The Kerinchi of Indonesia
Some studies have linked the Kerinchi with the Minangkabau of western Sumatra, but they actually appear to be more closely associated with the Rejang. The Kerinchi have managed to survive as a separate people, while becoming enriched by the coastal cultures.
Today, the isolation of the Kerinchi is being lessened by government-sponsored mass relocations of Javanese, Sudanese, and Balinese. Many of these have been brought into the area to work on plantation projects. In addition, a world-class national park is being developed to preserve the rain forest, plants, and animals of the region. Consequently, even more outsiders will be drawn to the remote area of the Kerinchi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Today, the Kerinchi population is composed of farmers, craftsmen, tailors, coffee-shop owners, plantation workers, and bus drivers. Rice is the main staple of their diet, coupled with fish, vegetables, and poultry. Most cooking is done on the ground, using wood for fuel. The people usually boil their water before drinking it.
Traditional Kerinchi houses are usually very similar to other Southeast Asian "long-houses." Extended families live together under one roof, but with separate family apartments. However, Kerinchi homes are unique in that they lack any public passageway to join the apartments. The central room belongs to the oldest female of the family. Kerinchi social structure is primarily matriarchal (female-dominated). This is a very unusual feature for a Muslim group. Within society, there are various levels of relationships. The smallest unit is the sapiyau, which consists of a mother and her children. Two or more sapiyau from the same grandmother form a sapintu, and other groupings follow. In marriage, no bride-price is paid. The husband becomes attached to, though never part of, his wife's family. When children are born, daughters are preferred to sons. A woman's brother transmits a title of rank to her sons, but actual property in land and houses is passed down from a mother to her daughters. This is called "lineage property." The actual managers of the property are the nine-mama ("mature uncles").
The Kerinchi place great emphasis on community rule through female clans. Their unwritten common law and tradition is called adat. Once boys reach puberty, they are no longer allowed to sleep in the family house. They move to the local prayer houses, where itinerant Muslim clerics teach them. Young men are expected to leave their villages in search of fame and fortune. This act is known as merantau.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Kerinchi society has a long-standing tradition of resisting change, holding firmly to village opinions. Christianity is perceived as being a Western religion, with Jesus being respected as no more than a prophet.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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