Customs Begin with Nature

Several megalithic statues dating back more than 2,000 years were found in the Rampi subdistrict of South Sulawesi, evidence of the community’s early origins.

Megalithic stone resembling a women’s face found in Onondowa villge.

THE man saw a pair of hornsprotruding from the bushes. He positioned himself to throw his spear, startling the animal. It  tried to run but it was too late. The spear pierced the anoavon (dwarf buffalo) the hip. “We always hunt anoa after harvest time. We eat some of the meat and sell the rest to neighbors,” said Sera Kae, 29, a member of the Rampi tribe.

Sera is a resident of Onondowa village in North Luwu. He said the Rampi community grows crops once a year. The rest of year is spent hunting in the forest, as in the custom of the Rampi tribe. “The surplus from hunting or farming is allowed to be sold only to fellow residents and is forbidden to be sold outside the village,” Sera told Tempo.

The Rampi tribe is spread all over the Rampi subdistrict which has become part of the North Luwu regency in the South Sulawesi province. Muhammad Husni, head of Makassar’s Archeology Center, said that like the Toraja, Makassar and Bugis tribes, the Rampi tribe belongs to the Austronesian family, which has a strong cultural influence on Sulawesi island.

Karel S Narait, a public figure of the Rampi tribe said their tribe originated in the Kolembana hill from two male and female couples. Lembu, the first male, married a beautiful maided nemad Pempe. The other girl by the name of Teruna was married to the handsome and strong Buhu. Lembu and Pempe had a daughter named Moniwa. But Buhu lost his wife Teruna. He cut open her belly when she was pregnant thinking it was a disease. Later when  Moriwa grew up, Buhu asked for her hand in marriage.

Lebu and Pempe rejected the proposal at first, recalling the tragedy that befell Teruna. But Buhu promised not to repeat it again and also not to say the names of his in parents-in-law. In addition, he also paid a dowry in the form of a pair of male and female buffaloes. “Since then, every son and daughter-in law is forbidden to say the names of their parents-in-law,” Karel explained. The tradition is still observed including the obligation for men to pay dowry when  they marry.

Buhu and Moniwa had several children. Tandukalla became the first king of the Rampi tribe. The other children scattered across several places such as Tedeboe, Leboni, and Rato-three of the six villages in the Rampi subdisdrict. Rampi subdisdrict head Yan Imbo said around 3,000 people inhabited these villages. Their terrority, consisting of hills, forest and savanna, stretches across 58,000 hectares.

Karel said the main source of his tribe’s livelihood is agriculture, hunting anoa, deer, hog, wild fowl and collecting honey and other forest products. Their dependence on nature has been the basis for various rampi customary rules. “Living in an out of reach area, our ancestors created our own culture, customery rules, housing architecture, indigenous clothes, and the Rampi language,” Karel elaborated.

There is no information available on when the Rampi civilization came to exist. But from some megalithic statues that Tempo observed in Onondowa and Dodolo villages in North Luwu, it is assumed they were already there 2,000 years ago. “We estimate the statues in Central Sulawesi to be around 2,170 years old. Most likely, those in Rampi are about the same age, since they came from the same area,” said Husni from the Makassar Archeology Center.

Another researcher from that institution confirmed that the traits of a megalithic civilization were well organized settlements, the existence of tribal leaders, a culture of carving stone sculptures and hunting. (by Irmawati,  Majalah Tempo English Edition, February 20-26, 2012. Outreach)

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