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Malay Figure

UU Hamidy

UU Hamidy

1. Biography

U. U. Hamidy was born in Rantau Kuantan, Riau, on November 17, 1943. He earned a Sarjana (Honours) degree for education science in Indonesian language and literature from IKIP Madang in 1970. Since 1971 he worked as a lecturer in the Department of Indonesian Language and Literature, Faculty of Education, Riau University, Pekanbaru, Riau Province. He entered his retirement period on December 1, 2008.

In 1978-1979, U. U. Hamidy continued his study of Malay culture in the Department of Malay Studies, Malaya University, Kuala Lumpur. His thesis entitled Randai Dalam Kehidupan Masyarakat Melayu Riau (1980) gave him a Master of Arts. His writings have been published in various media both domestic and foreign. He has written about 50 books so far. Most of his works are themed about Malay culture, Malay literature, and the development of the dignified Malay culture.

In his book entitled Rahasia Penciptaan (The Secret of Creation) (2005), he wrote about a small part of his personal story in a unique way than any biographical narration in his previous books. He spent his childhood on an edge of a forest, far from modern civilization. The peace and solitude of his childhood natural environment encouraged him to understand the universe, motivating him to go to school, like many other people wish.

Having contemplated and surrendered himself to God’s will, he decided to go out of his homeland. He had lived in Riau for 15 years before moving to Jambi for the next 3 years. After that, he continued his journey to Malang to live in there for 7 years. He wrote his memoir in his book Rahasia Penciptaan, Chapter Hamba Hanya Siapa (2005) about his adventure. He spent a year in Aceh, several months in Macassar, Ujung Pandang, almost two years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and finally settled in Pekanbaru, Riau. His travelling experience, which was full of sadness as well as happiness, gave a lesson to him that he sees Malayness in a more objective perspective.

For the time being, U.U. Hamidy is active in various intellectual domains, including writing for the Cultural Column in Riau Pos Daily, speaking in some seminars (if his students manage to “set him up” to), and participating in religious activities, a manifestation of his humility to God. These all make the fact that there are many culturalists, artists, and journalists in Riau were grown up in U.U. Hamidy’s fosterage seem plausible.

2. Thoughts

Most of U.U. Hamidy’s ideas are dedicated to the glory of Malay civilization and culture that are dynamic and principled. There is no doubt about his concerns to Malay culture. He has been working for the sakes of it in his books, cultural and literary essays in Cultural Column of Riau Pos Daily, as well as numerous writings discussed in either academic field, seminars, or workshop. The eminence grise of Malayo-Riau land is known as a critical and provocative figure towards young writers in order to keep them productive, humble, simple, and spiritual. In the present writer’s visit back in 2008, it took a long time before the culturalist came home from the mosque after night prayer. At his house, he warmly and enthusiastically conversed with the present writer about culture, sufi literature, and the essential identity of Malay people.

In one of the agenda of an international seminar held by the Faculty of Cultural Science (FIB), Lancang Kuning University (Unilak), U. U. Hamidy said, “If a culturalist as myself dies, no body wants to replace. But if a government official dies, right away people will fight over his position.” Junaidi (2009) explains about U. U. Hamidy’s ideas in the following description:

We often hold a cultural exhibition but we do not understand the values of the culture. This is in contrast of what have been done by U.U. Hamidy. He has been observing culture and discovered the values lied deep in it. He then wrote it in many books for us, the heirs of Malay culture.

In general, there are two main things apparent in every U. U. Hamidi’s thought, namely his determination to uphold Malay culture and scientific based efforts. In a complete description, U.U. Hamidy’s thoughts are described by Junaidi as follows (, 2009).

The first time I knew U.U. Hamidy in person is when I was appointed to be the Dean of FIB Unilak. When my faculty intended to rebuild the Department of Malay Literature—after six years without students—we asked him for advices. His determination in upholding Malay culture has provoked us to keep on struggling to preserve our culture by keeping the department alive. Without his motivation, it would be hard for us to do that since nobody cared about it. There were even many voices suggesting closing of the department because it was considered as not productive and could not meet the need of employment. U.U. Hamidy’s consistent attitude gave us belief and self-awareness to come along wit him struggling consistently for the sakes of Malay culture through university education because one of the ways to reawaken Malay culture in Riau is through academic approach.

… U.U. Hamidy is more than a culturalist because he has a very strong scientific basis. As a lecturer in UNRI and adjunct instructor in some universities in Pekanbaru, he has shared his knowledge with us. In class, we could see how vast his knowledge of Malay culture is. We often feel small in front of U.U. Hamidy’s figure with his deep understanding of Malay culture. There are many matters about Malay culture that most of us are oblivious of, but U.U. Hamidy could explain any of it. Holding an honors and master degree, he managed to explain Malay culture in a logical and empirical way. This shows that U.U. Hamidy’s thoughts about Malay culture deserved to be appreciated and referred when we are talking about Malay.

