Introduction / History
The Maiwa people live in the low plains in the area of Enrekang and Sidenrang in the province of South Sulawesi. Sulawesi is a large mountainous island often described as being shaped like an orchid or crab. It has a coastline of about 5,000 kilometers and consists mainly of four peninsulas separated by deep gulfs, with two of the peninsulas extending southward and two northeastward.
The Maiwa are primarily farmers, mainly growing rice in irrigated fields. Rice is their main staple food. Some Maiwa cultivate fruit, and sugar palms which are processed into palm sugar. Some small livestock such as water buffalo, goats and chickens are raised to augment their livelihood. Since about one-third of the farmers in southern Sulawesi do not own enough land, they are forced to sharecrop on the fields of wealthier farmers. These wealthy individuals provide farmland and finances for planting, while the groups of small farmers care for the fields until harvest time. The Maiwa sometimes work as day laborers in several Sulawesi cities.
The Maiwa people possess a family oriented attitude and practice gotong royong (mutual help and cooperation). Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents or grandparents. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage. The Maiwa people have been Muslims since the 17th century. Islam was forced upon them by military pressure from their larger and stronger neighbors, the Bugis and Makassar. Since that time they have become loyal devotees to the teachings of Sunni Islam. Despite this, traditional animistic beliefs are still strong in their daily life. They still believe in the power of unseen spirits that inhabit sacred places. The services of a dukun (shaman/healer/occultist) are often sought for many purposes, including healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. Used by permission © 2001 PJRN Indonesia
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