Responsable: Véronique Degroot

École française d'Extrême-Orient
Jl. Ampera III no.26
Jakarta Selatan 12550
Tel/fax +62 21 781 14 76
+62 21 781 47 85 veronique.degroot@efeo.net

Conference : The Bajo maritime diaspora in Indonesia : what language tells us about history
16 MAY 17
Philippe Grangé, Université de La Rochelle
(France) pgrange@univ-lr.frWedenesday 17 May, 17.30Auditorium IFI, Jl Thamrin No 20
The Bajo (Sama-Bajau) people are nowadays
dispersed in dozens of villages on the coast of eastern Indonesia, southern
Philippines (Sulu archipelago) and Sabah (Malaysia) . The Sama-Bajau language
family, which includes about ten languages, clearly shows that the Sama-Bajau
communities, scattered thousands of nautical miles away from each other, all
come from one and only place of origin. The migration of the Sama-Bajau began
well before the colonial period and took place in stages. Moreover, some groups
became “sea nomads”, a romantic label that is sometimes mistakenly attributed
to all Sama-Bajau communities.
The memory of the Sama-Bajau's original
territory has been totally forgotten during these long voyages, thus these
migrations path should be considered more like a moving and dynamic network
than a one-way route. The Sama-Bajau oral tradition evokes various territories
of origin, notably in Peninsular Malaysia, but there is no scientific argument
to support these mythological accounts. These myths of the Sama-Bajau origins
have, however, one motive in common: exile, banishment, that is, being ousted and
driven from a territory.
The question of their origin intrigues and
fascinates the Sama-Bajau themselves: unlike other peoples oriented towards
maritime activities, and great navigators like the Bugis, the Sama-Bajau can
not refer to any territory of origin, not even to a city or a symbolic
monument. Since their ongoing diaspora did not leave any historical documents
or archaeological evidence, only linguistics and genetics can contribute to
tracing this migration, back to their territory of origin.
In this conference, I will discuss data from
linguistics and genomics (through joint research with geneticists from the
University of Toulouse and Eijkmann Institute in Jakarta). The large number of
Malay words in Sama-Bajau languages proves that they were in contact with the
Malays (the Srividjaya empire, probably) before dispersing. Only the Bajos of
Indonesia borrowed Bugis words, along with some South Celebes traditions. For
their part, the Sama-Bajau languages of the Philippines retain no trace of
Bugis language, but have exchanged many words with Tausug (a displaced language
from Mindanao). This shows that the second phase of the diaspora occurred not
in a linear way, but from two separate foci: South Sulawesi → Makassar Strait,
East Indonesia, to Moluccas and Timor; and another focus from Archipelago Sulu
→ North Celebes, Sabah and North Kalimantan. The results of recent genomic
studies show a very long cohabitation of Indonesian Bajos a with the Bugis, but
also an surprisingly diverse gene flow, resulting from intermarriages which
confirms the tradition of openness, mobility and pragmatism of the Sama-Bajau.
Thus, being Bajo today is more a cultural identity than a genetic heritage.
But before its
diaspora, where did the Sama people come from? It has been argued that their
language shows some similarity with the languages of the South-Barito group
(Kalimantan Centre & South). After a fieldwork in this region, I believe I
have identified a much more precise linguistic area. I will propose a scenario
of the long wanderings of the Bajo, which began more than 1000 years ago from
the estuary of the Barito (South Kalimantan) to the shores of eastern
Indonesia, Sabah and the Sulu.