Furthermore, U.U. Hamidy also pays attention to Indonesian language particularly through his thoughts and studies about Malayo-Riau language relationship with Indonesian language and its people. He scrutinized the background of the problem in his book, Riau sebagai Pusat Bahasa dan Kebudayaan Melayu (2003). In Riau sebagai Pusat Bahasa dan Kebudayaan Melayu: 2, U.U. Hamidy quotes Asmah Binti Haji Omar’s opinion that refuses the dichotomy of Malay language and Indonesian Language. While on the contrary, Umar Junus draws a clear line between the two languages. U.U. Hamidy participates in the language polemic, through quoting an opinion, by explaining the choosing of Riau dialect as Indonesian language. His view is also strengthened by Soedarmo’s argument that Indonesian language is Malay language. Likewise, people of Sungai Kuantan and Indragiri areas use the term Melayu Tinggi (High Malay) when referring to Indonesian language. Such polemic, according to U.U. Hamidy, occurs because of a disconnection in the investigation chain in looking at the flourishing and development of Malay language from hundreds of years ago as a lingua franca until now.

Upon this background of problem, U.U. Hamidy (2003) explains systematically about the history of Malay language before the establishment of Malay Kingdom, three spots of Malayo-Riau dispersion, and the split of Malayo-Riau language usage in two areas. He showed scientific evidence of Malay ethnic group lineage that is rooted from Austronesia ethnic group who lived about 2000 B.C. The important thing to look at, according to U. U. Hamidy, is the oneness of Malay ethnic groups if seen from the aspect of Austronesian culture, including the influence of Austronesian language on Malayo-Riau language as one of its branches prevailing in Malay archipelago.

U.U. Hamidy (2003: 7) also investigates the influence of Sriwijaya Empire on the development of Malay language. Sriwijaya as the biggest maritime empire in the 7th century once expanded its territory to Champa and Cambodia. Sriwijaya’s territory covers Cambodia, Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. Sriwijaya’s expansion was in proportion to Malay language’s spreading in the conquered area in a similar way of the Romans’ expansion or Islamic Golden Age in the Era of Caliphate that spread its culture and language to Africa and Andalusia. According to U.U. Hamidy scientific study, those factors added up to Malay language being dominant in Malay archipelago and Southeast Asia. This also explains why Malay language was choosen as the official language in Indonesia and Malaysia, of course after changes that result in its modern form. This discourse is one of U.U. Hamidy’s contributions as an academician in linguistic purview.

His contribution in cultural province, Malay in particular, has been manifested in one of his books entitled Jagad Melayu dalam Lintasan Budaya di Riau (2006). He states that Malay people in Riau has taken Islam as their way of life, trying to view the close relation between faith and nature wisely. One’s faith should not be only shown through being pious to Allah’s commands or the sharia, it should be apparent in one’s attitude and treatment to natural environment as well. He illustrates the notion in the following verses:

Adat hidup orang beriman
Tahu menjaga laut dan hutan
Tahu menjaga kayu dan kayan
Tahu menjaga binatang hutan

Tebasnya tidak menghabiskan
Tebangnya tidak memusnahkan
Bakarnya tidak membinasakan

U.U. Hamidy asserts that Malayness and faith should be characterized by good traditional and social life as well as good relationship with God, other human beings, and the universe. This view has become the characteristic of Malay local wisdom contained in the cultural system that shows to Malay people the way to become noble beings as the following verses read (2003:102);

adat hidup memegang adat
tahu menjaga laut dan selat
tahu menjaga rimba yang lebat
tahu menjaga tanah ulayat
tahu menjaga semut dan ulat
tahu menjaga togok dan belat

tahu menebas memegang adat
tahu menebang memegang amanat
tahu beladang menurut undang
tahu berkebun mengikut kanun

beramu tidak merusak kayu
berotan tidak merusak hutan
bergetah tidak merusak rimba
berumah tidak merusak tanah
berkebun tidak merusak dusun
berkampung tidak merusak gunung
berladang tidak merusak padang

adat hidup memegang amanah
tahu menjaga hutan dan tanah
tahu menjaga bukit dan lembah
beladang tidak merusak tanah
berkebun tidak merusak rimba

U.U. Hamidy often highlights Malayo-Riau socio-cultural symbols with interesting metaphors. He likes to draw metaphoric relations between Malay culture products and Malay people behavior in their social life. Here is U.U. Hamidy’s description about the socio-cultural symbols  using various examples (2003: 15).

