Bugis community



The Bugis were among the first groups of people to arrive in Singapore after the British established a trading settlement on the island in 1819. Many of the early Bugis settlers came as maritime traders and made significant contributions to the development of Singapore as a regional trading hub. People of Bugis ancestry who reside in Singapore today are regarded as part of the larger Malay/Muslim community. In 1990, the Bugis formed 0.4 percent of Singapore’s Malay/Muslim population.1

Historical background
The Bugis originally came from the southwestern peninsula of Celebes (now known as Sulawesi), an Indonesian island located between Borneo and the Moluccas (now known as the Maluku Islands). An important seafaring people in Southeast Asia, the Bugis are traditionally known for their fierce character and sense of honour. Like the Malays, the Bugis are Muslims, with Islam being an important part of their culture.2


Although Bugis merchants' activities in the Malay Archipelago were recorded as early as the 16th century, the Bugis were originally farmers and their involvement in maritime activities only gained momentum in the 18th century.3 This was in response to the Dutch capture of the port of Makassar, which cut the Bugis off from trade in the surrounding areas. The Bugis were thus forced to travel by sea to other parts of the Malay Archipelago, especially the coasts of Sumatra and Malaya, in search of trading opportunities.4

From the 18th century onwards, many Bugis settled in the Johor Sultanate, especially in Riau, which became an important port.5 In addition to trading activities, the Bugis became involved in the political intrigues of the region. At different points in time, they acted as mercenaries fighting for various Malay princes in the Johor Sultanate succession disputes. Some Bugis also married into the royal family of the Johor Sultanate and were able to gain control of the office of Yang Di-Pertuan Muda (junior king), a position that was subsequently passed down through the Bugis lineage.6

In 1784, the Dutch invaded Riau in an attempt to quash their trade competitors, the Bugis, who were driven out of the area.7 During the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the Dutch territories in Southeast Asia were temporarily handed over to the British to administer. This arrangement allowed the Bugis to resume their commercial activities in Riau. After the Dutch returned to the area in 1819, armed clashes broke out between the two trade rivals. As a result, a number of Bugis left Riau for Singapore, where they could trade more freely under the British.8

In February 1819, shortly after the arrival of the British, a group of 500 Bugis led by Chieftain Arong Bilawa arrived in Singapore,9 which then became the centre of Bugis trade in the western part of the Malay Archipelago. In 1824, a total of 90 Bugis ships were reported to have called at Singapore. The following year, the number of Bugis ships visiting the island had increased to 120.10

By 1824, there were some 1,851 Bugis in Singapore making up slightly more than 10 percent of the island’s population.11 The Bugis population in Singapore peaked at around 2,000 people in the 1830s when Bugis merchants had a virtual monopoly over trade with the eastern islands of the Malay Archipelago.12

Various factors led to the subsequent decline in the Bugis population in Singapore.13 In 1847, Makassar was converted to a free port. The lifting of trade restrictions and the growing dominance of Western ships and steamers in the Malay Archipelago increased competition for the Bugis traders operating out of Singapore. In the latter part of the 19th century, the role of the Bugis as maritime traders was reduced along with the local sea trade. The Bugis traders now complemented modern shipping lines by serving as a link to isolated areas that were often located in shallow waters.14 As a result of these structural changes in the regional sea trade, the Bugis lost their dominant maritime trading position and their numbers in Singapore declined accordingly. By 1860, there were only about 900 Bugis left on the island.15

Places
When the Bugis first arrived in Singapore, they established a settlement in an area that extended from Kampong Glam up to the Rochor River. This settlement became known as Bugis Town. By 1822, the area was comprised of large compounds that were owned by 20 prominent Bugis merchants and their followers. In 1823, the Bugis were asked to relocate their town to make way for an Arab kampong (“village” in Malay). A new Bugis Town was subsequently established at Kampong Rochor in what is today the area between Lavender Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station and the Crawford housing estate.16


Besides Bugis Town, there was also a sizable Bugis community that settled at Kampong Bugis along the estuaries of the Kallang and Rochor rivers. Other ethnic communities such as the Orang Laut (“sea people” in Malay), Baweanese and Palembang Malays also lived along the fringes of these two rivers.17

Although the original Bugis Town area is no longer a Bugis enclave, landmarks such as the Bugis Junction shopping mall, Bugis Street and Bugis MRT station serve as reminders of the area’s Bugis connection.

