Ilau in Minangkabau Culture: A Study of Understanding and Interpreting Meaning Based on Gadamer’s Hermeneutics

Nurwani .


Ilau is a culture of Minangkabau People – a tradition of lamenting – which is a way of expressing sadness or grief due to death of a son, a penghulu (village leader), or other family members. Furthermore, Ilau is also an expression of sadness for missing someone or something, for example, a son to be married, a loss of love from a husband who is to marry another woman (practicing polygamy), or a loss of cattle preyed by tiger. Ilau is passed on from one generation to another in a nagari (the lowest governmental level in Minangkabau), and has traditionally turned into several different forms. As an expression of collective sadness of a nagari’s people in Minangkabau, Ilau is performed in various occasions such as death, marriage, and catching tiger. The ritual is encoded in words, body movements, songs, and tools and becomes part of symbolic system to realize the essence of Minangkabau cultural cosmology. Ilau is interestingly a center of connection of related issues and influential to behaviors which can generate melodic lament and body movements. From these expressions and connection among various cultural expressions, a psychobiological relation is emerged. Ilau describes a sentimental feeling of a mother, a wife, or members of a community. Ilau is linked with some theme of interpretation related to sadness, fear, victory, wrath, male narcissism, status rivalry, passion and submission. Ilau can also be interpreted as a medium of silaturahmi (friendship), solidarity, education, religiosity, patience, prestige, and emotional conflict. As a humanistic tradition among nagari’s people, Ilau turns up to be a form communal sense of togetherness. People willingly join the ritual whenever Ilau is held. The time-consuming and heavy work is eased by the collectivity of the people.

Keywords: Ilau ritual, hermeneutics, interpretation of meaning

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