The Minangkabau people of West Sumatra have been studied from an anthropological perspective by many different researchers, historians, and academics. Though their culture and ways of life date back many centuries, many elements have been preserved throughout the ages and are reflected in daily life even today. Visiting Padang and the regions throughout West Sumatra gives a window into the ancient culture still thriving there.
The language, Minang, is a unique dialect, not identical to Bahasa Indonesia but rather in many ways closer to the Malay language. The people still practice the 'adab' and 'adat' in daily life: it is customary to call every adult either 'Pak,' for a man, or 'Ibu,' for a woman, as a formal salutation and term of respect, regardless of whether or not you are already acquainted. Visitors find that they never enter another person's home without being offered food or drink, even when visiting people living in poverty. At the same time, visitors calling on friends and family never arrive empty handed, but always bring something with them, even as a small token of respect and appreciation.
One of the adages of the Minang people is that 'Nature is the best teacher', and the people live in very close harmony with the natural environment. This is very evident once you travel even a short distance outside the city: people live directly from the land. On the ocean, people live in fishing villages very close to the ocean, working with hand-drawn nets in boats driven by the wind and the tides rather than engines. Farther inland, the people are farmers, growing rice and vegetables, and in some places even testing energy crops. All of the work is still done by hand, from planting and plowing the fields, to harvesting the crops, to drying and milling the grains and eventually, carrying the finished product, on foot, to the local market. Rather than using mechanical equipment, farmers use water buffalo, 'kabau,' to help pull hand-plows. The animals are allowed to roam freely in the neighborhood, and often-times end up traveling the same paths between their homes and some choice grazing lands nearby.
Outside the city, the children are raised with these same values. In the city, the local governments and officials concentrate their efforts not only on maintaining these values, but also on showcasing the cultural arts and traditions of the Minang people, for the sake of instilling respect and enthusiasm in the youth, and also for the sake of drawing tourists from around the region and around the world.
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