Sasak - Orientation

Identification. The Sasak are speakers of the Sasak language and are the dominant population on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. Traditionally they have classified their population, villages, and culture into two native categories: the Wetu Telu, or traditional Sasak, and the Waktu Lima, the more strongly Islamized and market-oriented Sasak. This classification has changed recently. Whereas prior to 1965 whole villages were considered to be Wetu Telu, since that time few Sasak have openly declared themselves to be such.

Location. The island of Lombok, located in the Indonesian archipelago to the east of Bali, is 112 kilometers long by 80 kilometers at its widest point, or about 4,680 square kilometers. The Sasak population is concentrated in the fertile central plains area of the island, but it is also spread over the island in the mountain ranges of the north and southeast as well as in the more arid areas of the south and east. The dry season occurs between May and August, the rainy season between November and March. The greatest precipitation occurs in the west. A central plain running west to east divides this mountainous island, with the highest ranges located in the north, culminating in the volcanic peak of Gunung Rindjani. Some thirty rivers, most originating in the north, make up the island's drainage system, so important to its agrarian economy.

Demography. In 1980 the population was estimated to be near 2.3 million, with a population density of approximately 152 people per square kilometer; however, the population density of the fertile plains is closer to 700 people per square kilometer. The population is growing at an average rate of about 2.37 percent. Well over 90 percent of the population of the island is Sasak; Lombok Balinese predominate in the remainder of the population and are concentrated in the western part of the island, followed by Sumbawanese in the east.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Sasak language, closely related to Balinese and Javanese, is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian Language Family.

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