The Baweanese (Boyanese)



The Baweanese are a significant community among the Malays of Singapore.1 They were originally from Pulau Bawean (Bawean Island) in East Java, and migrated to Singapore from the early 19th century. In the early days, many of them found jobs as drivers and horse trainers. They lived in communal houses called pondoks. Today, many Baweanese still maintain ties with their relatives in Pulau Bawean, though most of the younger generation have not visited the island.

Origins
The Baweanese were originally from Bawean Island, which is situated 120 km north of Surabaya, capital of East Java.2 Merantau (migration) is an important part of Baweanese culture, a tradition where men leave their home to earn money and then return to their homeland.3 Due to this, Bawean Island is sometimes called Pulau Putri (island of women) to denote the predominance of women.4

The word “Boyan” is a misnomer. It was derived from a mispronunciation of “Bawean” by European colonials and has since remained. The islanders of Bawean call themselves Orang Bawean or Orang Babian, but in the areas where they have migrated to, including Singapore, they refer to themselves (or are referred to) as Orang Boyan.5

Migration
The founding of Singapore as a British trading post in 1819 attracted many migrants from the region. Relative to other ethnic groups from the Archipelago such as the Bugis and Javanese, the Baweanese came to Singapore a little later and in smaller numbers.6


Historically, the Baweanese were sea traders, sailing their small crafts to Borneo, Celebes, Madura and Java to barter. The Bawean men also embodied the merantau culture early in life.7 It was said that early Bawean seafarers who joined forces with the Bugis of the Celebes had visited Singapore during the early days of British rule. Upon returning, they impressed their fellow Baweanese with tales of Singapore’s prosperity, hence making the British settlement another destination for the adventurous Baweanese.8

There is no record of the first arrivals of the Baweanese in Singapore.9 They were officially recorded in Singapore’s population census in 1849. However, it is highly probable that they had come as early as 1828 and could have been included in the category “Bugis, Balinese, etc.” in the census that year.10

There was a tremendous increase in the Baweanese population in Singapore between 1901 and 1911, due to the imposition of individual assessment by the Dutch on their territories around 1900. This meant that in addition to paying rent for the land, Dutch subjects had to pay tax based on the number of persons living on the land.11 To avoid this, many Indonesians moved to other areas, including the Baweanese who flocked to nearby Singapore.12

During the Japanese Occupation, many more Baweanese came to Singapore to avoid starvation from the famine in Bawean. After World War II, the flow of Baweanese into Singapore dwindled after immigration regulations in Singapore and Malaya were tightened. They migrated to other Indonesian islands such as Tanjong Pinang and Riau.13

The Baweanese initially came to Singapore by sailing ships. With the advent of steamers towards the end of the 19th century, the rate of Baweanese arrivals intensified. Two shipping companies provided regular services between Bawean and Singapore: Dutch Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij and Heap Eng Moh Shipping Company of Singapore. Both companies made handsome profits by ferrying these migrants. Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij had a direct service from Singapore to Bawean until it was disrupted by World War II and later the Indonesian revolution. The vacuum left by the Dutch shipping firm was filled by sailing ships of the Madurese and Bugis.14

Singapore also attracted the Baweanese through its pilgrimage activities, as the advent of steamships had made it the launching pad for the Hajj journey to Mecca. Being devout Muslims and emboldened by the Baweanese merantau trait, the Baweanese came to Singapore by steamers to find work, so that they could save up and begin the Hajj journey from Singapore. This was also true of many Javanese. Some never made the Hajj journey and stayed on permanently.15 For those who did, many stopped in Singapore to work when they were on their way back from Mecca, so as to pay for their homeward journey. Many also pledged their labour to Singapore plantation owners in return for their debts to the shipmaster.16

Economic activities
When the Baweanese came to Singapore during the mid-19th century, European estates were facing a labour shortage. The Europeans relied on the Javanese and Baweanese for labour, as other races in Singapore were not inclined to be employed by them.17


In 1842, the Europeans employed many Baweanese for the construction of a racecourse in Singapore. Subsequently, many Baweanese found work as horse trainers at the old racecourse. The Baweanese were also largely employed as gharry drivers, having worked and become good with horses back home.18 When the age of motorcars swept across Singapore towards the end of the 19th century, the Baweanese switched to become drivers for tuans and mems (in reference to colonial masters and mistresses).19 Another sub-group of the Baweanese, the Daun, was employed by the authorities of the Singapore port which supplied fresh water to ships in the Singapore Harbour. The Baweanese also held jobs such as bullock-cart drivers and gardeners.20

