If you are traveling to West Sumatra, its historical long house or “rumah gadang” is something you wouldn’t want to miss seeing. The traditional house’s unique architecture, especially the famous buffalo horn-shaped roof is the cultural legacy of Minangkabau, home to one of the largest matrilineal society in the world.
Traditionally, the roof was made from palm fiber which could last over two decades. The rectangular house is divided into two sections, the front and the back, with a total number of odd rooms between 3 and 13. The number of rooms also depend on how many girls live in the house as when they are married they will have their own separate room with their husband. Young girls share rooms, while older female members and children sleep in rooms near the kitchen. Single men live in a separate accommodation not far from the rumah gadang. On the left and right wings, there are extensions used for ceremonies and the rumah gadang itself is a place where community decision-making is held.
Historically, the rumah gadang was built to stand against earthquakes. The four poles of the house were traditionally made of old juha (siamese senna) tree wood that were beforehand soaked in water for years so that they were strong enough to secure the house. The back section of the house was made of bamboo, while the front section was made of a wooden board which showcased the distinctive wood carving motifs of West Sumatra. These motifs include round-shaped and geometric motifs of leaves, flowers, and fruits. Each area of West Sumatra has its own distinct motif. They are inspired by the names of plants, animals, or things used daily. Sadly, this wood-carving culture is almost extinct in many parts of West Sumatra.
The traditional architecture and wood carvings of the rumah gadang is captured in the Sage II Vacation Home located in Sawahlunto, just about 90 km from Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra. Sage II’s wood carving replicates the style of the area of Solok, where many rumah gadang still exists. This is because there are no longer any wood carvers in Sawahlunto that can replicate Sawahlunto’s traditional wood carve motifs. Unfortunately, the craft and knowledge was not passed on to the next generation.
Nevertheless, among the various wood carving motifs decorating the Sage II Vacation Home, one that is particularly interesting is the duck motif wood work, traditional called “Itiak Pulang Patang.”A literal translation would be “ducks walking home at sundown”. Some interpret this motif as symbolizing the journey of the Minang people to other lands, but that there will be a time when they will return home.
But like all of the wood carving motifs of West Sumatra, there is always a deeper philosophical meaning which describes the values and the way of life of the community. One is that the ducks illustrate how the Minangkabau community live in tune and harmony with nature; that they are one with their natural surroundings. It also describes the governance of the Minangkabau society; one that is orderly, organized, and harmonious.
Moreover, the group of duck walking in one direction in an orderly manner is said to reflect the principle of the Minang people—consistency and persistency—as well the foundation of the Minangkabau society: solidarity, collective decision-making, and commitment.
Built in 2012, the Sage II Vacation Home brings back the rich tradition of the rumah gadang. Many visitors, including those from around globe, have enjoyed the cultural experience that Sage II brings. We are happy to know that Sage II is on the list of Japanese homestay for Sawahlunto. We look forward to share our cultural tradition with the travelers of the world.
Visit the Sage II Vacation Home in Sawahlunto
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