People & Cultures

culture


The population of Indonesia is more than 259 million people in 2016, with average growth rate of 1.49 percent annually in 2000 – 2010. To this day, adherence to a religion is a legal requirement for Indonesian citizens. There are six government-recognized religions in Indonesia: Islam, Protestant Christian (of various denominations), Roman Catholic, Hindu, Buddha and Confucianism. Muslims account for 87.18% population or more than 207 million people. Together, Protestants and Catholics make up almost 10% of total population, while the other 3% consists of adherents of the other three religions.

The number of ethnic groups in Indonesia ranging from 300 to more than 1,300, depending on criteria employed. As such, the number of ethnic languages also varied in accordance to criteria used to differentiate language and dialects, although the latest Ethnologue Report recorded 726 languages in Indonesia. The largest ethnic group is Javanese, slightly more than 40% of total population, followed by Sundanese (15.5%), Bataknese (3.5%), Madurese (3%) and other ethnic groups, each below 3% of total population. Foreign-descent ethnic groups are also present, although it is difficult to determine their number as many choose to identify themselves with native ethnics. Each ethnic group has their own ethnic language, which in case of the larger ethnic groups, is spoken in a variety of dialects.

 

The national language, however, is Indonesian language or Bahasa Indonesia (‘bahasa’ means ‘language’ in Indonesian), which is written in Latin script. While originated as one of Malay dialects, it has been standardized and simplified. Universally taught in schools, it is spoken by nearly every Indonesian, as the language of business, politics, national media, education, and academia. For majority of Indonesians, however, the mother tongue is not the Indonesian language, rather it is one of the 726 ethnic languages.

With that many ethnic groups, various forms of traditional customs and art are surely abound in Indonesia, ranging from performing arts, dances, music, handicrafts to various weaving and textile-coloring techniques. While producing an exhaustive list of these cultural heritage (as well as their contemporary interpretations!) is probably best left to anthropologist and art scholars, we do try to portray some of the most often performed or likely found in our page on tourism destinations in Indonesia.

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