Introduction / History The Kangean people are a group who live on the islands of Kangean. The Kangean island cluster consists of about 60 islands that spans 487 square kilometers. The largest islands, Pilat and Sapanjang, have an area of 188 square kilometers. The Kangean islands are situated about 120 kilometers east of the island of Madura and 115 kilometers north of the island of Bali. They use the Kangean language which is close to the Madura language.
What are their lives like? People on the Kangean islands are known to be very friendly, polite and religious. The community speaks multiple dialects of the Madura language. The Kangean dialect is used for informal day-to-day interactions. Education on these islands has not progressed very far. Middle school is the highest a student can attend in the national school curriculum. There are no high schools. Many who have finished their education move to other islands such as Java, Sumatra or Kalimantan to continue their studies or seek employment. Travelers to the Kangean islands would see many bicycle taxis waiting for passengers as they step off the boats. There are also many people selling seafood items such as various types of fish, squid, etc. Most people's livelihood is centered on fishing, but there are also many farmers and traders. There has been some economic development in the Kangean island region, but the main form of transportation remains bicycle taxis or motorcycles. The fishermen use small carriages to transport their catch to the local markets. For daily needs, many items are bought from other islands such as Madura, Java and Bali. These commutes can last up to 18 hours one way. Most of the main roads on the island of Sapekan have been paved or asphalted. People can usually buy food that is sold on the other more developed islands, but the electric power supply is quite weak. The electricity usually is on only from the late afternoons until dawn.
A recent update comes from a gentleman who says that "the people seem to be more open, probably due to increased education. The language is much less of a problem now than before. Many more people speak Indonesian & English now. There are many newcomers, mostly Javanese. The economy is better now. It is now easy to find food late at night. There are more vehicles and motorbikes. There are many more students now. There seems to be a good money flow in Kangean. One big reason is because many men live in Malaysia & Singapore for their jobs and send money home to Kangean.
What are their beliefs? Islam is the predominant religion among the Kangean. It was brought to this area from Java, but the Kangean people possess a culture quite different from Java and other surrounding islands. Because of this, the Islam expressed here looks quite different from the Islam practiced in other places. Although most Kangean people would call themselves Muslim, animism is at the heart of their faith. Many of the people practice cultural rituals, believe in supernatural numbers, magic, etc. This is their way of expressing Islam in their cultural context.
What are their needs? There are several needs of the Kangean people; electricity and education top the list. Most people only have a small battery for power during the daylight hours and many wait and hope for the electricity to be turned on at night. Children can only attend school until 7th or 8th grade. If the family can afford it, the children are sent to other islands to attend high school. Education remains one of their biggest felt needs. The largest need there is spiritual. The people of the Kangean islands have little or no access to the Gospel. They live in fear every day, hoping to appease the spirit world. They are afraid that something bad will happen to them if they do not appease these spirits every day. Many of them have rituals or practices to help them overcome this problem, but they still live in fear that it is not enough. Islam also does not offer any hope of salvation or overcoming this fear of the spirit world.