Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dayak Iban

Dayak Iban

The Ibans form the largest percentage of Sarawak's population, making up almost 34%. Reputed to be the most formidable headhunters on the island of Borneo, the Ibans of today are a generous, hospitable and placid people. Because of their history as pirates and fishermen, they were conventionally referred to as the "Sea Dayaks". The early Iban settlers who migrated from Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo south of Sarawak) via the Kapuas River and crossed over the Kelingkang range and set up home in the river valleys of Batang Ai, the Skrang River, Saribas, and the Rajang River. The Ibans dwell in longhouses, a stilted structure comprising many rooms housing a whole community of families.

If you ever have the fortune to visit an Iban longhouse and glance upward, dangling above you may see head trophies or antu pala. These suspended heads were obtained to mark a tribal victory and were a source of honor. Not to worry, though, this headhunting practiced ceased around the 1930s.

The Ibans are renowned for their Pua Kumbu (traditional Iban weavings), silver craftings, wooden carvings and beadwork. Iban tattoos which were originally symbols of bravery for the Iban warriors have become amongst the most distinctive in the world.

The Ibans are also famous for their tuak, a sweet rice wine which is served during big celebrations and festive occasions.

Today, the majority of Ibans practice Christianity. However, like most other ethnic groups in Sarawak, they still hold strong to their many traditional rituals and beliefs. Sarawak celebrates colourful festivals such as the Gawai Dayak (harvest festival), Gawai Kenyalang (hornbill, the god of war, festival) penuaian padi and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead).

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