West Kalimantan

West Kalimantan (Indonesian: Kalimantan Barat) is a province of Indonesia. It is one of five Indonesian provinces comprising Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Its capital city is Pontianak. The province has an area of 147,307 km2, and had a population of 4,395,983 at the 2010 Census[3] and 5,414,390 at the 2020 Census;[4] the official estimate as at mid 2021 was 5,470,797.[5] Ethnic groups include the Dayak, Malay, Chinese, Javanese, Bugis, and Madurese. The borders of West Kalimantan roughly trace the mountain ranges surrounding the vast watershed of the Kapuas River, which drains most of the province. The province shares land borders with Central Kalimantan to the southeast, East Kalimantan to the east, and the Malaysian territory of Sarawak to the north.

West Kalimantan
Kalimantan Barat
Province of West Kalimantan
Provinsi Seribu Sungai (Indonesian)
Province of the thousand rivers
Akçaya (Sanskrit)
Location West Kalimantan in Indonesia
Coordinates: 0°0′N 110°30′E
and largest city
Established1 January 1957
  BodyWest Kalimantan Provincial Government
  Vice GovernorRia Norsan
  Total147,307 km2 (56,876 sq mi)
  Rank2nd in Indonesia
Highest elevation
(Mount Unjukbalui)
1,659 m (5,443 ft)
 (mid 2021 estimate)[1]
  Rank15th in Indonesia
  Density37/km2 (96/sq mi)
  Ethnic groups34.93% Dayak
33.84% Malay
9.74% Javanese
8.17% Chinese
6.27% Madurese
3.13% Buginese
3.91% other[2]
  Religion (2021)60.07% Islam
22.16% Catholicism
11.58% Protestantism
5.85% Buddhism
0.26% Confucianism
0.05% Hinduism
  LanguagesIndonesian (official), Bukar Sadong, Hakka, Iban, Kendayan, Jangkang, Pontianak Malay, Sambas Malay, Teochew, etc.
Time zoneUTC+7 (Indonesia Western Time)
ISO 3166 codeID-KB
HDI (2019) 0.677 (medium)
HDI rank30th in Indonesia(2018)

West Kalimantan is an area that could be dubbed "The Province of a Thousand Rivers". The nickname is aligned with the geographical conditions that have hundreds of large and small rivers that can be and often are navigable. Several major rivers are still the main route for freight to the hinterland, despite road infrastructure now reaching most districts.

Although a small part of West Kalimantan region is seawater, West Kalimantan has dozens of large and small islands (mostly uninhabited) spread along the Karimata Strait and Natuna Sea that borders the province of Riau Islands. The total population in the province, according to the 2010 census totalled 4,395,983 inhabitants and at the 2020 Census it was 5,414,390, but by mid 2021 it was officially estimated to have reached 5,470,797.


The history of West Kalimantan was mostly Hindu and Buddhist with numerous kingdoms ruling over the region and Borneo as a whole. Its modern history can be traced back to the 17th century. Dayaks were the main inhabitants of the province before the 17th century. The Malays are the native Muslims of West Kalimantan and established their own sultanate. Similar to most parts of Borneo, many of the Malays in West Kalimantan were also partly descended from the Malayalised Dayaks. The high Chinese population in this province was due to a republic founded by Chinese miners called Lanfang Republic (蘭芳共和國: Republik Lanfang), an autonomous state allied with Pontianak and Sambas Sultanate, as a substate of Qing.[6] The government of Lanfang Republic was ended in West Kalimantan after the Dutch occupation in 1884.

Dayak people were feared for their headhunting practices

West Kalimantan was under Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, when Indonesia declared its Independence. During the Japanese occupation, more than 21,000 people in Pontianak (including sultans, men, women and children) were kidnapped, tortured and massacred by Japanese troops during the Pontianak incidents. All the Malay Sultans on Kalimantan were executed and the Malay elite was devastated by the Japanese.[7]

The massacre occurred in 1943-1944 and most of the victims were buried in several giant wells in Mandor (88 km from Pontianak). After the end of the war, the Japanese officers in Pontianak were arrested by allied troops and brought in front of an international military tribune.[7]

A monument called Makam Juang Mandor was created to remember this tragic event.

