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Expedition within the Framework of the “Ijma‘=Concord” project (Sumatra Island, Indonesia)

21.05.2013


   
   

An expedition journey, which was made as part of the “Ijma‘=Concord” project (headed by Dr Prof Efim Rezvan), took place from April 28 to May 14, 2013. Its target was the island of Sumatra (Indonesia). The itinerary of the journey was as follows: Padang — Ulakan — Pariaman — Lake Maninjau — Koto Gadang — Annai Valley — Bukittinggi — Kota Baru — Pandai Sikek — Padang Panjang — Padang — Palembang — Kemaro Island.

The principal task of the expedition part of the “Ijma‘=Concord” project is the collection of materials that deal with the life of Muslim communities that employ various communicative strategies (interaction — isolationism) under conditions of active coexistence in polyethnic and multidenominational environment. The work in Sumatra continued the study of syncretism in Islam, which was first initiated during the expeditions to Southeastern regions of Ethiopia, Eastern Turkestan and Tibetan areas (2008), to India (Kerala, Tamil Nadu), Sri Lanka, the Maldives  and Kazakhstan (2010, 2011). There are also other tasks of the expeditions, which by no means are less significant in scope – the collection of video and photographic material for publishing endeavors and exhibition projects, the acquisition of new ethnographic collections, the establishment of partnership relationships with colleagues from profile scientific centers.

The object of the field research on the island of Sumatra was the study of cultural and religious traditions of Minangkabau people that combine adherence to Sunni Islam (the Shafi'i madhhab) with traditional way of life, in the very foundation of which are elements of matriarchy (for instance, up to this day the right to own the land and house is passed on only down female line).

According to legend, the Minangkabau, who in reality came to Sumatra from the Malay Peninsula between the first and second millennia BCE, in their origins go back to Alexander the Great (Dhul-Qarnayn — “the Two-Horned One” in Islamic tradition). Traditionally they explain the origin of the ethnonym with a legend, according to which the battle against the Javanese army was preceded by a two-bull fight, which was agreed upon by both parties involved. The Javanese put forward a huge bull while the Minangkabau did a hungry bull calf with the sharpest metallic tips on the horns. It charged ahead looking for an udder and tore the belly of its opponent. “Minangkabau!” (“The bull won!”) — the victors shouted. Up to now  images of bull horns prevail in the traditional architecture and clothing of the Minangkabau people.

The Museum collections preserve the photographs that portray representatives of this people. The photographs were given to the museum by Admiral Konstantin Nikolayevich Possiet (or Constantin Possiet de Rossier, 1819—1899), a member of the famous voyage on the frigate “Pallada”, the flagship of Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin during his historic visit to Japan in 1853. Ivan Goncharov, the mission secretary, wrote a travelogue “The Frigate Pallada” (“The Frigate Pallas”), published in 1858 (“Pallada” is the Russian spelling of “Pallas”). The book made up a separate chapter in the history of Russian literature, changing fates of numerous Russian youngsters who became navy officers, travelers and explores.

The MAE also contains ethnographic collections that relate to the culture of the Minangkabau people. A significant contribution into the study of the way of life and traditions of Minangkabau was made by Dr Yuri Maretin (1931—1990), who worked in the Museum for many years and published a number of works on the topic.

Over the course of the expedition we particularly managed to visit the mausoleum of Sheikh Burhan al-Din (1649—1692), a Sufi zealot, who belonged to the Shatariyya brotherhood and is credited with converting the Minangkabau to Islam. In accordance with the popular tradition seven pilgrimages to his mausoleum in the month of Safar equates with the Hajj in its significance. Undeniably, of much interest are mourning ceremonies (Ta'zieh) of the Day of Ashura, dedicated to the memory of Imam Husayn, which are widely held among the Minangkabau Sunni. Rituals, Shiite in origin, were registered in the coastal cities of Pariaman (Western Sumatra), Bengkulu (Southern Sumatra) and Sumbawa (to the west of Bali), and they match the sites where medieval trading stations of Persian merchants were located.

Clothing and valuable photographic illustrative collections were studied in the course of work in the Center of Documentation of the Minangkabau in the city of Padang Panjang.