Settlement
Until 1942 when Singapore fell to the Japanese, the present Kampong Kapor was known to the Malays as Kampong Boyan. Many Baweanese who migrated to Singapore between the 1840s and 1950s settled there. The Baweanese were a tight-knit community and many lived in pondoks or ponthuks (lodging houses), which were headed by the pak lurah (headman).21 As the Baweanese were also seamen who were away for months, the pak lurah would take care of the sailors’ belongings and family members during their absence.22

The ponduk was more than a communal dwelling space for the Baweanese.23 It was a social institution that took care of newly arrived Baweanese who needed support to settle in and cope with living in a foreign land.24 The last ponduk in Singapore was cleared in 2000 and the building was marked as a historic site.25

Modern-day Baweanese
Many Baweanese in Singapore are still in contact with their relatives on Bawean Island, but most of the younger generation have never set foot there.26 With money and goods sent back to the island, the Baweanese in Singapore (and Malaysia) have been an important source of income and wealth for the native islanders.27

The Baweanese in Singapore have assimilated and intermarried with the Malay population in the country and many regard themselves as Malays. Prominent Baweanese Singaporeans include Ridzwan Dzafir, former director-general of the Singapore Trade Development Board (now known as International Enterprise Singapore), and Hawazi Daipi, former member of parliament for the Sembawang Group Representation Constituency.28



Authors
Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman & Marsita Omar



References
1. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
2. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 1. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
3. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
4. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 1. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
5. Mansor bin Haji Fadzal. (1964). My Baweanese people. Intisari, II(4), 11-14 (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5005 INT); Koentjaraningrat. (1972). Bawean islanders. In F. M. LeBar (Ed.), Ethnic groups of insular Southeast Asia (Vol. 1). New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press, p. 59. (Call no.: RSEA 301.20959 ETH)
6. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 23, 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Vredenbregt, J. (1990). Bawean dan Islam (A. B. Lapian, Trans.). Jakarta: INIS, pp. 85–98. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 305.89922 VRE)
8. Mansor bin Haji Fadzal. (1964). My Baweanese people. IntisariII(4), 11-14, (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5005 INT)
9. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 6. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
10. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddel, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 357–360. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
11. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, pp. 5–6. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
12. Vredenbregt, J. (1990). Bawean dan Islam (A. B. Lapian, Trans.). Jakarta: INIS, pp. 85–98. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 305.89922 VRE)
13. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
14. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 6. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
15. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 5. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
16. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 23, 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
17. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 23, 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
18. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
19. Sundusia Rosdi. (2015). Masyarakat Bawean Singapura: La-A-Ob. Singapore: Persatuan Bawean Singapura, p. 5. (Call no.: Malay RSING 305.8009598 MAS)
20. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 23, 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
21. Siti Andriannie. (2000, January 31). Singapore’s last pondok named a historic site. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
22. Siti Andriannie. (2000, January 31). Singapore’s last pondok named a historic site. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Siti Andriannie. (2000, January 31). Singapore’s last pondok named a historic site. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Mansor bin Haji Fadzal. (1964). My Baweanese people. IntisariII(4), 11-14,. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5005 INT)
25. Siti Andriannie. (2000, January 31). Singapore’s last pondok named a historic site. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1999, February 25). Keeping an ethnic heritage aliveThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Mansor bin Haji Fadzal. (1964). My Baweanese people. IntisariII(4), 11-14,. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5005 INT)
28. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1999, February 25). Keeping an ethnic heritage aliveThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Roksana Bibi Abdullah. (2006). Pengalihan bahasa di kalangan masyarakat Bawean di Singapura: Sebab dan akibat. In Paitoon M. Chaiyanara, et al. (Eds.), Bahasa: Memeluk akar menyuluh ke langit. Singapore: Jabatan Bahasa dan Budaya Melayu, Institut Pendidikan Nasional, Universiti Teknologi Nanyang.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 499.2809 BAH)

Pok, Y. M., & Yam, D. (Directors). (2000). Baweanese (Bawean) [Documentary series epsiode]. In S. Choy (Producer), Semarak budaya. 4, antara kita. Singapore: MediaCorp TV12 Singapore.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 305.89928 SEM)

Wahida Wahid (Director). (1998). Anak Bawean [Documentary series epsiode]. In Mohd Yusoff Ahmad (Executive producer), Wajah pendatang. Singapore: MediaCorp TV12 Singapore.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 959.57 WAJ-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Boyanese (Indonesian people)--Singapore
Ethnic Communities
Heritage and Culture
People and communities