The Mbojo, also known as the Bima or Dompu, live in the lowlands of the Bima and Dompu regencies in West Nusa Tenggara province. These regencies are located in eastern Sumbawa island.
Although this area has a long coast with many bays, most of the population does not make their living from the sea. In fact, most of their communities are built about 5 km from the coast. The northern part of the island is fertile, while the southern part is barren. The Mbojo are also called the Oma (“move”) because they often move from one place to another. The Bima language, sometimes called Nggahi Mbojo, has several dialects, including Bima, Bima Donggo and Sangeang.
What are their lives like?
The main livelihood of the Mbojo is farming in fields, but they also plant rice paddies using a special irrigation system called panggawa. They are well-known horse tenders as well. Bima women are usually skilled at making plaited mats from bamboo and palm leaves, as well as weaving a famous cloth known as tembenggoli. Many Mbojo live outside their home area.
The villages of the Mbojo are called kampo or kampe, and are led by a village leader (neuhi). The village leader is assisted by highly respected village elders. The position of village leader is passed down through the generations.
The Mbojo are not closed to outside influence. In the past they viewed education as a threat to their cultural traditions, but now they support it. They positively view outside influences in culture and technology. This may because many outsiders have moved into the Mbojo area.
In 1969, the Nangameru area in Dompu was established as a transmigration site. As a result many Javanese and others from heavily populated areas came as transmigrants. This created many misunderstandings between the original inhabitants and the transmigrants, and the social differences that developed have widened the great divide between them.
What are their beliefs?
Although most Mbojo are devout Muslims, they still believe in spirits and practice forms of animism. They ask for advice and help from healers, especially during times of difficulty and crisis.
The Mbojo are afraid of local gods like Batara Gangga (chief of the gods), Batara Guru, and Jeneng, as well as other spirit types called Bake and Jin, which live in trees and high mountains. They believe these spirits can bring sickness and disasters. They also believe in sacred trees in Kalate and Murmas, where the god Batara and the gods of Rinjani Mountain dwell.
In the 1930s, hundreds of Mbojo in the mountain areas around Dompu heard the gospel and received it. Today there are four villages in the mountains with a ‘Christian’ population of 90 percent, but they do not fully understand the gospel. They are very isolated and poor.
What are their needs?
Medical assistance is greatly needed, especially for the Mbojo who only make use of the healers. They also need agricultural training and farming equipment. Helping increase the people’s awareness of the benefits they could find in the ocean would help improve their economic state
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