all, settlers still maintain contact and connections with their homeland through the mobile temporary migrants categorized as passompĕ. However, migration is not only about “gaining fame and success abroad,” as Andaya (1995, 135) observed among the Bugis who had massompĕ to Malaysia. For mallékké dapûrêng, the connection with their homeland is maintained by sending home funds or donations to build mosques or Islamic schools (madrasah). A village officer in Timurung mentioned that although the amount of funds from Baras was not significant compared to other places, funding from this region had been constant over the years. Meanwhile, in the case of Telle, the remittance of funds by those who have settled outside this village is like a competition for an annual championship (pertandingan). Until today, in Telle village during the month of Ramadhan, at night the village imam announces the list of donors as well as place of origin of the donations. For instance, he may make an announcement like the following: “Oh, the highest sumbangan (donations) this year are from Baras,” or “Unlike last year, Baras has now been defeated by donors from Batunon.” Therefore, in order to gain fame for their home village (if that is the intention), Bugis in Baras prefer sending home donations rather than going back home themselves.

During my short visit to Timurung and Telle, I noticed economic goals were essential to the Bugis settlers in Baras, as conditions in these places were relatively outdated (tertinggal) compared to neighboring villages. However, Timurung and Telle continue to rely on their dare’ (dry fields) and galung (wet-rice plots) for survival. Imagining how these villages looked in the 1970s and 1980s, I am able to understand the unwillingness of Bugis settlers in Baras to return to their homeland. A 70-year-old farmer from Laponrong, Timurung, described the situation in his hamlet:

Agapi riala mongro ri Laponrong; sero reppatona, salo metti tona.

There was no point staying in Laponrong because our river was empty and our tools to make a living were broken into pieces. (Pak Haji Cua, pers. comm., 2014)

Bugis settlers, particularly those categorized as mallékké dapûrêng, often achieve economic prosperity, as seen through the attainment of the haji title (e.g., Pak and Bu haji or Daeng Aji for both men and women). In fact, most of the first Bugis settlers and the following spontaneous migrants performed the hajj from this former frontier. The expanse of lands (either jatah [allotted] or purchased) that settlers now have shows the significance of their economic endeavors. Ultimately, for Pak Haji Cua and his fellow Bugis in Baras, the amount of oil palm farms they own cannot be compared to what they left behind in their wanua.


The Bugis are a sending society, like the Minangkabau of Sumatra, not a receiving society, like their neighboring tribes such as Makassarese and Mandar. Both the Bugis and Minangkabau are well-known Indonesian ethnic groups who, from generation to generation, like to migrate “in search of good fortune” (Acciaioli 1989).

In this article, I trace how the Bugis translate their symbolic values known as the dapûrêng (kitchen) into (permanent) migration. For the Bugis, their dapûrêng is the starting point to get involved in a larger society, i.e., to assimilate, penetrate, dominate, and rule an existing community. In many cases, such as in Baras, North Mamuju, the Bugis are even the initiators, shapers, and transformers of a frontier area (Mukrimin, forthcoming 1).

The Bugis in Baras exemplify the model of migration that is mostly composed of permanent settlers, unlike their fellow migrants who are committed to mallékké dapûrêng, a term that has not been sufficiently analyzed in the accounts of Bugis migration. The Bugis model of permanent migration in Baras is motivated by the government’s political policies, environmental challenges, agricultural opportunities, and economic endeavors.

Accepted: May 30, 2019


This article is a section of my doctoral dissertation. I thank my supervisors, Professor Greg Acciaioli and Professor Lyn Parker, for their critical feedback and insightful comments on this manuscript. I appreciate the useful commentary and suggestions of participants at the Western Australia–Indonesia Forum, University of Western Australia Crawley, April 9, 2016; and the Third International Conference on Asian Studies at the International University of Japan, Niigata, June 20–21, 2015.

The data presented in this study were collected in 2014 in North Mamuju, West Sulawesi, and Bone, South Sulawesi. Surveys and interviews were conducted with a wide array of local people and officials. The study and field research were made possible thanks to financial support from Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, under DIKTIS Program 5000 Doktor, and a fieldwork grant from the UWA Graduate Research School.

I alone am responsible for the conclusions drawn here.


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1) All informant names are pseudonyms. Hence, in order to avoid misnaming my informants, I use adjectives that simplify their character, job, etc. For instance, if someone is very brave I call him Daeng Parani. This is important due to the range of informants’ numbers and the research field site: addressing someone frequently as “her/his” instead of by their first name would confuse both the writer and the reader. This was useful for the Bugis community participants as well as those with no ascribed social-rank name, who were ascribed with pseudonyms.