Sirih pinang atau lengkapnya sirih, pinang, kapur, tembakau, dan gambir, di samping sebagai makanan, juga menjadi lambang kehidupan dan kegiatan sosial. Sirih telah dipakai sebagai tanda basa-basi pergaulan. Di mana bertemu kaum kerabat dan kontak sosial, sirih telah disodorkan untuk pembuka kata. Sirih dimakan untuk pengobatan, misalnya untuk mempertahankan gigi, pemerah bibir, obat luka, dan gatal-gatal. Tapi sirih pinang itu juga dipandang sebagai lambang suka dan duka kehidupan manusia. Kalau kita makan sirih, maka akan ada empat yang kita rasakan, yaitu manis, pahit, kelat, dan pedas. Manis dapat dipandang sebagai rasa senang dan bahagia. Pahit rasa kecewa, penderitaan maupun cobaan. Kelat sebagai rasa kesal dan jengkel. Sedangkan rasa pedas sebagai rasa marah. Itulah ragam kehidupan. Ini semua niscaya pernah dilalui oleh manusia. Dia tak dapat menghindar karena itulah liku-liku kehidupan.

U.U. Hamidy is a Malay prominent figure from Riau who deals with various disciplines, particularly language and culture. The short explanation above means to show his loyalty and concerns to Malay culture, which for that, he has done a philosophical study in his book Nilai, Suatu Kajian Awal (1993). However, despite his wide coverage of intellectual purview, U.U. Hamidy is best known as a culturalist and man of letters. This is because most of his works are themed about culture and language.

3. Works

U.U. Hamidy began doing socio-cultural researches since he was enrolled in a program held by the Learning Center of Social Science in Aceh in 1974. There, he conducted a research and wrote the result in the book Segi-segi Sosial Masyarakat Aceh (LP3ES). Some of his works that have been published are as follows:

  • Pengarang Melayu di Riau dan Abdullah Munsyi (1981).
  • Sikap Orang Melayu Terhadap Tradisinya di Riau (1981)
  • Sistem Nilai Masyarakat di Pedesaan Riau (1982).
  • Riau sebagai Pusat Bahasa dan Kebudayaan Melayu (1984).
  • Kedudukan Kebudayaan Melayu di Riau (1985).
  • Orang Patut (Disusun bersama Muchtar Ahmad), tahun 1984.
  • Dukun Melayu Rantau Kuantan Riau (1986).
  • Kesenian Jalur di Rantau Kuantan Riau (1986).
  • Kasin Niro Penyadap Enau (1987).
  • Rimba Kepungan Sialang (1987).
  • Kesusastraan Islam di Rantau Kuantan, Riau (1988).
  • Sikap dan Pandangan Hidup Ulama di Daerah Riau (1988).
  • Ketakwaan Kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa dalam Sistem Sosial Budaya Orang Melayu (1989).
  • Perjuangan Yayasan Lembaga Pendidikan Islam di Riau (1989).
  • Kebudayaan sebagai Amanah Tuhan (1989).
  • Indonesia, Malaysia, dan Singapura dalam Pandangan Orang Melayu di Riau (1990).
  • Masyarakat dan Kebudayaan di Riau (1990).
  • Syair Suluh Pegawai: Hukum Nikah, (1990).
  • Estetika Melayu di Tengah Hamparan Estetika Islam (1991).
  • Beberapa Aspek Sosial Budaya di Daerah Riau (1993).
  • Nilai, Suatu Kajian Awal (1993).
  • Dari Bahasa Melayu sampai Bahasa Indonesia (1995).
  • Kamus Antropologi Dialek Melayu Rantau Kuantan Riau (1995).
  • Cakap Rampai-Rampai Budaya Melayu di Riau (1997).
  • Islam dan Masyarakat Melayu di Riau (1999).
  • Bahasa Melayu dan Kreativitas Sastra di Daerah Riau (2003).
  • Jagad Melayu dalam Lintasan Budaya di Riau (2006) 

4. Award

He received Sagang Award in 2007 for Culturalist and Artist Category.


  • U.U. Hamidy, 2006. Jagad Melayu dalam Lintasan Budaya di Riau. Pekanbaru: Bilik Kreatif Press
  • U.U. Hamidy, 1991. Masyarakat terasing daerah Riau di gerbang abad XXI. Pekanbaru: Penerbit Zampad.
  • U.U. Hamidy, 1989. Kebudayaan sebagai amanah Tuhan. Pekanbaru: Universitas Islam Riau Press.
  • U.U. Hamidy, Muchtar Ahmad, 1984. Orang Patut. Pekanbaru: Bumi Pustaka.
  • U.U. Hamidy, 2005. Rahasia Penciptaan. Pekanbaru: Bilis Kreatif Press.
  • U.U. Hamidy, 2003. Riau sebagai pusat bahasa dan kebudayaan Melayu. Cetakan Keempat. Pekanbaru: UNRI Press.

Internet Source

Source of Photo:

(Bahril Hidayat/tkh/01/02-2010)

Translation by Reza Daffi (trans/07/03-10)

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