Introduction / History
The Semendo are also often called Semende or Jeme Semendo. The Semendo live in the Semendo Darat Laut, Semendo Darat and Semendo Ulu districts of the Muara Enim regency. They also live in the Buay Sandang Aji, Pulau Beringin and Banding Agung districts of the Ogan Komering Ulu (OKU) Selatan regency. There are also a few areas in Lampung province that are inhabited by the Semendo such as the Way Tenon and Sumber Jaya districts in the West Lampung regency; Wonosobo, Ulu Belu, Talang Padan and Pulau Panggung districts in the Tanggamus regency; Bukit Kemuning and Tanjung Raja districts in the North Lampung regency; and Banjit and Kasui districts in the Way Kanan regency. The Semendo language is similar to Besemah and Lintang dialects, except the Semende tend to use /e/ at the end of words.
What are their lives like?
The majority of the Semendo have been farmers for generations. Their fertile farmland lies approximately 900 meters above sea level. There are two main crops produced, rice and Robusta coffee. Semendo is one of the primary rice-producing areas for South Sumatra. There are approximately 5000 hectares of productive rice fields planted and harvested each year. The customs and culture of the area are greatly influenced by Islam. From rebana (tambourine) music to local songs to local forms of dance, all are strongly influenced by Islamic Malay culture. Semendo culture is more likely to give priority and authority to women than men. The Semendo kinship system is matrilineal, or based on the the mother's line. Related to this, there is a custom called tunggu tubang from the word tunggu, meaning waiting or occupying and tubang, a segment of bamboo, dried and given a cover so its contents are not easily spilled. Tubang are always placed in the kitchen to store salty fish, terasi (shrimp powder), candleberry nuts and other ingredients. Since the tubang is always exposed to heat from the stove, it becomes stronger and stronger. Tubang are always identified with the home. Therefore, tunggu tubang means an attendant that is always in the home and continues to persevere despite many problems and difficulties. The tunggu tubang custom directs all the parents' inheritance to be given to the oldest daughter. Therefore there is no division of the inheritance amongst the children. Nonetheless, a daughter does not have absolute rights over this inheritance. She only has the right to tend, cultivate and collect the yield from the land, as well as possibly adding to it. The inheritance cannot be sold.
What are their beliefs?
The Semendo have been Muslims for generations. The teachings of Islam are firmly rooted and faithfully followed in their society but they are also tolerant of people of other religions and there have been no religious conflicts in this area. Places of worship, both large and small, as well as Islamic schools are seen everywhere. The Islamic schools have the specific purpose of teaching Semendo boys and girls to spread Islamic teachings in the area.
What are their needs?
The Semendo need technical improvements in farmland management. Some Semendo need more rice seed to plant all their fields. There are already a few large enterprises, such as coffee mills and a model fishery. These projects need to be supported and expanded much more in order to raise the peoples' standard of living.
Text source: Copyright © Indonesian Peoples Network, 2011. Used with permission.