“Makkareso” Enthusiasm of Bugis Merchant

This article is encouraging in the light of multiculturalism in West Papua

The burnt down of Hamadi Central Market in Jayapura city, Papua, in 2006, could not be easily erased from Daeng Said’s (51) memory. It destroyed his asset in value of IDR 1 billion, a result of 20 years struggle in Papua.

If I don’t remember that faith in this life has been written by God Almighty, I would have gotten stressed out and mad, said the man from Pangkep, South Sulawesi.

Born and brought up among Bugis tribe, Said holds true the principal of reso-pa temmangingi naletei pamase dewata sewa-E. It means success approved by God Almighty can only be reached through efforts, perseverance and hard work.

Through makkareso or work enthusiasm, Said rose up. The memory of his lost four shops in value of IDR 1 billion slowly disappeared. He saved every Rupiah to fill each shop lent by Jayapura local government in Entrop. While waiting for the completion of the burnt market, he asked Aco (19), his nephew from his village to help him with his business.

“I asked my jobless nephew to join me,” said Said, pointing towards a teenager who was busy serving customer at his shop.

Said is one of around 200 merchants at Hamadi Central Market in temporary settlement on the left side of Papua Trade Centre, Enrop. Majority of these South Sulawesi immigrants are known as merchants from Bugis-Makassar and Buton. In Jayapura, especially Entrop Market, Abepua Market, Sentani Market and Ampera Market, these three ethnicities known as BBM (Bugis-Buton-Makassar) are major players of economic activities. Recently, BBM’s involvement has reached almost all district in Papua. In the remote area of Papua difficult to reach by land transportation, you can easily find a Bugis merchant selling basic needs.

Other merchants came from Java, Madura and Minangkabau.

Head of South Sulawesi Brotherhood in Papua, Haji Syamsuddin Tumpa said the number of South Sulawesi origins in Papua is approximately 70,000 people. They are generally involved in goods and service trading. Some also works as fishermen and farmers.

“As the trade industry of goods and services gets better, those working as fisherman and farmer start to trade as a sideline,” said Syamsuddin.

He came to Jayapura in 1969. Initially, he lived as a stevedore. He then founded cargo ship expedition which employed 200 people of Papua.

History showed Bugis-Makassar people arrived in Papua since 1700 when these two biggest South Sulawesi ethnicities sailed Marege in search of sea cucumber in North Australia. During this voyage they stopped over and some were stranded in Papua. Anthropology lecturer from Cenderawasih University, Akhmad Kadir, in his book titled Amber and Komin, Study of Papua Economic Change (2005) stated the Bugis merchants uprising started in 1963. The arrival of Bugis merchants brought change in the economic order in Papua.

“Social interaction between Bugis people and Papuans changed the lifestyle and consumption pattern of Papuans, from hunters and gatherers to urban people dependent upon market commodity,” he said.

Mountain people walk towards the ocean following river stream to get market commodities such as rice, tobacco, salt, sugar and clothes. Furthermore, Papuans also trade the sago they produced with things sold by people from Tionghoa and Bugis. They finally use money as means of barter.


If history is true that social-economic interaction between Bugis-Makassar and Papuans started in 1967, then this economic transformation has been going on for the past 40 years. Despite facts showing Papuans are still using traditional trading method, the transformation still occurs albeit a slow one.

According to observation, very few Papuans own and run kiosk, shops or even service business. Female Papuan merchants known as “mama-mama” usually sit on the ground selling produce traditionally on the road or shop floors in Jayapura.
Actually, local Papuans were given the chance to trade in a kiosk or shop inside a market. A few years ago, following the growing social envy towards settlers, Jayapura government provided kiosks and shops for local Papuans in Abepura, Ampera and Entrop Market. However, they did not utilise this opportunity to grow their business. They chose the quick way to make money by selling their 2m x 2m kiosk, normally priced at IDR 400,000 – IDR 500,000, for only IDR 300,000.

“Ah, instead of tirelessly waiting for buyer in the kiosk all day, I prefer selling the kiosk,” said Natalia Womsiwor (37) who sells areca nut on Entrop Market floor. As aggressive merchants, Bugis people saw a golden opportunity. No wonder, Bugis merchant owns 2-4 kiosks on average.

Cultural roots

Lecturer from University of Cenderawasih, Johsz Mansoben, who is the first Papuan to have an anthropology doctoral degree, admitted the slow economic transformation of Papuans. “The ingrained subsystem cultural root makes it difficult for Papuans to adopt market economic model with clear and strict work division,” he said.

He explained, Papuans are influenced by the lifestyle of hunting, gathering and nomad living. These are totally different from market economic pattern with work distribution and clear role division. Some grow produce, others harvest and sell them to the market.

by Nasrullah Nara

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s