Bidayuh (Land Dayak's) |
Iban (Sea Dayak's) |
Orang Ulu |
The largest ethnic group in Sarawak, the Iban makes up about 30% of the population. In the past, the Iban were infamous as headhunters and fierce warriors. The Iban's have been known to be pirates and as such, they are often referred to as the Sea Dayaks. The Ibans traditional settlements are located in the river valleys of Batang Ai, the Skrang River, Saribas, and the Rejang River.
The Ibans are well known for their intricately-built longhouses normally located near a river, which are made up of a longhouse that are
compartmentalized into individual units. These longhouses may have anywhere between six to nearly a hundred units! Longhouses located in newly opened areas are typically made of bamboo and tree bark, but more established and prosperous longhouses can be made of precious and long-lasting hardwoods.
Primarily a communal group, the Iban's community practices their own brand of democracy, with the elders having an important role in major decisions. The decisions affect the entire community and a tuai or headman who is appointed by the entire community heads each longhouse. Today, the Iban's are known to be a hospitable and friendly people. Nowadays many Iban's grow cash crops such as pepper, rubber, cocoa and oil palm, as well as hill rice. Many others live in Sarawak's town and cities, but maintain strong ties to their ancestral longhouses.
The best-known costume is that worn by the Iban warrior. The costume consists of a vest-like top that is adorned by a full beadwork down the front, an equally adorned loincloth and a headdress decorated with colourful feathers. This traditional costume is normally worn today during cultural performances and festivals. Another distinct feature of the traditional Iban costume is the amount of silver pieces adorning the wearer.
Iban women are among the finest weavers of the Pua Kumbu, a textile twisted or ikat, tie-dyed and skillfully woven on the back strap loom. The technique is passed from generation to generation with many of the designs/patterns weaved from memory. An experienced weaver will need an inspirational dream to create a new design.
The Iban's traditionally cultivate rice as the main source of their staple. As such, the entire process of rice cultivation plays a key role in their way of life and their belief system. Although many Iban's today practice Christianity, they still adhere to age-old customs, beliefs and rituals. Among the festivals celebrated by this ethnic group are the Gawai Dayak (harvest festival), Gawai Kenyalang (hornbill festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead). Gawai Dayak features the conduct of a ceremonial offering, which is held in towns and longhouses. Offerings of various foodstuff and tuak or home-made rice wine are made to the gods of rice and prosperity. A poem then is recited by a poet, which is followed by the smearing of blood of a sacrificed cockerel over these offerings.
Once the ceremonial offering is over, the traditional celebration of the Gawai begins. The community gathers around the ranyai or ceremonial tree at the common verandah of the longhouse. Celebrations centre around the ranyai with decorated foodstuff and drinks. During the Gawai, the wearing of traditional costumes and a display of the Iban maidenís silver jewellery are seen. The end of the Gawai is signified by the removal of the ceremonial tree.