The meeting with Professor Makmur Syarif, the rector of the State Institute of Islamic Studies Imam Bonjol in Padang, displayed a common interest in developing scientific exchanges between Russia and Indonesia.

While on the island of Kemaro we managed to visit the Chinese ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio (a joss house (vihara) with three graves and Chinese inscriptions on the altar that says “fu de zheng shen” — “the true spirit of good works”, a pagoda and a statue of Buddha with a gold bar in his hand), revered by Chinese population as well as Muslims. Speaking officially, the origin of the complex is connected to the legend of a Chinese Buddhist merchant named Tan Bun Ann, who came from Palembang for commercial purposes. The merchant fell in love with a Muslim beauty named Siti Fatima, took her as his wife and took her to his motherland. He was supposed to come back in order to give her parents seven (or nine) jugs filled gold. The couple set sail. On the Musi River, not far from Palembang, the merchant decided to check on his goods, but only jugs with vegetables were found. Burning with anger he began throwing them overboard, but the last jug broke. It turned out that the gold was hidden from pirates within vegetables. So the merchant plunged into water after the gold and died. His young wife and his bodyguard followed after him, too. An island was deposited where they perished, and then a temple was erected.

Local Muslim community shares a different version of the legend, which dates back to the mid-17th century. It speaks of the graves of Muslim heroes on the Kemaro Island; the graves were directed toward Mecca. (25 of such pilgrimage shrines are registered in the vicinity of Palembang.) In accordance with this version of the legend, Siti Fatima refused the Chinese merchant and hid herself on the island of Kemaro. There are some reports concerning a mass execution that took place on the Kemaro Island in the early 1960s, which coincided with the period of abrupt strengthening of relationships between Indonesia and the PRC. The reports also speak of the construction of a Chinese religious complex on the site where Muslim graves were; the complex was renovated in 1982. We witnessed a Muslim prayer in front of the graves in the joss house.

Howbeit, the story lines of both legends have a symbolic meaning and are linked to the medieval as well as modern history of South Sumatra and its role in the international commerce. South Sumatra and Palembang, which was of great importance on the coast of the Strait of Malacca, a strategic road connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans, for many years were affiliated with Buddhist states. Along with Muslim merchants primarily from Gujarat and Yemen, Islam came through in the 13th century. And by the end of the 15th century it became the dominant religion of the Sultanate of Aceh. The “Al-Munawwarah” quarter in Palembang, traditionally populated by those of Hadhramaut origins, is a living testimony to centuries-old relations between Palembang and South Arabia.
Dr. Azim Amin, one of the most respected members of the Muslim community of Palembang, introduced us to his small – but very interesting – collection of Arabic manuscripts, made up of works written by members of his lineage that goes back to the 17thcentury and is closely related to the island of Kemaro.

We are sincerely grateful to Dr. Wan Jamaluddin and Prof. Dr. Duski Samad for organizational and informational support, and Mr. Zulfis Sikumbang, Mrs. Susi Herti Afriani, Dr Muhammad Nuval, Dr Azim Amin for partially escorting us along the route. We owe much gratitude to Dr Igor Alimov for his assistance in reading Chinese inscriptions discovered on the island of Kemaro. Great help in planning and organizing the trip was given by Anna Lalayan and Anastasia Savko (Moscow). The expedition was made possible thanks to funds provided by friends of the “Ijma‘=Concord” project.

Photographs:


 
 
 
The Frigate “Pallada”
  Admiral Konstantin Nikolayevich Possiet (or Constantin Possiet de Rossier, 1819—1899)   A Minangkabau woman in traditional attire. Gift of Admiral Konstantin  N. Possiet. The MAE RAS, No. 525-33.
  A Minangkabau by a traditional dwelling. Rice storages on the forefront. Gift of Admiral K.N. Possiet. The MAE RAS, No. 525-28.
             

