(Two Baweanese sisters -Grand-aunt Hamsi and Grand-aunt Hannah in 1980s)
Few days ago, an undergraduate had asked me about the Bawean race for her research work. She wanted to know the general surface of this race and the reasons to the similarity in culture to that of the Malays. I had replied her and now I like to take the opportunity to write it in this post.
As written in my previous post, the Baweanese are not Malays. They are people originated from the Bawean Island situated in the Java Sea. This tiny Island belongs to the Republic of Indonesia and is also widely known as "Pulau Puteri" which literally means ''Island of the Woman'', referring the island belongs to the women. There are more women than men living in the island because most of the men have gone ''Merantau'', leaving their homeland in search of opportunities abroad.
Hence, the traditional homeland of Bawean descents from all over the world, wherever they are today -Malaysian Baweanese, Singaporean Baweanese, Australian Baweanese, etc., is Bawean Island. The forefathers of these Baweanese were immigrants in the country they are residing now. On the other hand, the Malays are the indigenous people of the Malay Peninsula and the Riau Lingga Archipelago.
The Malays speak Bahasa Melayu while the Baweanese especially the Bawean islanders converse among themselves in Bawean language. However today, among the Baweanese descents living outside Bawean Island especially in Singapore, this language is "dying". Generally, the descendants of the Bawean people in Singapore do not speak the Bawean language. The older ones are comfortable conversing in Bahasa Melayu while the younger ones are comfortable conversing in English language. This is because Bahasa Melayu is the National language of Singapore while English is the first language taught in schools as well as the language used commonly in the working sector.
In Singapore, the Baweanese live among the Malays in the Malay community due to the similarity in culture and having the same religion. Similarly, the Baweanese in Malaysia are part of the Malay community. Firstly, this is because they are from the same region –the Nusantara Region i.e. South-east Asia. Secondly, they are bound together by a common belief –i.e. Islam. Islam has provided a bond between the Baweanese and the Malays.
Islam has also bound up the other Muslims from different ethnic groups with the Malays. Hence in Singapore as well as in Malaysia, the Bugis from Celebes (Sulawesi), Achenese from Acheh (Sumatra), Minangkabaus from Padang (Sumatra), Javanese from Java, Banjarees from Banjarmasin, Baweanese from Bawean and the Malays shared a common belief and they live in the one big community that is, the Malay Community!