Interracial marriage is not something new in the world, is not something new in Indonesia, but it is still a challenge to get married this way in the Batak community of Lake Toba, North Sumatra today. Although the Batak people have been a lot more open to interracial marriages in recent decades, these types of marriage arrangement are not without challenges.

As we all know, people from different ethnic backgrounds do fall in love and many have successfully built happy and successful families without any cultural issues, however, interracial marriage in Indonesia is, of course, a lot more complex than just taking into consideration some factors here and there, in many regions mixed-race marriages are still considered “tabu or breaking the rules of tribal culture and religion.

The Batak people, in particular, do have extra complex marital rules. Usually, Batak families do not wish to marry their daughters to other tribes, but less forbidding when their sons marry a girl from a different tribe. When a Batak person marries someone from a different race, his or her spouse must adopt a new Batak surname, to mark their acceptance of their new Batak family. For a man who marries a non-Batak girl, his spouse usually given his mother’s Batak surname. For example, if the surname of the mother of the groom is “Sirait”, therefore his bride will adopt that surname “Sirait” (Boru ni Tulang, Tulang in this respect is the father of the bride and the father of the bride is culturally the brother of the mother of the groom). For a woman who marries a non-Batak man, her spouse will usually adopt a Batak surname of the husband of one of her aunties (Anak ni Namboru, namboru in this respect is the sister or the bride’s father). COMPLEX? VERY COMPLEX and this is just a small part of the complexity of the Batak culture, but the Batak people somehow manage this culture very well from generation to generation, and that complex culture is surviving well in today’s modern society. To be honest, this culture is so amazing, mind-boggling, but truly beautiful and has worked for hundreds of years.

In today’s “Nusantaralised” Indonesia, interracial marriage is more accepted than it was a few decades ago, particularly if the couples are from the same religious faith. The couple we are featuring here today is Samuel Starlight Simanjuntak (a young man from interracial marriage from Batak & Nias), and his bride Tatum Ona Kembara (an Indonesian girl from Indonesian Chinese ethnic background), recently got married in Medan, North Sumatra. Sam’s mother (Dr Ria Novida Telaumbanua, Nias origin, and Mr Edy Wisno Simanjuntak, Batak origin). Evidently, Dr Ria Telaumbanua, has retained her Nias Surname, and we were informed that Tatum has actually ceremonially adopted Ria’s Nias surname of Telaumbanua, how amazing is that!!

The Nias people are often mistaken as part of the Batak tribes, but they are not the same tribe. Batak and Nias are two very different tribes of North Sumatra. They are closely associated with one another because of their region’s close proximity. The Batak people which are made up of several Batak tribes (Toba, Karo, Mandailing, Pakpak, Angkola & Simalugun tribes) are the people of the Lake Toba region & Sibolga and Mandailing area towards West Sumatra. The Nias people are the people of the small island (Nias island) just of the shore of Sibolga. Both tribes (the Batak and the Nias people) are majority Christians, hence the interracial marriages can be arranged without too many challenges.

Well, we hope we have shared some interesting stories for you to understand about the complexity of marriages in Indonesia, and we are truly proud that this large country with its ginormous number of populations, has continued to produce very happy interracial marriages, embracing the country’s foundation and way of live “PANCASILA”.

Now, the most amazing and interesting things for us is the costumes worn by the bride & groom during the ceremony. Indeed, unity in diversity. The bride & groom were wearing costumes from the Batak culture, the Nias culture and the more International wedding costume usually worn by Chinese couples in Indonesia.

We are truly grateful, that Dr Ria Telambanua & family, have agreed to share this happy story with all of us. Thank you Ria & family. Our best wishes to Sam & Tatum for their future endeavours.

Salam Wastra!!

The Wastra Team

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