Historical population
1971 2,019,936    
1980 2,486,068+23.1%
1990 3,229,153+29.9%
1995 3,635,730+12.6%
2000 4,034,178+11.0%
2005 4,052,345+0.5%
2010 4,395,983+8.5%
2015 4,783,209+8.8%
2020 5,414,390+13.2%
2021 5,470,797+1.0%
Source: Badan Pusat Statistik 2021

On 12 May 1947, the autonomous region of West Kalimantan was established. It was led by Syarif Hamid II of Pontianak, who supported the Dutch endeavor to establish a federal United States of Indonesia (RUSI), of which West Kalimantan would be one component. Following the 5 April 1950 arrest of Sultan Hamid for complicity in a coup attempt against the RUSI government led by Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) officer Raymond Westerling, there were demands from the public for a merger into the Republic of Indonesia, which took place on 22 April. On 15 August, The West Kalimantan autonomous region became part of Kalimantan Province, and two days later, the RUSI ceased to exist, and was replaced with a unitary Republic of Indonesia.[8][9][10][11]

West Kalimantan was the site of substantial fighting during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation under the Sukarno government in the mid-1960s. After Suharto deposed Sukarno in 1965, the confrontation was quickly resolved. Domestic conflict continued, however, for another ten years between the new military Suharto government and fighters organized during the confrontation and backed by the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). (see Indonesian killings of 1965–66)

During the 1930s the Dutch colonial powers initiated a "transmigration plan" to move people from heavily populated islands such as Java, to the less populated islands of Irian Jaya and Kalimantan. In the 1960s the Indonesian government granted the Madurese rights to clear forests for palm oil cultivation. This conflicted with the local Dayak tribes' traditional way of life. The tensions between the two ethnic groups resulted in major eruptions of violence in 1996, the Sambas riots in 1999 and the Sampit conflict in 2001, resulting in thousands of deaths.[12][13][14]



West Kalimantan Province is located in the western part of the island of Borneo, or in between the lines 2°08'N and 3°05'S and between 108°0'E and 114°10'E. The province is traversed by the Equator (latitude 0°), precisely through the city of Pontianak. West Kalimantan has a tropical climate, with often high temperatures accompanied by high humidity.

Other specific characteristics are that the West Kalimantan region is one of the provinces in Indonesia which has a land border with another country, namely the State of Sarawak, East Malaysia. Even with this position, West Kalimantan is currently the only province in Indonesia that have officially has an access road to get in and out of a neighbouring country. West Kalimantan and Sarawak have open roads approximately 400 km long, spanning Pontianak-Entikong-Kuching (Sarawak, Malaysia) and can be reached about six to eight hours of travel. In the northern part of the province, there are four regencies that directly borders Malaysia, namely Sambas, Sanggau, Sintang and Kapuas Hulu, which stretch along with the Kalingkang Mountains-Kapuas Hulu.

Most of West Kalimantan is low-lying land, with a total area of 147,307 km2, or 7.53 percent of the total Indonesian or 1.13 times the size of the island of Java. This region stretches straight from north to south along more than 600 km and about 850 km from West to East. Judging from the size of the territory, West Kalimantan is Indonesia's third largest province by area, after Papua (421,891 km2) and Central Kalimantan (152,600 km2). The largest regency is Ketapang (31,240.74 km2 or 21.2 percent of the provincial area) followed by Kapuas Hulu (29,842 km2 or 20.26 percent), and Sintang (21,638.2 km2 or 14.7 percent), with the rest spread over the nine other regencies and two cities.


In general, West Kalimantan land is low-lying and has hundreds of rivers are safe when navigable, slightly hilly which extend from west to east along the valley Kapuas and Natuna Sea / Strait Karimata. Most of the land area is a swampy mix of peat and mangrove forests. The land area is flanked by two mountain ranges, namely, Kalingkang Mountains in the North and the Schwaner Mountains in the south along the border with the province of Central Kalimantan. Judging from the soil texture, the majority of West Kalimantan's area consists of the soil type PMK (podsolic red-yellow), which covers an area of about 10.5 million hectares, or 17.28 per cent of the total area of 14.7 million hectares. Next, the ground OGH (organosol, gley and hummus) and the alluvial soil of about 2.0 million hectares, or 10.29 per cent sprawled across Dati II, but most likely in the coastal district.

Influenced by the vast lowlands, the heights of the mountains are relatively low as well as non-volcanically active. The highest mountain is Mount Baturaya in Serawai District of Sintang Regency which has an altitude of 2,278 metres above sea level, far lower than Mount Semeru (East Java, 3,676 metres) or Mount Kerinci (Jambi, 3,805 metres).

Mount Lawit is located in Kapuas Hulu District, Embaloh Hulu and more formerly known in West Kalimantan. It only is the third highest because it has a high 1,767 metres, while the second highest is Mount Batusambung (in Ambalau District) with a height of up to 1,770 metres.

Lakes and Rivers

West Kalimantan is an area that could be called "The Thousand Rivers Province". The nickname is in line with the geographical conditions that have hundreds of large and small rivers, among others, can be and often are navigable. Several major rivers are still the lifeblood and mainline to transport the countryside, although the road infrastructure has been able to reach most districts.

