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Monday, 31 July 2017

Ngepan Batang Rajang, in its Raw Beauty

This would be my second post on Ngepan Batang Rajang this month after my blogpost on the wedding of the late Tun Jugah's granddaughter.

On 29 July 2017, the raw beauty of Ngepan Batang Rajang made its comeback on the final round of The Face of M.O Sarawak for Kumang Edition held in Bintulu. 

Ms Jessy Gantle, hailing from Kapit who wore the ngepan Batang Rajang wowed the panel of judges and audience by displaying the ngepan in its most original state. Not only kept the audience mesmerised but she also won the title as the Face of M.O. Sarawak. The ngepan belongs to Mr. Sandine Bennidect of Bintulu. 

The Face of M.O Sarawak 2017 Kumang Edition,
Ms Jessy Gantle

With Mr. Sandine Bennidect, the owner of the Ngepan Batang Rajang

It was a difficult journey for Mr Sandine while trying to promote the ngepan and I managed to witness my first ngepan Batang Rajang being displayed at the Borneo Hornbill Festival 2012.  

Mr. Sandine's Ngepan Batang Rajang at BHF 2012

Dujung Marik headgear is super heavy!
Many were in awe when they first see this ngepan as it is very outstanding as compared to the standard ngepan Iban due to the head gear. 

Does it exist?

Yes of course!

Below are some historical record for you to see, thanks to the internet and easy sharing of information these information are made available at  your fingertips. 

As unique as it looks, now what makes a Ngepan Batang Rajang?

Front view

Back view

First of all, the headgear is called Dujung Marik, it is basically made out of many materials such as beads, rattan headcap, colorful threads, hornbill feathers among the main ones. It can also be decorated with coins and shells depending of the creativity of the maker. 

The rattan base

The beads and colorful thread

All the materials

Finished product

"Dujung" would simply means headgear as what was said by Mr. Sandine. One interesting point to note is that when people say "berdujung bungai rangkai" it means adorning the chignon (sanggul) with flowers made out of paper.

Berdujung Bungai Rangkai

Jessy wearing the Dujung

Myself wearing Sugu Tinggi Pirak
Next, is the marik empang, the beaded collar. Moving on to the beaded dress is called Baju Marik. Baju Marik is basically a beaded dress made out of old glass beads, blue barrel beads, straw beads, fire agate or buah pelaga, brass bells and cowrie shells strung together to form a dress which will be worn over the body. 

Sandine Collection

Tun Jugah collection
Close up view
Rawai pandak pirak or short silver corset is worn together with the black camisole and Kain Buri (cowrie shell skirt). Rawai or corset is made out of tiny silver rings strung around circular rattan body and each circle is assembled and attached on top of each other until it forms to the desired height. Normally rawai pandak would be about 6 to 8 inches in height.  

Rawai Pandak Pirak

Then the wearer's wrists are adorned with Rangki or bangles made out of bones. Other than rangki, sometimes the wrists can also be adorned with Tumpa Bulu, which are bangles made out of tree sap. Tumpa bulu is normally brown in color while rangki is white. While the normal ngepan Iban the wrists would be adorned with tumpa pirak.

Tumpa bulu
Tumpa pirak & tumpa rangkup

Instead of holding a set of buah pauh pirak, a complete ngepan Batang Rajang costume wearer would be holding the orb shaped bells called Gerunong Siong on either side of the hands and a handkerchief on the other. 

Gerunong Siong

Buah pauh pirak
Black has always been controversial when it comes to Kumang Iban pageants. As for the Iban of Batang Rajang, their celebratory costume is black based and a clear example of it is the Kain Buri or a black skirt sewn with white cowrie shells in contrast with bright coloured kain karap or kain kebat

Kain Buri

Kain Kebat
Kain karap
Next significant accessory is Tali Ujan, it is a beaded "tail" hung at the back of the ngepan which would normally have cow bells that will hit the wearer's ankles to alarm the people that a kumang is coming. 

