Jakarta. The Association of Indonesian Archaeologists, or IAAI, held a seminar titled "Knitting Diversity in Indonesia" at the City Hall in Central Jakarta on Tuesday (16/05), to discuss the origins of the country's native population.
Among the speakers in the seminar were genealogy expert Prof. Herawati Supolo of the Eijkman Institute, archaeologist Prof. Truman Simanjuntak and anthropologist Dr. Kartini Sjahrir.
Knowing the origins of Indonesians, according to the speakers, is important in order to avoid categorizing members of the nation as pribumis, or natives, and non-pribumis.
"There are no 'native Indonesians,' we are genetically mixed and, like everyone else, we come from Africa," Herawati said, adding that with Indonesia's 719 local languages there are also approximately 719 diverse genetic types of Indonesians.
According to Truman, Indonesia's diversity is absolute, even the prehistory of the archipelago shows that there had been numerous different societies and cultures.
"Indonesia is not only diverse, but extremely diverse. If teachers at schools tell you that our ancestors came from Yunnan [in China], this is correct. There is much evidence supporting this claim. They came here about 4300 years ago," he added.
Kartini said that Indonesia's diversity was also acknowledged and cherished by her founding fathers.
"It is impossible for us to not be diverse," Kartini said, adding that Indonesians must not disregard this fact.
"Those who shout 'Chinese, pribumi, non-pribumi' are basically ignorant and have forgotten where they are from, just like Malin Kundang, who forgot his own mother," she said.
According to a Sumatran legend, Malin was a poor fisherman who left his village and sailed the ocean. After many years, he married a princess and became rich. Upon his return to Sumatra, ashamed of his origin and family, Malin pretended not to recognize his old ailing mother. The moment he turned his back to leave, he and all his possessions were turned into stone.