The longest river is the Kapuas River, which is also the longest river in Indonesia (1,086 km), along which 942 km are navigable. Other great rivers are the Melawi, (navigable 471 km), Pawan (197 km), Kendawangan (128 km), Jelai (135 km), Sekadau (117 km), Sambas (233 km ), and Landak (178 km).

Although rivers are very numerous in West Kalimantan, there are only two significant lakes in the province. These are Lake Sentarum and Lake Luar I that are in Kapuas Hulu. Lake Sentarum has an area of 117,500 hectares, which sometimes is almost dry in the dry season, and Lake Luar I, which has an area of approximately 5,400 hectares. Both of these lakes have potential as tourist attractions.

Administrative divisions

Un til 1999 the province was composed of six regencies (kabupaten) and the independent City (kota) of Pontianak. A seventh regency, Bengkayang, was formed on 20 April 1999 from part of Sambas Regency, and an eighth, Landak, was formed on 4 October 1999 from part of Mempawah Regency. A second independent city, Singkawang, was formed on 21 June 2001 from part of Bengkayang Regency. On 18 December 2003 Sekadau Regency was cut out of Sanggau Regency, and Melawi Regency was cut out of Sintang Regency, while on 2 January 2007 North Kayong Regency was cut out of Ketapang Regency, and on 17 July 2007 Kubu Raya Regency was cut out of Mempawah Regency. West Kalimantan is thus now subdivided into two cities and twelve regencies. About 29 per cent of the province's population lives in the Greater Pontianak area. The capitals, areas and populations of the regencies and cities are:

mid 2021
1Pontianak CityPontianak107.80554,764658,585663,7130.766 (High)
2Singkawang CitySingkawang504.00186,462235,064237,8910.698 (Medium)
3Bengkayang RegencyBengkayang5,075.48215,277286,366290,9430.644 (Medium)
4Ketapang RegencyKetapang31,240.74427,460570,657579,9270.632 (Medium)
5Kubu Raya RegencySungai Raya6,958.22500,970609,392615,1250.645 (Medium)
6Landak RegencyNgabang8,915.10329,649397,610401,1030.635 (Medium)
7North Kayong Regency
(Kayong Utara)
Sukadana4,568.2695,594126,571128,5500.585 (Low)
8Mempawah Regency*Mempawah2,797.88234,021401,560305,6730.627 (Medium)
9Sambas RegencySambas6,716.52496,120629,905637,8110.632 (Medium)
#Western group66,884.003,040,3173,815,8103,860,736
1Kapuas Hulu RegencyPutussibau29,842.00222,160252,609253,7400.629 (Medium)
2Melawi RegencyNanga Pinoh10,640.80178,645228,270231,2420.628 (Medium)
3Sanggau RegencySanggau12,857.80408,468484,836488,5270.620 (Medium)
4Sekadau RegencySekadau5,444.30181,634211,559212,8780.619 (Medium)
5Sintang RegencySintang21,638.20364,759421,306423,6740.631 (Medium)
#Eastern group (Kapuas Raya)80,423.101,355,6661,598,5801,610,061
#TotalsPontianak147,307.004,395,9835,414,3905,470,7970.648 (Medium)


  • above excludes a Special Enclave (Daerah Kantong), with 5,469 population in 2010.

Proposed new province of Kapuas Raya

On 25 October 2013, the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) began reviewing draft laws on the establishment of 57 prospective regencies and 8 new provinces; one of the proposed provinces is Kapuas Raya (Great Kapuas) in West Kalimantan. If the bill is approved, this will make Kapuas Raya the fourth largest province in Indonesia after Papua, East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, as the total area of Kapuas Raya, encompassing five regencies, will measure 80,423.1 square km, or 54.6 per cent of the current size of West Kalimantan. Ever since 2005, the five regencies in the eastern part of West Kalimantan (Sanggau, Sekadau, Sintang, Melawi and Kapuas Hulu) have floated a concept to establish Kapuas Raya due to the distance issues from the respective regencies to the province capital Pontianak. The distance between the farthest regency of Kapuas Hulu and Mempawah is 661 km, followed by Melawi (439 km), Sintang (395 km), Sekadau (315 km) and Sanggau (267 km).[18]


Danau Sentarum National Park is a wetland of international importance located in the north of the province

There are three National Parks in the province: Danau Sentarum, Gunung Palung and Betung Kerihun. Currently, illegal logging for trees such as dipterocarp and plantations of palm oil and pulpwood threaten many rare species in the province due to the effects of habitat destruction.[19] Peat bog fires and droughts or flooding during ENSO episodes also threaten the area and are worsened by ongoing deforestation.