Last but not the least is Gelang Giring as compared to the normal Geruncong Kaki / gelang kaki. Gelang giring is a pair of huge anklets made of brass and have ball bearings instead of bells inside of the cavity of the anklet. 

Tali Ujan
Gelang Giring

There you go, some bits on the authentic Ngepan Batang Rajang from Kapit. It goes to show that there are many types of ngepan or costumes being worn by the Iban tribes in Sarawak. Each ngepan would depend on the area which the tribe resided and perhaps also being influenced by economy surrounding the area at that point of time.

Many thanks to Mr. Sandine Bennidect, Ms.Jessy Gantle, Mr. Mizta, Hedges Photography and the rest of my Facebook friends who contributed in giving some insight about this special and unique ngepan.

Let's share the love for Ngepan Batang Rajang of Kapit shall we?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Something new from the old can be a good thing...

Dikelala bungai ari kayu,
Dikelala buah ari langgu,
Dikelala bansa ari jaku,
Dikelala adat ari penyiru,
Dikelala kaban ari ngepan.

The Land of Hornbills recently witnessed one of the grandest weddings in Sarawak history. It was the wedding of the great grand-daughter of Tun Jugah, Ms. Amanda Sura Nanta Linggi to Mr. Jonathan Inggit Jacques which was solemnised on 29 June 2017 in Kuching, Sarawak. The solemnisation then continued with two receptions held in Kuching and Kapit.

Tun Temenggong Jugah Anak Barieng or Tun Jugah (1903 – July 1981)
 was a Malaysian politician of Iban descent from the state of Sarawak.

Apart from being the wedding of the late Tun Jugah’s great grand-daughter, it was one of the weddings held with spectacular Iban regalia complete with age old 'adat' or custom. However, what interests me the most was her two wedding costumes worn during the receptions, finally, someone is wearing something old (despite modern modifications) other than ngepan Rawai Tinggi Saribas. 

At the first glance they looked like the traditional Iban woman costumes of Batang Rajang, in which, Carnelian,Venetian and glass beads threaded to form the “dress” apart from the skirt called “kain burik”. Many were commenting about the origin of the costumes as they have never seen them before (unless you are familiar with the Iban Rajang costume).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that ngepan does exist, ari Batang Rajang penatai ngepan nya.

I managed to have a quick chat with the Ms. Amanda to discover the origin of her ngepan. Definitely both of her ngepan were inspired by the traditional ngepan Iban Rajang as they were modification from something traditional. Her first traditional reception ngepan was inspired by the baju marik which would normally be donned with the “dujung marik” as the headgear.

As for the Kapit reception, she wore the pearl vest which was also inspired by a different version of ngepan Iban Rajang. I was informed that it took her aunt and the ladies of the Tun Jugah Foundation five months to thread both ngepan. Other than the beaded dresses, she also donned authentic sugu tinggi pirak (silver filigree headgear), rawai pandak (short corset) and kain burik (skirt made out of cowrie shells) passed down by her grandmother.

Upon the uploading of the bride's photos in her modern ngepan Batang Rajang, Facebook was not short of negative comments given by netizens stating that such costumes do not exist. This problem occurs because there is lack of awareness and knowledge plus humans are always attracted to fault finding. 

Some were questioning whether it is allowed to wear the “modified” version of the original ngepan. As for me, I am not against such modifications as it is for a wedding after all and not for a traditional costume competition. Modifications made to the costume is fine for me, however I am more particular about the purpose and the ‘correctness’ of accessories being placed on the body while wearing it.

In conclusion, wearing the traditional ngepan is one of the ways for us to preserve our dying culture. It is our hope that the younger generation would proud of their culture by embracing it through practice and finding the history behind the culture.  

Last but not least I would like to give credit to Andy Phe for sharing his photos in FB and other FB users too.

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening" - Coco Chanel