This is a guest post by Kaja Dutka. All photos are also by Kaja.

Two years ago I got an opportunity to study in Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra. Many people associate Indonesia with Bali and Java islands – the most touristic places in Indonesia.

In fact Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands in total. Fewer people get the opportunity to discover the beauty and cultural diversity of Sumatra.

Indonesia’s population is very diverse. One of the main ethnic groups in Sumatra is Minangkabau – the largest matrilineal society in the world, and probably the only one with patriarchal Islam as the central religion.

Khatam Al Qur’an: Koran reading ceremony in West Sumatra

However, in Minangkabau we can still find many traces from local beliefs, and the Baralek Kawin (Wedding Ceremony) is an example of collaboration between Islam and local beliefs. The wedding party is held according to the adat (local tradition), but includes some Islamic rituals.

The party takes place after coming back from the Mosque, where the agreement concerning marriage is concluded between the groom and the father of the bride. However during the wedding party it is the bride and her matrilineal uncle, who are in the centre of the whole ceremony.

Minangkabau wedding

The remains of animism can be found almost in every area of life. It is common for Minangkabau to regularly visit a dukun (shaman). It’s common to see shamans on the streets selling some supernatural medicines or other items.

Roadside shaman

Many cultural and religious ceremonies and events are celebrated here. The most interesting in the Minangkabau calendar are Tabuik – local celebration of the Mourning of Muhharam; Makan Bajamba (Eating Together) – the anniversary of Sawahlunto Town; Khatam Al Qur’an – the ceremony of finishing reading Al Qur’an by teenagers, and already mentioned Baralek Kawin – wedding ceremony.

Celebrating Tabuik

If you visit West Sumatra you will find not only an unusual culture but also spectacular landscapes. The most interesting sites are Singakarak and Maninjau Lakes, the town of Batusangkar and Payakumbuh.

Read more:
Indonesian blogs on Blogs of the World
An Indonesian wedding with a difference
The best of Thailand at Pattaya floating market

About the author

Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.