Dr Hotlin Ompusunggu has received the 2011 Whitley Award for her conservation work in West Kalimantan. She has been fighting against illegal logging by the trade-off with low-cost quality dental and medical treatment to 60,000 villagers on condition they involve in reforestation and conservation work.[20]


  • SMA Negeri 4 Pontianak public school


The "Dayak-Malay" brotherhood monument in West Kalimantan Provincial Museum, Pontianak, Indonesia. Forming 34.93% and 33.84% respectively, the Dayak and the Malays are the two largest native indigenous communities in the province.

Ethnic groups

The largest ethnic groups in West Kalimantan are the Dayak (34.93%) and Malays (33.84%). The Dayaks are tribes in the hinterland, while the ethnic Malay mainly lives in the coastal areas. The third-largest ethnic group is the Javanese (9.74%), who live mainly in areas of transmigration. In fourth place are the ethnic Chinese (8.17%), who are largely found in urban areas such as Singkawang and Pontianak. Next in fifth place are the Madurese (6.27%), who live mainly in Pontianak and Kubu Raya. The next largest ethnic groups (sixth to tenth) are the Bugis (3.13%), Sundanese (1.13%), Batak (0.60%), Daya (0.52%) and Banjar (0.33%), while others constitute 1.33%.[21]


Indonesian is a language commonly used by people in West Kalimantan for language interface, but there are other indigenous groups, namely Pontianak Malay, Sambas Malay and Senganan language distribution by region. Likewise, there are various types of Dayak languages; according to research by Institut Dayakologi, 188 dialects are spoken by the Dayaks, and Chinese languages such as Teochew and Khek/Hakka are also spoken. Dayak languages bear much resemblance to Malay, only the most different at the end of words such as makan (Malay), makatn (Kendayan), makai (Iban) and makot (Melahui).

Especially for Ot Danum language, the language may be said to stand alone and is not a dialect of other Dayak groups. Dialect, however, lies in some sub-Uut Danum Dayak tribe itself. As the sub-tribe language Dohoi for example, to say eat only consist of a minimum of 16 vocabularies, ranging from the most delicate to the most rugged. For example, ngolasut (was fine), germ (general), dekak (for older or respected), ngonahuk (rough), monirak (the rough) and Macuh (for the spirits of the dead).

Malay in West Kalimantan consists of several subgroups, including Pontianak Malay, Sambas, Mempawah, Matam and Ketapang. The Sanggau, Sintang and Sekadau Malay spoken in the northern part of the province itself has the same dialect with the language Sarawak Malay; meanwhile, Pontianak Malay spoken in the capital is more closely related to the standard Malaysian Malay and Riau Malay.


Religion in West Kalimantan (2022)

  Islam (60.10%)
  Roman Catholic (22.15%)
  Protestantism (11.58%)
  Buddhism (5.83%)
  Confucianism, Hinduism, and others (0.34%)


According to the 2020 census, the largest religious group in West Kalimantan (60%) is Islam. Muslim majority areas in West Kalimantan are the inhabited coastal regions where the majority are Malays, such as Sambas, Mempawah, Ketapang, North Kayong, Kubu Raya, Kapuas Hulu and Pontianak. In Melawi and Singkawang approximately 50% of the population are Muslims.

Islam is also practiced by Javanese, Madurese and Bugis located in West Kalimantan. In rural areas inhabited by the Dayak predominantly Christian as in Bengkayang, Landak, Sanggau, Sintang and Sekadau. The Chinese in the West Kalimantan mostly adheres to Buddhism and Christianity (Catholic / Protestant).[22]


Traditional Dance

Tari Monong / Manang is a traditional dance of West Kalimantan society. This dance is a healing dance. When there are people who are sick but do not heal, usually the family will hold Tari Monong / Manang. The dancer will act as a shaman healer who issued a special spell. Thus, the patient will be motivated to get better. Tari Zapin Tembung is a type of is a social dance in the communities of West Kalimantan. Tari Menoreh Getah is a traditional dance which describes the motion of life of rural communities in West Kalimantan that meet their daily needs. Based on the idea that dance is worked by elements of dance movement Malay and Dayak in West Kalimantan. Tari Mandau is a dance which symbolises of the fighting spirit of the Dayak community in defence of dignity and status.

