The Minangkabau of Malaysia
The tribal name Minangkabau may be based on a myth that tells of the tribe's victory in a fight between two water buffaloes. As victors, the tribe became known as the Minang (winning) kabau (water buffalo).
A unique aspect of Minangkabau culture is that their society is matrilineal. This means that they recognize descent through the female line. They are, in fact, the largest people group in the world to continue this practice. The strength of their culture is that they have remained matrilineal while embracing Islam.
Their native language, Minangkabau, is distinct, yet related to the language of the Malay and similar to Indonesian.
What Are Their Lives Like? Over the years, the Minangkabau have migrated to cities and towns in pursuit of business or labor. Today, they are mainly occupied in business and trade, and are renowned among scholars and throughout Western Malaysia for their prominence in business. In fact, they are one of the few ethnic groups that can compete successfully with the Chinese.
The Minangkabau who live in villages have become highly skilled in several home industries. Their businesses include weaving, blacksmithing, and carving. Those who live scattered throughout the countryside are primarily wet rice farmers.
The Minangkabau are the world's largest matrilineal group. Properties and family names are passed down through the women. Marriages are usually arranged by a representative of the family. Young married couples usually live with the wife's mother or another of the wife's relatives. The woman is expected to manage both a career and the home. Land is owned collectively by the older women, but decisions regarding land usage are made by a consensus, with an elected male elder presiding. Many Minangkabau men leave home seeking wealth and respect. Perhaps this explains why divorce is a very common occurrence.
The Minangkabau possess a wide variety of cultural abilities. Worldwide attention has been given to their distinctive styles of art, music, architecture, poetry, and literature. They also enjoy times of celebration, such as holidays, Islamic pilgrimages, weddings, and house dedications.
What Are Their Beliefs?
It is very interesting that mythology concerning Minangkabau origin includes the story of a worldwide flood and three brothers who survived on a boat!
The Minangkabau take great pride in their ancestry, claiming to have descended from Alexander the Great. These gifted people have impacted Malaysia in areas of government, the arts, and various professions. Unfortunately, their success has given them a false sense of security, and they appear to have no need for the Gospel. However, changes in familial traditions and increased migration to the cities may provide inroads for the Gospel into this tightly knit group.
What Are Their Needs?
See also the following related group:
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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