By Ku Aminah Ku Mat
Several members of Historia Factory had a chance to visit Aceh, Indonesia, in January 2017. As Historia Factory members, Rumoh Aceh was among the most interesting places that have been visited by us during our journey in Banda Aceh. Rumoh Aceh is a traditional home that is very difficult to build yet it is so beautiful with artistic motives. We were welcomed by a radiant smile of an Aceh woman, Fetty. She invited us into the house and clearly explained the concept of this building.
Before entering the main door of Rumoh Aceh, we are stepping on the reunyeun or stairs made from wood. Wood is the main element of building of this house and the roof is made from sago leaves. The main door is very unique and resembles the wonderful heart of Acehnese. It is because we can see from the outer design that it is not easy to enter into it, but once the door is opened by an Acehnese for us, then we feel so warmly welcomed with an open heart. This is the symbolic meaning behind the door concept.
The other interesting part is that we need to bow our heads slightly while entering the house as the height of the main door is only about from 120 to 150 cm. Anybody who enters Rumoh Aceh, regardless of his position or social status, needs to bow as the symbol of respect towards the owner of the house. I became speechless when I entered to this house for the first time. The huge living room or seuramoe reungeun was empty without any furniture. The floor has a carpet called bak ngom and it is lined with tikar duek or beautiful small pandan leaves mats for guests to sit. Again, this custom teaches us to be humble to sit on the floor together.
Seuramoe reungeun or seuramoe keu does not only play its functions as a living room, but also it is a place for the religious and educational activities like learning how to recite al-Quran, musyawarah or meeting, wedding ceremonies and a place for men to sleep. Through seuramoe reungeun, we can reach to seuramoe teungoh or middle side of Rumoh Aceh that is slightly upper than sramoe keue and then we can reach at seuramoe likot at rear side which is a leisure room, and kitchen.
Only women, the owner of the house and the close relatives are allowed to enter these two places as it is considered as a private portion. Rooms for sleeping is located at rambat. According to Fetty, seuramoe likot is used for eating and gathering of the family, sitting with their children, as well as for sewing and cooking activities. Interestingly, the place for cooking is located at the east side of seuramoe likot in order to avoid the disturbance of the family members while they perform the prayers.
Rumoh Aceh usually has three or five areas inside. The three areas are in front, middle and at the back which contains 16 pillars, while all five spaces have 24 pillars altogether. There is only several numbers of Rumoh Aceh that have more than 24 pillars. For example, the house which belongs to the family of Raja-raja Pidie, Almarhum Pakeh Mahmud located in Peukan Pidie Kabupaten Sigli has 80 pillars. This big house is called as Rumoh Aceh Besar. The size of the main pillars of Rumoh Aceh is about 20 to 23 cm.
It is very important to note here that each structure, space and design of Rumoh Aceh contain important functions and meanings. For example, the relation between human and natural environment is shown by using the rattan to combine the parts of a house instead of using nails and surprisingly this house stands for 200 years without any defect! The flora and fauna motive can be seen through the shape of leaves, roots, flowers and animals. Usually, the flora motive was created without any colors and only several houses’ flora motive are red or black. Among other motives which can be seen are shapes of cloud, skies, stars, ocean and tongues.
The concept of belief in God (tawhid) is also been demonstrated by the decoration of the house with the verses of al-Quran. The position of the house is also aligned with the direction of qiblah as the front part of the house is located towards the east and back part is facing the west, which is the location of Ka’bah in Makkah. The number of stairs and the number of areas inside the house are also with odd numbers. Interestingly, the function of the design of Rumoh Aceh also demonstrates the social status of owners. For instance, the great number of designs of the house will show that the house belongs to rich people and vice versa. Some Rumoh Aceh belonging to the lower class do not have any design at all.
Under the Rumoh Aceh or called as miyup moh, we will see many stuffs which used for daily activities like jeungki (fist of rice) and kroeng pade, which is a big container capable to keep about 3 – 5 tons of dry rice. It is made of leather woven bamboo reed. Miyup moh plays other functions like as the place for woven the Aceh songket and as a cage for animals like chicken and goats. The rooftop of Rumoh Aceh is used for keeping the important belongings of the family and it is usually located at rambat or seuramoe teungoh.
It is undeniable that through the heritage and traditional Rumoh Aceh, we can learn, analyse and understand the values, culture, the way of life as well as the characters of the Acehnese. This is one of the most important benefits we can gain from traveling around the world. Eyes will observe, mind will think, heart will praise and history will never stop talking about it.
Muzium Rumoh Aceh, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Azhanis bt Mohd Radzi
Lea Ofeaa bt Mohd Shamsuddin
Nurul Hani bt Noorzid
Robiatul Husna bt Zulkiflee
Ku Siti Aminah bt Ku Mat