 
 
 
The mausoleum of Sheikh Burhan al-Din. General view. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  People praying at the inner entrance to the mausoleum of Sheikh Burhan al-Din. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  The grave of Sheikh Burhan al-Din and his disciples. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013.
  Gigantic shells for gathering rainwater in the mausoleum of Sheikh Burhan al-Din. According to traditional views, if rice fields are sprinkled with this water the crops will be guarded against possible vermin. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013.
             

 
 
 

The advertisement of “Apache” cigarettes, the sponsor of events related to the pilgrimage to the grave of Sheikh Burhan al-Din. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013

  A woman selling food for pilgrims visiting the grave of Sheikh Burhan al-Din. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Beads on the stand with goods for pilgrims visiting the grave of the Sheikh Burhan al-Din. Minangkabau, Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  The statue of Al-Buraq, an extraterrestrial intelligent creature that, according to legends, carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and then ascended to heaven. Pariaman. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
Collecting offering for the remodeling of the mosque by the improvised bar on the highway near Pariaman, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Finished mosque domes are set out for sale on the side of the road near Padang. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  99 names of Allah on the street of Padang Panjang. Minangkabau, Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A student from the school for girls. Minangkabau, Koto Gadang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A boy at the door of a house. Minangkabau, Koto Gadang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A jeweler’s mother with her grandson. Minangkabau, Koto Gadang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  An elderly resident of Padang Panjang. Minangkabau, Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A street musician. Minangkabau, Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A young artist designs the façade of a traditional house. Minangkabau, Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A girl displays elements of traditional women’s dress. Minangkabau, Koto Gadang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A weaver’s loom. Minangkabau, Koto Gadang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Girls in traditional wedding dresses in the windows of the Center of Documentation of the Minangkabau. Minangkabau, Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A bride’s headdress. The Center of Documentation of the Minangkabau. Padang Panjang, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Work at rice fields. Minangkabau, the road to Ulakan, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Rice drying. Minangkabau, Pandai Sikek, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013    
  Terraces of rice fields by Lake Maninjau. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
Collecting fish after the temporary pond drainage. Minangkabau, Pandai Sikek, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Fish farming at Lake Maninjau. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A traditional fishing boat. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Fishing at night using light. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A fisherman taking fish to be sold. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013   A traditional Bika cake on a banana leaf – made of rice and shredded coconut. Near Bukittinggi. Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A traditional table. All dishes are served simultaneously. Minangkabau, Pandai Sikek, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  In a women’s clothing store. Minangkabau, Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A traditional dwelling. Minangkabau, near Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013

  Elements of traditional façade design. Minangkabau, near Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A wicket side wall of a traditional dwelling. Minangkabau, near Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A house in the Dutch quarter of Colonial times. Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013

             

 
 
 
Mr. Zulfis Sikumbang, Minangkabau, West Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  The head of the expedition Efim Rezvan, the Rector of the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Padang Prof. Dr. H. Makmur Syarif (on the left) and Prof. Dr. H. Awis Karni. West Sumatra. The expedition of Efim Rezvan, 2013
  On the way to the island of Kemaro with Indonesian colleagues (Dr Muhammad Nuval, Dr Azim Amin, Mrs Susi Herti Afriani). The Musi River near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. The expedition of Eашь Rezvan, 2013
  Cargo boats on the Musi River near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
Pile dwellings on the Musi River near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013   Traditional boats on the Musi River near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  In the port on the Musi River near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013

  A general view of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
Official version of the legend of Kemaro Island. The island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A guard at the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Entrance to the joss house (vihara) of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A pagoda – a part of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
A statue of Buddha – a part of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  The graves of the legend’s heroes at the joss house of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rioon the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  A Muslim prayer before the graves of the legend’s heroes at the joss house of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  Buddhist candles at the joss house of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

 
 
 
Children at the foot of the pagoda, which makes up a part of the ritual complex of Hok Tjing Rio on the island of Kemaro near Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013   Dr. Azim Amin speaks of his lineage. Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
  One of Arabic manuscripts from the family collection of Dr. Azim Amin. Palembang. Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013   In the “Al-Munawwarah” quarter, traditionally populated by those of Hadhramaut origins. Palembang, Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013
             

           
The wall of an old Dutch fort. Palembang, Southern Sumatra. Photographed by Efim Rezvan, 2013