17.7.10

[tourismindonesia] Modernity catching up with barefoot Indonesian tribe



Modernity catching up with barefoot Indonesian tribe

By Jerome Rivet
Agence France-Presse
Page 7
2010-07-17 12:00 AM

The government offered them electricity and schools, but they refused. The Baduy people prefer to walk barefoot on their traditional lands on Indonesia's Java island.

Progress? Technology? Baduy villager Sapri will have none of it.

"We have a quiet and harmonious life, close to nature. We've got everything we need," he told reporter with a broad smile.

The 38-year-old father-of-seven cares little for the outside world. Global financial turmoil matters not a jot to him, and the World Cup barely registered.

For Sapri, the world stops at the border of "Baduy country," 5,000 hectares (12,360 acres) of tropical forest reserve in the heart of Java, one of the most crowded islands on Earth.

His people number close to 12,000 and live semi-subsistent lifestyles in about 30 villages. A typical Baduy home is made of bamboo and and palm leaves, and has no windows. Food is prepared on wood fires and eaten on the floor. Furniture, electrical equipment and modern utensils are prohibited.

"We've respected these very strict rules for centuries," said village chief Djaro Dainah, who has been appointed to a 14-year tenure as the tribe's chief liaison officer with the outside world.

But even Dainah admits the tribe cannot remain completely impervious to the encroachment of modernity.

"The government has offered us electricity but we've refused it because we don't want progress to come too fast. We want to protect our culture, but sooner or later..."

The Baduy's origins are a mystery. Some say they could be descendants of a Hindu kingdom who found refuge in the mountains as Islam spread across most of Indonesia in the 15th century.

The purest are the 500 Urang Tangtu, the "Inner Baduy" who live in three villages without any contact with foreigners. Anyone who doesn't obey the rules is shunned and joins the "Orang Panamping," the "Outside Baduy."

Clad in black or dark blue, the "Outside Baduy" are relatively more liberal but they also live austerely and have minimal contact with non-Baduy despite growing numbers of tourists visiting the reserve.

Both groups turn their backs on the trappings of modernity; they wash in the river, they don't use soap and children don't attend school.

But octogenarian tribesman Cayut said he could see change coming even though he had never left his village except to work in the surrounding rice paddies.

"Change has been very fast in recent years. We've been able to keep our culture but it's very difficult," he said.

It is increasingly common for the deep stillness of the forest to be broken by the ringing of a mobile phone or the crackle of a radio.

"This wouldn't have been accepted years ago," said Samani, who has a phone to help him manage his cloves business. "It's hard to keep a balance between our personal needs and our traditions. It's very difficult to keep the rules of our ancestors which date from centuries back. But it's our heritage."

The 40-year-old said he educated his four children himself, focusing on "the basics" like counting, some writing and reading.

"But the most important thing is to teach them how to farm, how to make brown sugar... They have to learn skills to support themselves in the future," he added.

Fifty-year-old villager Sakri said that despite the growing pressures from the world of steel and glass beyond the forest, "our beliefs and our culture are strong."


http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_con ... =WORLD_eng


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