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Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Iban Confinement Practices

"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

A loss creates another hope in life, hope in life is what sustains a man’s heartbeat..- Kumang Saribas

Well this post is written due to a loss we experienced recently....This loss inspired me to read more on what my older generation practiced for confinement.

Anyway, the Iban confinement practices have one similar element compared with other cultures which is the element of heat for the new mother. 

The traditional confinement practice may no longer be practiced in the modern world but there is a slight possibility that it is practiced in the rural areas.

The Iban Confinement Practices

At birth the mother and infant are confined to the bilik and following delivery, the mother is subject to a period of heating called 'bekindu’ (literally ‘to heat’ or ‘warm by a fire’) which traditionally lasted from a month to forty-one days. During this period, her abdomen is wrapped with a ground ginger mixture and is to be changed daily or twice a daily and the heating process is done by sitting beside a fire. Throughout the forty days, the mother heats herself by an open fire kept continuously burning inside the bilik and is treated with ginger and other heating agents so that her ‘body is made warm’ (ngangat ka tuboh). The type of firewood used to warm her will depend on where she lives. If she lives upriver, she is asked to use firewood from the malam, lensat, or manding trees.

On bekindu, there is another material that I read which is slightly more elaborate and also different  in “Pregnancy and Childbirth-Restrictions” written by Rev, William Howell, where:

..."As the mother sits on her back to the fire in the room holding in her hands the handle of a native adze (bliong) she presses it to her abdomen to assist the course of nature. For twenty-four hours she is not allowed to drink water, but if she does, it must be very little and first warmed lest fever should set in. Her food is light and simple. The husband goes out to get certain kinds of fish which is first smoked (salai) before it is eaten. The mother is not allowed to sleep for twenty-four hours after giving birth to a child, nor is she allowed to lie down. ...The period of confinement is doubtful. It depends entirely on the strength of the woman. I have known several cases of women going out three days after their confinement to the paddy fields.”

What I think "bekindu" practice is.

The Iban confinement diet is simple and ginger plays a very large role. Based on the materials I read, the mother is given three mouthful of rice just after she has taken her seat (none of the materials further explained whether she will eat more rice after that or not). As I mentioned earlier that ginger plays a large part in confinement diet therefore, the mother will eat the rice with smoked fish, ferns (paku kubuk), breadfruit (buah pulur) mixed with ginger juice. She also takes a lot of ginger juice or cooked slices of ginger to keep her body warm.

For forty days the members of the bilik-family observe a series of ritual restrictions (penti) and the number of days of confinement is marked by using a lime (kapu) for each day she completed on a pole. These have a disjunctive effect, temporarily setting the family apart from the rest of the rumah panjai community whose members are not subject to the same restrictions. Similarly, heating itself places the mother and infant in a ritual status antithetical to other longhouse members.

My Facebook friend, Aunty Jacqueline Selaka Mawar (link to her blog) shared of of her experience that she observed after the delivery of her first child:

This was an extract from the the comment link in Facebook on 17/1/2013:

  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar ok for food...aku nitih ke cara ari Indai aku ke ngibun aku maia aku ke beranak ke 1st baby..she would ask me to take chicken soup with a lot of ginger..for a start within 3 days after beranak..after 3 days ..i was ask to take kacang ma tang more with ginger rather than arak..+ winekanis..I also take fresh ginger juice...also paku kubuk with gingers... 
    Here she says that for the first 3 days after delivery she was given chicken soup with ginger then after another 3 days she then ate "kacangma" (link to kacangma recipe) cooked with more ginger instead of alcohol. She drank fresh ginger juice and also paku kubuk cooked with ginger.
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar anything with good for confinement
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar also aku di unsut enggai lia ke udah di tutuk ari pala sampai ke kaki tiap lemai
    She practiced smearing her whole body with ground ginger every evening.
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar am also using traditional way of massaging...with hot ointment..bepaut ko kitai iban.
    She practices traditional Iban massage using hot oitment called "bepaut".
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar beside all those..i don't take vegetables like sawi..rambai laban ko sida ke tuai..sayur bakanya celap lalu tau nganu tulang maia umur kitai udah meningkat dudi ari
    She doesn't take vegetables like sawi, rambai as they are considered as cold an can cause rheumatism in future.
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar also no upa..tubu..
    No eating upa and tubu (bamboo shoots or any other types of shoots).
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar i wash my hair after 44 days...mandi with daun mambong..also i do a lot of english steam bath..tang cara ia jauh bebeza ari cara moden..this is to avoid flu & any sickness dudi ari
    She only washed her hair AFTER 44 DAYS, bathed with "daun mambong" and did a lot of "betangas" or steam bath to avoid flu or sickness in future. 
  • Jacqueline Selaka Mawar petua perut mit..during confinement anang sekali kali ngena capak/plate maia makai..use small round ball laban enti kitai makai ngena capak..asi ke diempa kitai ka maioh which can make our tummy dudi ari ka besai

         To keep the tummy small she ate using a small bowl instead of using a plate as the more rice you eat the bigger your tummy will be.

There you go, some experience I think most or some Iban women practice.  Would you practice this method?

In conclusion, the importance of observing the confinement period is mainly to maintain the mother's well-being in the future. Even though some of the "pemali" or restrictions may seem to be obsolete due to existence of religion and science, I believe most of the Iban still observe the restrictions closely



Anonymous said...

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Veeky Leonora said...

Thanks for the positive comment :) All the best to you too.

medeline prada said...

Sama cara ku bepantang baka ditulis Jacqueline, siti aja nadai - bekindu. Aku kala meda mak aku empu bekindu maia iya beranak ka adik biak kembar aja. Kongsi pengalaman aku empu, maia confinement paling penting darah kotor pansut abis ari tubuh kitai indu, laban darah jaik tau mai penyakit dalam tubuh kitai indu

Veeky Leonora said...

medeline...keni urg berkindu sebenarnya?baka gambar kartun aku kah?

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Anonymous said...

Dalam gamabar bekindu nuan nyak, nama nadai dinding papan antara belakang ngau api. This is to avoid direct heating of the back and cause betu.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog.

Enti nunda ko cara ti selalu diperati aku antara kami sebilik tauka serumah, lebih kurang baka gambar nuan nyak meh. api nyak gaga ambik ke bara ajak, asal bisi kesuh angat kenak ngangat ke papan punggung.