Tuesday, April 26, 2011

People: Javanese Community

The Orang Jawa ('people of Java', also known as 'Javanese' - Wong Jowo) migrated from Central Java, Indonesia, to Malaysia from 1600 to 1930. They migrated to seek a new life away from the Dutch colonists who ruled Indonesia during that time. 

The Javanese came in Peninsular Malaya since early times. Portuguese historian De Barros mentioned that there were 10,000 Javanese in Melaka in early 16th century. Among the first Javanese settlement in Melaka is Kampung Jawa. They were administered with autonomy under their chiefs. Their settlement contributed to the multi-ethnic nature of Melaka. Link between Java and Melaka was important during spread of Islam in Indonesia, when religious missionaries were sent from Melaka to seaports in northern coast of Java.

The migrants bring with them various aspect of Javanese cultures such as Gamelan music, traditional dances, foods, and art of Wayang kulit shadow play.

Today the Orang Jawa live throughout Peninsular Malaysia in parts of Perak, Selangor, Johor, Melaka and Kedah. There are also isolated communities in coastal areas of Sabah. Some Java have even gained influential positions in society.

The Java language is being spoken less and less among today's younger Orang Jawa. Most of them have either never learned it or cannot remember how to speak it like me.
In some Java traditional villages in Melaka such as Kampung Parit Gantong, Kampung Parit Penghulu, Kampung Parit Perawas and Kampung Parit Putat in Sungai Rambai, Paya Dalam,   Tambak Paya, the Orang Jawa maintain their identity and traditions. People from other Malay people groups who marry into an Orang Jawa family sometimes call themselves Orang Jawa, or Jawa Peranakan. Apart from growing their own vegetables and raising poultry, some villagers have also started their own tourism programs to promote the Javanese way of life like my village, Agrotourism Homestay Kampung Parit Penghulu.

The Orang Jawa are a very hospitable people and friendly, usually inviting visitors to share a meal with the family members. Families are often quite large, some having between 10 and 17 children. Marriages are grand affairs that sometimes last up to three days. The giving of love gifts to the newlyweds is common. Emphasis is placed on helping one another during weddings rather than receiving large sums of money. As the Orang Jawa have become more successful in life, their desire to recover their cultural Javanese roots has grown.

The Orang Jawa are predominantly Sunni Muslims. During weddings and circumcision rituals they perform the jedur (songs of praise to the prophet Mohammed) which is compiled in a book called Silawatan. They also perform the kempling (a type of dance giving praise to Allah) during religious occasions.

Arts and Performances


During the performance, they use a tool made from lamb's wool and wood. The Qur'an is read before and after the dance, and it takes a group of between ten to twenty people to perform it. The kempling performance is an opportunity for the Orang Jawa to get together to build ethnic solidarity and unity. It is also a time for discussing the challenges faced by the villages.

The Orang Jawa Melaka have a strong Islamic background. Pray that communication bridges into their culture could be used to meet the spiritual needs. Pray that the lives of committed believers will be a positive influence and could bring about good relationships with Orang Jawa people.

Kuda Kepang


Kampung Jawa

Java Lane, or Jalan Jawa, is a small lane on the northern bank of the Melaka River. It is located on the buffer zone of the Melaka UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is celebrated as a heritage lane due to its position as one of the earliest urban redevelopment schemes in the country. 

The lane can be accessed from the iron bridge across the Melaka River, or through its either ends that form a letter "C" that opens to Jalan Bunga Raya. Java Lane was built around 1880, in a project spearheaded by Tan Hoon Guan (1842-1912), a Melaka merchant, as an urban renewal effort. On both sides of Java Lane are residential houses and shophouses.

Java Lane is regarded as the first modern public housing scheme in Melaka, and quite likely, in the whole of Malaysia. Its construction introduced new sanitary as well as fire-prevention methods in town planning.

Before Java Lane was built, the area was already known as Campong Java. It was a Javanese settlement that had existed since the Dutch period. The settlers made a living out of fishing and trading. The Javanese had been in Melaka even earlier, since the Portuguese period, and possibly even before then. Until the Portuguese period, they had inhabited the site across the Melaka River, in the area where Bridge Street (Lorong Jambatan), Jalan Kampong Pantai and First Cross Street (Lorong Hang Jebat) are now located. However, they moved across the river during the Dutch period, possibly as their position in Melaka began to decline. Today the area between Melaka River and Java Lane is still regarded as Kampung Jawa.

By the late 1880's, the expanding population of Melaka resulted in the urbanization of Campong Java, with the construction of Java Lane and the building of brick houses to replace the traditional attap dwellings. 

While the new houses were considered vastly more comfortable, little is documented of the unheaval forced upon the inhabitants of the kampung. In the process, many village houses had to give way. Nevertheless, there are still a few Malay houses within the Java Lane area. They are now engulfed by the urban houses and shophouses that were built since the 1880's. The Madrasah Al-Hidayah stands on the site of an old Malay mosque.

Another wave of change swept the Javanese community of Java Lane in 1920, when the British authorities decided to built a new market there. The Javanese and Malays living there were relocated to a new village called Kampung Morten, name after the Land Commissioner at that time, J.F. Morten.


Some popular Javanese cuisine in Melaka are tempe, melinjau crackers, Nasi Ambeng, sambal lada hiris, sambal jawa, pecel, lepat, telur pindang and masak kicap.

Nasi Ambeng or Ambengan



Telur Pindang

Most of the Javanese food in Melaka are sweet and hot. The most famous food originated in Java is perhaps tempe, a meat substitute made from soy bean fermented with mold. It is a staple source of protein in Java and popular in the world as an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians.

Raw Tempe

Fried Tempe