The city’s dominant populations are from the surrounding areas of Java - Sumatera, Bali and Sulawesi. Also making themselves known are those hailing from Papua, Indonesia’s most eastern province, and Kalimantan, home of the Dayaks and one of the largest rainforests in the world. Over the centuries, these groups have kept their cultural roots, yet some have also intermixed, including with non-Indonesians, to form a special group of their own known as Orang Betawi.
Jakarta has its own special Betawi culture, which suggests the string of influences that reached the city’s shores over the centuries. A long process of selectively borrowing and uniquely blending Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Dutch elements with native ingenuity has produces the colorful, composite Betawi culture. The word “Betawi” is derived from Batavia, the old name of the capital during the Dutch administration.
Pockets of Betawi life are still culturally alive throughout Jakarta with celebrations of wedding and the rhythms of a distinctive style of music. From the Betawi wedding dress alone one gets a glimpse of the many influences that passed through the gateway of the nation.
The Betawi bride wears a gown inspired by the Chinese ceremonial dress. Although there are many variations of the wedding costume, all feature tassels covering the face and a red dress. The bridegroom in striking contrast dons a costume derived from Arab and Indian sources