The Bugis of Perak

[as observed by F McNair]

An engraving of a Bugis couple, ?c.1800 (Source: Google Images)

“The Bugis are evidently a distinct race from the Malays, and come originally from the southern part of the island of Celebes.  They compare most favourably with the Malays proper, being intelligent, courageous, and enterprising; and though very similar to them in appearance, they speak a different language. The Malays fear and respect them above all the other races of the Archipelago ; and among them are to be found the principal native traders and merchants ; but their influence has greatly dwindled since the time when they had the principal amount of the trade in their hands.

“The Bugis at one time made a strong movement westward, and overran Quedah and several other portions of the peninsula ; but at the present date there are but few of them actually established in the country, their habits being wandering and unsettled, as they seem to have been of old. When the conversion of the different races to Islamism took place, these people were the last to go over to Mahomet, and probably are held now amongst the most strict of his followers. The character given to the Bugis is not always of the best, for he has been termed a beggar, treacherous, given to stealing, braver than a Malay, but not possessing the other’s good points, being one who will lay his plans to obtain revenge on the offending party.

“The Bugis race has kept itself very distinct from the people amongst whom it dwells, but occasionally inter-marriages take place. One of the most important of late has been that of the well-known Bugis chief of Perak, Nakoda Trong, who led to the hymeneal altar one of the Perak ladies of distinction, Inche Maida, or Princess Maida. Their portraits are given in the accompanying engraving, with the female attendants. This princess has her home at the station high up the Perak river at Qualla Kungsa; and she won the good will of many of the Europeans engaged in quelling the disturbances, by her singular hospitality, and also by the ready aid she has always given to the British officers since the country has been under our protection. Inche Maida’s lord and protector was however found somewhat wanting at the time of the disturbances, his Bugis nature and unsettled habits coming uppermost, with the result that he found an imperative call for absenting himself on business, leaving his lady to the wars, while he sought for more peaceful regions and the protection of his noble self away from Perak.”

Glossary:
Quedah – Kedah
Qualla Kungsa – Kuala Kangsar
Mahomet – Muhammad (as in the prophet SAW)

Source: Mc Nair, Fred. Perak And The Malays, Sarong And Kris. LONDON: TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND. 1878.

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