Trades
The Bugis, especially those from the Wajo tribe, were considered the leading traders in the region.18 The Bugis trading vessels typically left Sulawesi for Singapore in October each year to take advantage of the strong east winds.19 The vessels would carry items such as cotton fabrics, gold dust, nutmegs, camphor, frankincense and tortoise shell.20


The Bugis vessels would only sail back to Sulawesi from Singapore in December or January when the west winds had picked up.21 The Bugis traders would return to Sulawesi with goods such as opium, European and Indian cotton goods, iron and tobacco.22 In addition to material goods, the Bugis also traded in slaves from various parts of the Malay Archipelago such as the Lesser Sunda Islands, Buton, Mindanao, Sulu and northeast Borneo. Some Bugis merchants even subjected their fellow Bugis to the slave trade.23 Due to their dependence on maritime travel and trade, the Bugis were also involved in shipbuilding and repair.24

Personalities
Haji Ambo Sooloh (b. 1891–d. 1963), also known as Haji Embok Sulo, was a prominent Malay community leader, businessman and philanthropist of Bugis descent who is best remembered as one of the founders of the Malay newspaper, Utusan Melayu. Haji Ambo came from a wealthy Bugis merchant family who owned a fleet of ships that conducted regular trade between Singapore and the rest of the Malay Archipelago. He owned substantial property as well as pepper and gambier plantations in Borneo and Sumatra.25



Author
Stephanie Ho




References
1. Lily Zubaidah Rahim. (1998). The Singapore dilemma: the political and educational marginality of the Malay community. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 305.8992805957 LIL)
2. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, pp. 3–4. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
3. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL); Hamonic, G. (2000). The Bugis-Makassar merchant networks: The rise and fall of the principle of the freedom of the seas. In D. Lombard & J. Aubin (Eds.), Asian merchants and businessmen in the Indian Ocean and the China Sea (pp. 255–267). New York: Oxford University Press, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 382.095 ASI)
4. Curtin, P. D. (1984). Cross-cultural trade in world history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 163. (Call no.: RBUS 382.09 CUR)
5. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 306. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
6. Trocki, C. A. (2007). Prince of pirates: The Temenggongs and the development of Johor and Singapore 1784–1885. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 26–27. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 TRO)
7. Trocki, C. A. (2007). Prince of pirates: The Temenggongs and the development of Johor and Singapore 1784–1885. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 959.5103 TRO)
8. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 306. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
9. Elinah Abdullah. (2006). Malay/Muslim patterns of settlement and trends in the first 50 years. In K. K. Khoo, et al. (Eds.), Malay/Muslims in Singapore: selected readings in history, 1819–1965. Subang Jaya, Selangor: Pelanduk Publications, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 305.8992805957 MAL)
10. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 307. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
11. Marriott, H. (1991). The peoples of Singapore. In W. Makepeace, et al. (Eds.), One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 355. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE -[HIS])
12. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
13. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 37–38. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR)
14. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 313. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
15. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR)
16. Imran Tajudeen. Kampong Gelam, Rochor and Kallang – The old port town. In A. T. Lau, & B. Platzdasch (Eds.), Malay heritage of Singapore. Singapore: Suntree Media and Malay Heritage Foundation, p. 62. (Call no.: RSING 959.570049928 MAL -[HIS])
17. Imran Tajudeen. Kampong Gelam, Rochor and Kallang – The old port town. In A. T. Lau, & B. Platzdasch (Eds.), Malay heritage of Singapore. Singapore: Suntree Media and Malay Heritage Foundation, pp. 66–67. (Call no.: RSING 959.570049928 MAL -[HIS])
18. Elinah Abdullah. (2006). Malay/Muslim patterns of settlement and trends in the first 50 years. In K. K. Khoo, et al. (Eds.), Malay/Muslims in Singapore: selected readings in history, 1819–1965. Subang Jaya, Selangor: Pelanduk Publications, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 305.8992805957 MAL)
19. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 312. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
20. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, pp. 307–308. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
21. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 312. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
22. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, p. 308. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
23. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. United Kingdom: Blackwell, pp. 308–309. (Call no.: RSING 959.84 PEL)
24. Imran Tajudeen. Kampong Gelam, Rochor and Kallang – The old port town. In A. T. Lau, & B. Platzdasch (Eds.), Malay heritage of Singapore. Singapore: Suntree Media and Malay Heritage Foundation, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 959.570049928 MAL -[HIS])
25. Roff, W. R. (2009). Studies on Islam and society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 297.0959 ROF)





The information in this article is valid as at 12 August 2013 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
Clans--Singapore
Ethnic groups
Social groups
Bugis

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