Juni 06, 2014

Jambi’s Orang Rimba: Flower Scarcity Threatens Jungle Love

"Jambi’s Orang Rimba: Flower Scarcity Threatens Jungle Love", Jakarta Globe, 23 December 2009.

WHEN MEMBERS of the Orang Rimba tribe are struck by Cupid’s arrow, they must show their love with flowers, lots of flowers, given to the bride and her family as a sign of commitment. But flowers are growing scarce, threatening love itself.

“She was so beautiful, I was stunned when I first saw her,” said Tumenggung Tarib, a leader of the Air Panas area of Jambi, as he smiled at his wife of many years, Tijah, who blushed and tried to hide her face behind her husband’s back.

“I couldn’t sleep or eat after that day. I was convinced she should be my wife,” he said.

They were only 15 years old, though, and the road to “happily ever after” was anything but easy. Tijah is the daughter of a Tumenggung — the title bestowed upon group leaders — and in his younger days, before he became one himself, Tarib was a commoner considered unworthy of her hand.

“Her family, especially her father, rejected me at first. I had to struggle to win their heart,” Tarib said. He even asked the group’s shaman to use his supernatural powers to help win the family over.

“When he asked if he could marry me, all I asked for was that he provide me with food, especially fresh fish,” said Tijah.

The tribe lives by the Rimba River and their principal food is fish and meat from small animals that they hunt in the forest. The tribe is forbidden to consume livestock, which is why fish are so important.

But food is not enough. Under the tribe’s matrilineal system, Tarib had to prove to the bride’s family that he was a suitable husband. The custom, called semendo, requires grooms to work for the families of prospective brides. Even after extended service, if the family decides that he isn’t worthy, they can reject the marriage.

But Tarib passed the test after spending three years of semendo with the family.

“It was a really long wait, but really worth it,” he said. He gave the family 100 types of flowers and 60 clothes items, as requested by Tijah. The couple now have eight children and 39 grandchildren.

“She is my dearest,” Tarib said.

However, with rampant deforestation of the province, many rituals are under threat, including marriage ceremonies.

“We have an old saying, “Ado Rimbo ado bungo, ado bungo ado dewo’,” Tarib said, which means: When there’s forest, there are flowers. When there are flowers, there are Gods.

“We provide flowers so the Gods will come down from above and bless our ceremony,” he said. Without flowers, a marriage is considered outlawed.

“During my wedding, decades ago, the bride’s family required 100 types of flowers, and I could easily find them in the forest,” Tarib said. “It’s harder to find flowers in our forest today. A couple sometimes marries with only seven kinds of flowers.”[Dewi Kurniawati]

Source: Jakarta Globe.

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