The Culture of Madura Island: East Java
Cultural forms in Madura are generally speaking similar to those of Java and, looked at from a wider viewpoint, belong to the Java – Bali – Madura – Sunda family.
Madurese culture, however, has its own shades and tones, undoubtedly conditioned in part by the harsh landscape and climate. Immediately apparent are the differences in language and mental attitude between the Madurese and say, the Javanese.
The people of Madura are well known for their straightforwardness and direct approach, particularly evident in their manner of speech. Often considered rough and unrefined by outsiders, a different picture emerges as soon as one goes a little deeper. It might be fairer to say that the Madurese are hot-blooded and quick to excite. This, too is perhaps partly a reflection of the sometimes dry, arid conditions and parched landscape. The result is that the people of Madura have learned to be quick-witted, industrious, adaptable and, all in all, charming.
A Madurese can be the most loyal friend when approached with politeness; but cross him and watch out! Since Madura shares approximately the same cultural influences and general historical background as neighbouring Java, religion and general way of life are not so different.
In centuries past the Madurese have frequently allied themselves with the Javanese in order to ward off a common enemy. On occasions the two races have fought. In any event, there has always been a continuing communication across the narrow Straits of Madura, and today a large percentage mainland East Java’s population, especially those living along the north east coast and other low-lying areas, claim Madurese descent.
The predominant religion is Islam, brought first to the island in the 15th and 16th centuries by disciples of the Wali Songo, or ‘Nine Saints of Islam’, and notably the followers of Sunan Giri from Gresik. The new religion affected cultural forms, particularly noticeable in the architectural styles.
As important anchorage points on the international trade route linking Europe with the Far East, the port of East Java, and hence Madura, were open to artistic traditions from every corner of the civilised world; from regions as part apart as Egypt, India, China, Persia and, later, Europe.