Introduction / History The Selayar people group live primarily on the island of Selayar and several other smaller islands in South Sulawesi. The Selayar are frequently referred to as To Hale or "the people across". The Selayar language is in the same linguistic grouping as those in Bulukumba and is not significantly different from the Makassar language. It is not difficult to reach the island of Selayar because there is a boat from Bira that makes the trip twice a day. There are flights that make the Makassar-Selayar trip as well. To reach the smaller islands, there are local ferries, but some of the small islands have no ferry service whatsoever. There are flights from Makassar (capital of South Sulawesi) and Bali to Selayar island. The Selayar language is part of a larger linguistic grouping called the Makasar which also includes the Konjo Pesisir (Konjo-coastal), Konjo Pegunungan (Konjohighland), Selayar, Bentong and Makasar.
What are their lives like? To the Selayar people, farming is the primary economic mainstay in the region and frequently is referred to as Bumi Tana Doang (place on earth that beseeches the Omnipotent). Plantations' produce includes kapok, guava, cloves, coconut, candlenut, nutmeg, cocoa and vanilla. Kopra (dried coconut meat) and cloves were the two crops relied on in years past. However, because the price was like "falling rice", this commodity is no longer attractive for local farmers. Yet a large number of farmers continue their coconut plantations. Several years ago, many farmers made the move to grow vanilla. The crops that were considered to be intercrops have begun to increase in value and have become the primary cash crops. It would seem the entire public transportation route between Makassar and Selayar is destined to be flexible. For instance, there is a bus that enters the neighborhoods, visiting house after house to drop off stuff inside the bus. Almost everything needed by the people in this area comes from Makassar and is delivered by public bus. Sometimes they place an order with the bus driver and he delivers it to him. The cost of having the bus driver pick up goods in Makassar is less than the cost to buy them in Selayar.
What are their beliefs? The majority of Selayar are Muslim. Selayar cultural customs are strongly tied to their religion and are very influential in their daily lives, producing religious syncretism. Ten to twenty years ago or so, there was a group of Christian believers among the Selayar. As time went on, their numbers dropped because of pressure from the government and a mixing with Hindu beliefs. This has created a syncretistic form of Christianity.
What are their needs? The Selayar area is made up of islands. Transportation and connections between this area and the outside world are extremely limited, resulting in isolation. Sea transportation is a felt need to help the community with economic development and inter-island mobility. The Selayar need help with economic matters. 85% of the Selayar area is ocean and the great riches of their ocean is neglected because only a small proportion of the population are fishermen. Because of this void, others come to harvest the ocean's riches.