The Pasemah of Indonesia
The Pasemah were probably a people of coastal Borneo who later expanded to Sumatra and the Pasemah peninsula as a result of their trading and seafaring way of life. Their culture has been strongly influenced by people groups such as the Siamese, the Javanese, and the Sumatrans.
The Bukit Barisan Mountain Range is central to the historical and cultural development of the Pasemah. This area is the source of large, sluggish rivers that flow through highland plateaus. Eventually, these rivers drop onto the lowland plains, coastal marshes, and finally into the Bangka Straits on the east and the Indian Ocean on the west.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Farming is the primary occupation of the Pasemah, with about 80% of all employment being in agriculture. Rice, rubber, and coffee are the main crops. Wet-rice plots are worked by hoeing, or by plowing with oxen or water buffalo. Planting is carried out by groups of five to ten people who work either for wages or as part of a rotating work group. Harvesting is either done by the extended family members or by hired work groups that contain both men and women.
The diet of the Pasemah consists mainly of rice, along with corn, yams, legumes, sweet potatoes, and fish. Bananas are eaten year-round, together with seasonal fruits and peanuts. Chicken and goat are only eaten on special occasions. Water is plentiful for both drinking and agricultural purposes, since there is no real dry season in the region. However, since water from the rivers and wells is often polluted, it is not fit for drinking without first being boiled.
Family relationships, particularly between parents and their children, are very strong, The typical household consists of the husband, the wife, and their children. Children are cared for by both parents. The basic family doctrine is: "Gather together, whether we eat or starve."
Marriages have traditionally been arranged by the parents. Sons or daughters remaining in the household after marriage assume the responsibilities of caring for younger siblings, preserving family land or other wealth, and contributing to ritual feasts. Children who marry out of the family lineage break these ties of household responsibility.
Women wear Malay-style cotton sarongs (brightly colored skirts that are wrapped about the waist) with long-sleeved cotton blouses. They also wear jackets, scarves, and skirts over trousers; they do not wear veils. Men wear Western style cotton shirts and slacks.
What Are Their Beliefs?
In rural areas, the Pasemah have preserved some of their pre-Islamic beliefs in spirits of the soil and of the jungle. Traditional medicines are still widely used, and occult healers are frequently consulted for physical and spiritual ailments.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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