The Jakarta Post
The 150th anniversary of Hok Tek Tong (HTT) in Padang, marked the determination of the Chinese community in West Sumatra to have a greater say in art, culture and politics ' and to enhance harmony between local ethnic groups.
'The time when we used to refer to each other as Chinese, Malays, Javanese or Indians is over. Now we only wish to see unity between us all. I've even had no hesitation in running for mayor,' Ferryanto Gani, the tuako, or chairman, of the HTT, said when opening the recentanniversary celebration of the city's major Chinese association.
Ferryanto beat a drum to launch the commemoration, themed 'Diversity is Beautiful', which will reach its peak in August. He was flanked by Garin Nugroho, the film director, who was also invited to speak.
The 63-year-old automobile entrepreneur and community leader has headed the HTT (also called the Himpunan Tjinta Teman, or Friendship Association) for almost 20 years. The HTT, the oldest Chinese association in Padang, was established in 1863 and has over 5,000 members.
Ferryanto is also engaged in politics in Padang as the treasurer of the provincial chapter the Democratic Party. He is also the first Chinese-Indonesian in West Sumatra to launch a bid for mayor ' which was stymied after the party named its local chairman instead.
Yet Ferryanto can still be proud of the traditional title he received in June 2011, Sutan Rangkayo Nan Mudo. The honorary form of address was awarded to him by the Kerapatan Adat Nagari Delapan Suku, the conference of Minangkabau communal elders in Padang's Chinatown.
Delapan Suku conferred the title on him, according to Ferryanto, for striving for ethnic unity in Padang. The elders described him as a model of 'assimilation' and a resident born and raised in Padang, acknowledging that Ferryanto's ancestors were the first to land in Muaro Padang and contributed to the city's development.
The Chinese-Indonesian community in Padang built the Goan Hoat and Tanah Kongsi markets and the Gantiang Grand Mosque, the oldest in Padang. 'Our ancestors came from Pulang Penang [Malaysia] and later went to Aceh, then to Sibolga, and then Telo Island, and finally reaching Padang,' Ferryanto, a fifth-generation Indonesian, said.
In 1863, the HTT was founded to provide funeral services to the Chinese community, eventually expanding to provide other social activities, such as free medical treatment, to all ethnic groups in Padang.
The organization has several branches in West Sumatra, including those in in Bukittinggi, Padang Panjang and Payakumbuh. It also recently opened branches in Sibolga, North Sumatra, and Pekanbaru, Riau, and plans to open a branch in Medan, North Sumatra, this month.
Erniwati, a historian at Padang State University, said that the arrival of Chinese people in Padang had to do with the growth of the city as a commercial port.
'In Padang they met local traders with no less commercial skill, who were members of the ethnic Minangkabau community. Here, Padang's ethnic Chinese interacted in a unique way with local people compared to other Indonesian cities. They showed mutual respect as fellow traders and never came into conflict,' Erniwati said.
The Minangkabau , according to Erniwati, also immigrated, or more precisely sought their fortunes far from home (merantau), in Padang ' as did the Indians and Arabs who settled in the city.
'In Padang, the Chinese and Minang people merge to form a multicultural Padang community,' Erniwati said. 'Padang is inhabited by diverse communities and ethnicities.'
Meanwhile, the HTT has been going strong for 150 years, persevering through Dutch colonial rule, the Japanese occupation, Indonesian independence, the New Order and the Reform Era, even though it was forced to drop its original name due to a New Order ban on Chinese language.
'Despite the association's social and funeral activities, it has succeeded in turning into a bridge between the ethnic Chinese and other ethnicities in Padang,' Erniwati said.
Chinese in Padang speak Chinese-Malay, blending Minang and Indonesian with Chinese dialects. The old ways are followed precisely, although perhaps with less-than-perfect understanding. The local Chinese like to be called Padang more than 'residents of Chinese descent'.
As such, the organizers of the local Chinese community, which numbers around 12,000, prefer to involve all ethnicities members in their activities. Local lion and dragon dances, for instance, include many youths from Minang or Nias.
Garin Nugroho said like all Indonesian cities, Padang had been built as a port. 'A port is always marked by chaos and peace, so that the 150-year survival of HTT in a port city deserves the younger generation's respect, because the process was tough.'
HTT will organize a Multicultural Parade as the climax of its anniversary celebration, which is expected to feature performers dressed in various ethnic outfits from West Sumatra on Aug. 22.
The parade will be enlivened by an old-time (tempo doeloe) Chinese attire carnival, martial arts and wushu demos, a 200-meter dragon parade and a miniature junk.
'Many parts of Padang's history showing the city as a melting pot of different cultures haven't been revealed yet and should be explored to revive its multicultural existence,' said Edy Utama, a West Sumatra cultural expert and pevent consultant.
' Photos By JP/Syofiardi Bachyul Jb
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