Traditional Clothes

West Kalimantan men wear traditional clothing in the form of headgear decorated with feathers of hornbills, sleeveless shirt (vest), knee-length trousers and fabric that serves as a belt. Usually, West Kalimantan men also wear jewellery, such as a beaded necklace. Women usually wear cloth covering the chest, as well as layers of fabrics which serves as setagen and woven fabrics. Jewellery is worn in the form of hornbill feathers as a headdress, beaded necklace and bracelet on the arm. This custom clothing comes from the Dayak tribe.

The classical attire for the Malays in West Kalimantan includes Telok Belanga (for men) and Baju Kurong (for women). Wearing Baju Telok Belanga and Baju Kurong is especially popular during weddings and other traditional functions. Songket weaving is also popular, especially in Sambas (located in the northwestern part of the province).

Traditional Weapons

The mandau is a traditional weapon commonly used by people in West Kalimantan. A mandau is a kind of machete and some are used for everyday purposes. Other weapons are a shield, blowgun, spear, and sickle. The mandau is used for the purposes of war, decorated with human hair as a symbol of courage. The shield, which is called kelikit, has the size of a full-sized man with ornate carvings in black and red. Other weapons are blowpipe with arrows tipped with poison sap of a tree called ipoh.

Traditional Houses

Masjid Jami' Pontianak, originally built in 1771 on the banks of Kapuas River. It was the first structure built to commemorate the foundation of Pontianak Sultanate (the area would later become the capital city of West Kalimantan Province). A prime example of the local Malay-Muslim architecture, the religious monument has also received influence by Middle Eastern, European and Javanese architecture.

One of the cultural houses in West Kalimantan is called "Rumah Panjang" (longhouse) because its size length and made of wood. This house is the residence of the Dayak tribe, the function of this custom home is actually a place to stay for a couple of heads of families and also usually used for meetings. They can also be found in other provinces of Kalimantan as well as the neighbouring Sarawak in Malaysia. "Rumah Radakng" which is also a kind of longhouse located in Pontianak and the surrounding area. This house has a length of approximately 380 meters high and 7 meters including the most luxurious custom home in West Kalimantan in the meantime. "Rumah Batok" is a traditional house owned by the Dayak tribe Badayuh, this house has a unique shape because it has a round shape and height of up to approximately 12 meters to the top. Malay traditional house is a house owned by ethnic Malays, which is located in the city of Pontianak. These traditional houses are usually used as a place of deliberation, performing arts, wedding place citizens and other events.


Robo-robo tradition. Robo-robo derived from the Robo or Rabu (Wednesday). Robo-Robo tradition held on the last Wednesday of Safar based on the Islamic Calendar, which symbolizes a blessing. According to the story, this rite is a warning or trail the arrival of Rajkumar Mas Surya Negara of the Kingdom Matan (Martapura) to the Kingdom of Mempawah (Pontianak). The ritual begins when the Maharaja (King), Queen Mempawah, sons and daughters and the retainer and the guard departed from Castle Village, Mempawah use bidar boat, the boat kingdom of Amantubillah Palace. The ship will sail to the mouth of the River Mempawah located in the village of Kuala Mempawah with the distance of about one hour. At the river, the mouth will do some sort of ceremony "welcome" to the sea as when Opu Daeng Menambon arrived at the river mouth for the first time. Robo-robo itself was intended as a warning Haulan series of important events began on Monday night to Tuesday, the last month of Safar to commemorate the death of Opu Daeng Manambun. For the citizens of Bugis descent in the ordinance, robo-robo usually celebrated with family meals at home. Not only at home, but eating together also carried students in various schools both elementary to high school on Wednesday morning.


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  2. Ananta, Aris; Arifin, Evi Nurvidya; Hasbullah, M Sairi; Handayani, Nur Budi; Pramono, Agus (2015). Demography of Indonesia's Ethnicity. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 108. ISBN 978-981-4519-87-8.
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  20. "RI conservationist receives award from British royalty | the Jakarta Post". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
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  • J. Braithwaite, V. Braithwaite, M. Cookson & L. Dunn, Anomie and Violence: Non-truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding (ANU E-Press: 2010)
  • Davidson, Jamie S. and Douglas Kammen (2002). Indonesia's unknown war and the lineages of violence in West Kalimantan. Indonesia 73:53.
  • Yuan, Bing Ling (1999). Chinese Democracies – A Study of the Kongsis of West Borneo (1776–1884).

Further reading

  • Bamba, John (ed.) (2008). Mozaik Dayak keberagaman subsuku dan bahasa Dayak di Kalimantan Barat. Pontianak: Institut Dayakologi. ISBN 978-979-97788-5-7.
  • Istiyani, Chatarina Pancer (2008). Memahami peta keberagaman subsuku dan bahasa Dayak di Kalimantan Barat. Institut Dayakologi.
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