Who are the Mamuju?

The Mamuju live in West Sulawesi, on the coast and the mountain slopes of the Mamuju regency. They speak Mamuju, which includes four dialects: Mamuju, Sumare-Rangas, Padang, and Sinyonyoi. The capital of West Sulawesi is Mamuju. It is a quickly developing area that was previously isolated and somewhat politically and religiously sensitive.

What are their lives like?

The livelihoods of the Mamuju come primarily from farming and fishing. They plant and harvest copra (dried coconut meat) and chocolate. Along the coastal areas they grow tobacco, corn, and cassava. Mamuju farmers raise cattle, and their primary forest product is ebony wood. Other Mamuju work as tradesman, teachers, and nurses. The Mamuju home is simple, consisting of woven bamboo walls and a coconut leaf roof. It typically stands on a raised platform two meters off the ground.

They work together to help build each other’s houses, to prepare for community celebrations, and to dry coconut meat. They treat visitors as honored guests, though serious conflict will arise if they feel dishonored or shamed. Many women and girls will wear gold earrings in order to show that they are not poor.

Men and women do not gather together in groups, but remain separate. Even when fishing, the men will sail out to fish while the women stay on the shore.

The young people make their own choices as to whom they will marry. Women usually marry around 16-17 years old, while men usually marry around 18-20 years old. They like to have big families, typically having 5-6 children.

All Mamuju leaders are men. They have religious leaders as well as government officials who are appointed by the regency government. The religious leaders hold great sway with the people, while the government officials are effective only as far as the people believe them to be good leaders. Important meetings are typically held in the local mosque. They have many distinctive rules and regulations. For serious offenses, a person often has to give a cow to the offended party.

What are their beliefs?

Almost all Mamuju are Muslim. There is a mosque in every village. However, the influence of animism is still evident in their lives. They are afraid of the forest and believe that a particular bird sound is the sound of a ghost or evil spirit. They look to the local shaman to tell them the best time to do certain activities, such as when to harvest rice or when to get married.

What are their needs?

They need information about health and nutrition. Many Mamuju children are malnourished, and child mortality is high. Malaria is quite widespread in this area. The Mamuju have a positive attitude about education, but they lack the resources for continued schooling.

More effort is needed to increase production of their plantation products and to market them more effectively. These products have a relatively high market value. They are a source of revenue that is currently underdeveloped.

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