The Sasak of Indonesia
The Sasak have long been classified into two categories: the "Wetu Telu" (traditional Sasak), and the "Waktu Lima" (strongly Islamic Sasak). For many years, the island was divided into a number of warring Sasak princedoms. This eventually resulted in the Balinese conquest of Lombok, which reduced the Sasak to servitude.
In 1894, the Dutch landed in Lombok and liberated the Sasak from the Balinese. However, this caused the division between the Sasak natives to become even more pronounced. Dutch-appointed Sasak administrators were usually Waktu Lima, and this provoked the Wetu Telu.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Sasak are wet-rice farmers. They typically use plows drawn by water buffalo or oxen, and then harvest the crops by hand. Soybeans, maize, sweet potatoes, and coconuts are grown for subsistence; while rice, coffee, tobacco, peanuts, and onions are grown for sale.
A number of the Sasak work as petty traders. Small shops run by wandering peddlers are common in most villages. Part-time and seasonal specialists such as potters, basket makers, or blacksmiths can also be found working in most village markets.
Sasak villages range from several hundred to as many as 15,000 inhabitants. The marketplace and an Islamic mosque are usually located in the center of town. Clusters of homes commonly surround the main village road, and fields separate villages from each other. Houses typically have one or two rooms, thatched roofs, no windows, and are built on platforms of packed earth. Bamboo frames support walls of bamboo, earth, and woven grass or palm leaves. Modern houses are made of wood or concrete and have iron roofs. They usually contain several rooms and a few windows.
The social system of the Sasak is composed of three levels, with two levels for the aristocracy and one for commoners. Nobles and commoners often live in segregated neighborhoods.
While both men and women work as farm laborers, men are basically responsible for clearing the land, building and repairing irrigation works, guarding the crops, plowing, and building houses. Women prepare the food and tend to the household duties.
Most marriages are monogamous. The young people are free to choose their mates, and marriages between cousins are common.
Traditional arts include making musical instruments such as gongs, drums, and wooden xylophones. Dance dramas, shadow-puppet plays, and Islamic songs and dances are also cultural favorites.
What are their beliefs?
A small number of Sasak in isolated villages still embrace traditional ancestor cults. They celebrate "life crisis ceremonies" and agricultural feasts. Illnesses are often attributed to evil spirits, sorcery, or supernatural retaliation. However, such beliefs are less prevalent today than in the past, and are slowly being replaced by Islamic practices.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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