Exploring Cultural Values in Indonesia: Work Ethics of Bugis-Makassar Ethnic Groups on Proverb


Indonesia is one of the populated countries with widely varieties of ethnic group which spreaded around Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes, Moluccas, Southeast Nusa, and Papua. From those diversities, each ethnic group is well-known to its custom in moving to other places and seeking for a living, including to Bugis-Makassar ethnic groups. These ethnics are two different groups of the same native people in South Celebes of Indonesia who are both familiar to democratic view of governance and oceanic life. In any success story, these ethnic groups often be heard about their success story in their wanderings. For example, a meeting held by Indigenous Bugis-Makassar Community that will always present the wanderers of Bugis-Makassar working as entrepreneurs or other professions and have reached their success talking about their secrets of success. It is then become a continual story in society which is therefore constructed a belief to the wanderers of Bugis-Makassar as people with high work ethics. Yet, there is also a gap towards those acknowledges of success stories. The success stories of Bugis-Makassar wanderers mostly relate to others’ poverty who still live around Bugis-Makassar area, especially for those who working as a farmer. Then, there is an opinion emerged that the wanderers have high work ethics, while the farmers should always enhance their work ethics. Thus, people often be misled to an opinion that the farmers are poor because of their lowest work ethics.

The word ‘ethics’ is derived from Greek which defines as “character, way of life, someone’s habit, motivation or someone’s moral objective and their world view”. In the other words, it is an outlook, manner, or the most comprehensive idea of social order. It can be seen that ethics rely from the cultural values in which those values are determined someone’s work ethics. There are several important things of work ethics, such as future orientation (well-planned to everything, both time and condition in being better than yesterday), effective time management (wise in spending time), responsibility (working hard and giving great dedication), simple and thrifty (living in a least costly means), and pure competition (not easily hopeless and enhacing creativity).

Actually, the high work ethics of Bugis-Makassar are fully inspired by the meaning of réso in their lives. With regard to the wanderers of Bugis-Makassar of some places in the Indonesian Archipelago who put effort in dealing with various challenges, even relying life on the line by their réso. The culture of these ethnic groups is taught from its proverb that réso or hardworking is the only way of God to pour His love – “résopa temmanginngik nalétéi pammasé dewata”. Another “stricter” proverb put willpower in a great of importance which is implied on poetry or kélong of Bugis-Makassar – “ri émpoang katallasang, maté assongok céraka, bajikanngiya, na maté tannganréya” meaning “in life, dying for bloody action is better than being hunger”. Those cultural messages of Bugis-Makassar complete réso itself with the involvement of cultural values. It is so in folklore of Bugis-Makassar, both expressed or implied, have made those values to be embedded each other with réso.

There are many messages consisting work ethics (réso) and other cultural values on poetry, folklore and cultural proverb of Bugis-Makassar. In general, those cultural messages are related to the attitude of makkaréso with morality and character in striving or doing work. Réso borns and grows from their ‘womb’ of culture that makes this steady attitude towards reso never allow them to go with idleness.

Closely related to work ethics, it is likely on the proverb – “matupaé, baja, purapaé temmappura jama-jamang” meaning “today, tomorrow, or even later on will not complete the work”, which made the Bugis do not like to be a procrastinator. Furthermore, for the Bugis who is well-known to the oceanic life, their proverb reflects the words in naval itself – “Puri babbara sompe ku puri tangkisi gulikku, ulebbirengngi telleng nalowalie” meaning “when under sail, controlling it to hold fast, though the sail will sink, should not retreat”.

Therefore, those containing values on proverb are the cultural wealth that should be digged, raised, preserved, and maintained as the Indonesian’s identity.

In conclusion, the proverb is the cultural-rich media of every nation or ethnic group.


Koentjaraningrat. 2002. Masyarakat dan Kebudayaan di Indonesia. Jakarta: Djambatan.

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