Melanesia comes from Greek Language, Melano (black) and Nesos (island), which means the black islands that spread from Indonesia to Fiji. Melanesia also means a human population which owns dark skin, curly hair, strong and big bone anatomy, most likely has an athletic body posture.
Melanesia name was first used by Jules Dumont d’urville in 1832 to differentiate the ethnic group that was newly identified in the Pacific region.
Melanesian in Indonesia
There are seven countries in the worlds considered as the home of Melanesian, i.e., Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Fiji. Within these seven countries, Melanesian speaks 1,319 different languages and has various culture. However, these huge amounts of language can be divided into two language groups, The Austronesian and Papuan Language.
In Indonesia, the Melanesian lives in East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, and West Papua province. Melanesian population in Indonesia reaches 11 Million people, which is the highest population compared to other Melanesian countries.
Archeologist said that Melanesian has lived in Indonesia since 60,000 – 30,000 years ago. To support their livelihood, in the past most Melanesian used bow and arrow to collect food. They were hunting and fighting, sometimes among local ethnic groups, to secure their land territory. Some Melanesian are also handy in fishing and farming, depending on the geographical place they live.
Around 4,300 years ago when the Austronesian come to Indonesia, there was culture acculturation between the Austronesian and Melanesian. And when Indonesia had their freedom from colonialism, the two races started to unite, blending into one.
According to Archeologist from National Archeology Research Center, Harry Truman, the diversity of Indonesian is influenced by the migration wave and different path of human race journey. He believes that Indonesians originally came from Africa. The first migrant from Africa reached Indonesia around 60,000 years ago, proven by the hand painting in Maros. Followed by the next migration from the mainland of Asia around 12,000 years ago by the end of the ice age, this group is known as Austromelanesia or Austroasiatic. The next migration wave to Indonesia was from Taiwan (out of Taiwan theory) or Austronesia/Mongoloid around 4,000 years ago.
Today, the Austronesian mostly lives in the west part of Indonesia (Sumatera, Java, Borneo, Bali, and Lombok) and the Melanesian lives in the east part of Indonesia (East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, and Papua). The mixed race between Austronesian and Melanesian mostly live in East Nusa Tenggara and Maluku in the coastal area.
Melanesian that speaks Austronesian language borrows some culture from the Melanesian – Papuan language; chewing betel is one of the examples. However, the Melanesian – Austronesian also have their typical cultures, such as connective woven, house architecture, sago processing, and engraving.
Famous Melanesians in Indonesia
Many Melanesians are famous throughout Indonesia. Indonesian youth nowadays must recognize names such as Glen Fredly, Daniel Sahuleka, Edo Kondologit, Ari Sihasale, Nowela. They are famous musicians and artists from Maluku and Papua.
Even back then, many Melanesian heroes fought for Indonesia’s freedom from colonialism. Indonesian children surely knew Johannes Latuharhary, Martha Christina Tiahahu, Thomas Matulessy or Pattimura, and Frans Seda. All of them are Indonesia’s National Heroes from East Indonesia.
Melanesian Countries Cooperation
All of the Melanesian countries experienced colonialism. The first colonialism in Melanesia started in 1660 when the Dutch declared their ownership of Papua. Followed by Britain, Australia, Germany, and Japan, they established their colonial claims among Melanesian countries. Soon after the World War II, one by one these countries declared their independence and started to build an alliance.
To strengthen the cooperation, every year Melanesian countries hold the International Conference on Melanesian World. Indonesia hosted this conference back in 2015. The 2015 International Conference on Melanesian World gave birth the Kupang Message that highlights the Melanesian culture partnership.
Kupang Message mentions the importance of Melanesian Culture Festival to strengthen the brotherhood of Melanesian countries. Kupang Message also declares the Melanesian countries commitment to building a good cooperation as well as highlight the traditional culture and value among Melanesian. Therefore, through cultural and cooperation approach, hopefully, the relation among Melanesian countries becomes the key element to reach the prosperity goals and solidarity among the countries.
For the next step, by the year of 2018, The Solomon Island will be the host for Melanesian Art and Culture Festival (MACFest). This festival is regularly held every four years and aims to bring together all Melanesian countries in a cultural celebration. The theme for MACFest 2018 is Past Recollection for Future Connections. A bold statement to not forget the ancestor culture for a better alliance among Melanesian countries in the future.
So, those are the history of Melanesian in Indonesia. One of biggest populations in Indonesia that have given an extraordinary role model for other populations. For thousands of years, both Austronesian and Melanesian live together peacefully. Hopefully, Indonesia’s future generation is able to carry out the Melanesian life value in their daily life and live in harmony.