Introduction / History
The Wolio (also known as the Baubau, Buton or Butung) primarily live on the island of Buton, around the city of Baubau, but can also be found on Muna, located in the SE Sulawesi province. Their ancestors were immigrants from Johor, Malaysia at the beginning of the 15th century, who also founded the Buton dynasty. In 1540, the sixth king became a follower of Islam. He reshaped the kingdom to become a sultanate and set himself up as the first sultan. The sultanate of Buton lasted until the death of the last sultan in 1960. With his death, the Buton sultanate ended its formal reign, though the influence of Buton is still felt throughout all of the islands in the region. The Wolio are at the heart of the culture of Buton. Buton today is known for its production of asphalt and is currently being explored for oil and other minerals. Many people have moved to other islands to find work. At present, some Wolio people live in the areas of Maluku and Papua. They speak the Wolio language, which is from the Wotu-Wolio language cluster that includes the following languages: Kalao, Laiyolo, Kamaru, Wotu. Arabic is also understood by some and its script is used in religious writings and older written materials in the Wolio language.
What are their lives like?
In each of their villages there is usually a market for the selling of materials related to cloth products, such as silk, cotton and others. Many villages also have small stores and peddlers also can be seen selling their wares throughout the village. Wolio people live as farmers on the land and sea. Primary land crops are rice, corn and cassava. In the sea, especially from June to September, vast stretches of water are used to cultivate agar-agar (seaweed) that is ground up and used to make a variety of products. Many people also work as sailors and shipbuilders. The water around Buton and Muna is filled with fish, especially tuna and those found around coral. The Wolio houses are built using boards, with small windows added. The roofs are built with small boards and coconut leaves. These houses are raised up to two meters above the ground. In the Wolio community, the men are mainly involved in labor outside the home, while the wife works in the home and manages the family and their finances. Baubau has now achieved official city status with its own mayor and local government. This has created many opportunities for Baubau's continued development. The Wolio people place a great priority on education. Good education for their children has been a high priority. This, added to their willingness to study foreign languages, has resulted in noticeable social advancement.
What are their beliefs?
Almost all Wolio have beliefs centered in Sufi Islam. According to their teachings, they practice mediation in order to receive visions from God, or to find hidden truths far beyond their own reasoning. Belief in reincarnation is also adhered to as a result of Hindu influence. They also believe that evil spirits cause illnesses to occur while helpful spirits give guidance.
What are their needs?
The Wolio need greater opportunities for work that can provide enough money for their livelihood. Because of the Wolio people's geographical situation, along a major sea lane through Indonesia, there is a great deal of tourism potential for the city. Their fishermen need better training and more knowledge to improve production and distribution of their sea products. In addition, teachers and educators are needed to satisfy the Wolio people's thirst for knowledge and to develop their potential.
Text source: Copyright © IPN, 2011. Used with permission.