21 March, 2016

Ever wondered about the origin of the term ‘boogeyman’ – that shapeless mythical monster, which jumps out of the wardrobe at night to frighten little children? In many cultures, the allusion to the boogeyman is used by parents to frighten their children into good behaviour, but in Indonesia, the boogeyman or “Bugis” man is real.

The Bugis are the master shipbuilders and seafarers of South Sulawesi. Their exceptionally strong pinisi schooners – upon which the design of the Ombak Putih and the Katharina is based – were fashioned from the robust timbers of the islands. These boats were capable of sailing vast distances and coping with the heavy seas of the region. Long before the European explorers and traders arrived in what is now called Indonesia in search of spice, the hardy Bugis people had gained prominence as one of the greatest seafaring ethnic groups in the world. In fact, they had been constructing and commanding fleets of sailing ships to support Asia’s thriving spice and cargo trade for hundreds of years before the Europeans ever arrived. These Bugis traders, travellers, pirates and sea warriors controlled the major trade routes, and were known for their fighting prowess. They would raid foreign trade ships and were so feared that the British, Dutch and Portuguese sailors took terrifying tales of these pirates back home, telling their children, “Beware of the Bugis men.”