West Sumatra is a region with so many tribes that when we go to different places in the region we will also find different traditions. This is reflected in fact that the West Sumatra government has identified 800 types—and still counting—of Minangkabau traditional female costumes. The difference in traditional wear is due to the many tribes living in Minangkabau, which historically have their own traditional attributes. The differences can mainly be seen in the ornaments and accessories used with the costumes. Some variations in these costumes are even influenced by other cultures such as Chinese and European.
The Legendary Bundo Kanduang
The most legendary female costume is the “Bundo Kanduang”, which is found across all tribes. Bundo Kanduang itself refers to West Sumatra’s somewhat mythical queen, who is believed to have ruled the Pagaruyung kingdom of West Sumatra. So even until today, the Bundo Kanduang costume is associated with female leadership and the wisdom of the female elders.
While Bundo Kanduang is a legendary female figure, the phrase also reflects what the Minangkabau culture upholds. Meaning mother (bundo, ibu) and real (kanduang, sejati), it assigns cultural roles to women within the family and in the community. But far beyond this, it is also a philosophy and way of life which forms the base for a woman-oriented community.
Traditionally, the Bundo Kanduang held an important decision-making role in the community and this role was also found in the various tribes of the Minangkabau people. That is why the traditional dress especially worn by the women who hold this title differ from one area to the other. However, the principal elements constituting the dress and the philosophy behind them are shared among the areas.
Elements and Principles of Bundo Kanduang Costume
These elements include first, the headdress with its buffalo horn-shaped style, called the tengkluk. This headdress replicates the buffalo head which is the symbol of the Minangkabau society. Second is the kurung, a midi-length dress embroidered in golden thread, illustrating the beautiful nature of West Sumatra. The dress comes in different colors in different areas, such as black, red, dark blue, or purple, symbolizing the strength and courage of the Bundo Kanduang women. The cuffs and the edge of the dress are also embroidered. The philosophy behind the dress which literarily means being limited by (kurung), is that the Bundo Kanduang in their conduct and decision-making are limited by the adat laws or that they must abide these laws. The third element is the selendang or scarf which is thrown over the right shoulder, symbolizing the important responsibility burdened upon her.
The fourth element is the woven cloth, songket, worn beneath the kurung from the waist down to the ankles; embroidered with flower, leaves, or geometric patterns in silver or gold threads. The patterns of the songket symbolize the knowledge and wisdom of the Bundo Kanduang. The dynamic patterns also reflect the dynamic community of the Minangkabau people.
The fifth element is jewelries. Gold jewelries are an important part of the Minangkabau culture and traditional garments like the Bundo Kanduang ceremonial costume is always worn with necklaces and bracelets. The necklace symbolizes that the Bundo Kanduang is the keeper of the assets of the matrilineal clan and that she founds her conduct on the principles of truth. The bracelet symbolizes that she stands behind the boundaries of adat.
Weakened Leadership Role
The Bundo Kanduang reflects the important role a woman holds in the family as a mother, household financial manager, and transmitter of moral values. However, the role is also reflected on senior women who holds community decision-making roles within the community assembly, who are referred to as the Bundo Kanduang. Thus, women are considered the pillar of the household and the community.
Throughout history, the traditional leadership role of the Bundo Kanduang has been affected by war, colonialism, and political changes. As a result, many observe that the strong role has far weakened from its traditional purpose and instead the presence of the Bundo Kanduang today has shifted to mainly fulfill ceremonial roles. However, understanding their traditional grand costume and its philosophy will always remind us of the important role tradition has entrusted to the Bundo Kanduang and why today we might need to revisit this role.
Written by Liza Hadiz and Alemora Hadiz
Visit the Sage II Vacation Home of Sawahlunto
For more information contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org | +6281296144491
More about the blog: https://sage2vacationhome.wordpress.com/about/
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sagedua/
Blog Adat Tradisional (2016) Pakaian Adat Sumatera Barat (Padang) dari Minangkabau dan Penjelasannya. Available http://adat-tradisional.blogspot.com/2016/07/pakaian-adat-sumatera-barat-padang-minangkabau.html [Accessed February 25, 2018].
Jakarta Post, 2018. ‘West Sumatra government identifies 800 traditional female costumes.’ Jakarta Post. Available at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2018/01/22/west-sumatra-government-identifies-800-traditional-female-costumes.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#link_time=1516612196. [Accessed February 4, 2018].
Rosa, S. (1963) ‘Mitos Bundo Kanduang Sebagai Tirai Nalar Orang Minangkabau Atas Dunianya.’ Jurnal IKADBUDI, 5(12). Available at: https://journal.uny.ac.id/index.php/ikadbudi/article/view/12313 [Accessed March 13, 2018].
Saputronugroho (2010) Pakaian Adat Sumatera Barat. Available at: https://saputronugroho.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/pakaian-adat-sumatera-barat/ [Accessed February 25, 2018].
Sismarni, S. (2011) ‘Perubahan Peranan Bundo Kanduang dalam Kehidupan Masyarakat Minangkabau Modern.’ Kafa`ah: Journal of Gender Studies, 1(1), p.95. Available at: http://kafaah.org/index.php/kafaah/article/view/46 [Accessed March 13, 2018].