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Thursday, 11 July 2013

And the Winner for this Year's Borneo Hornbill Festival Iban Category is.........

And the winner is Ms. Shirley Jimeli of Samarahan wearing an Ulu Rajang Ngepan....

Now that Borneo Hornbill Festival has come up with 5 winners, wonder what costume to be featured next year...

If you were to see here 3 out of 5 ngepan Iban are those which are from different tribes. This shows how unique the event is. Like what I said in my previous post that Borneo Hornbill Festival has a different objective which is to showcase the myriads of ngepan Iban that can be found in Sarawak and NOT to find what Kumang should wearMy related post

Can't wait to see what's next and ofcourse the drama for next year if you get what I mean...

See you Next BHF 2014...start your research now :)

What Should a Kumang Wear?

Oooohhhaaaa.......If only I have the guidance from Goddess Kumang to tell me how should a Kumang dress, then there will be no quarrels or misinterpretation or misconception on how the winner or Kumang should dress. However, I believe that things happen for one reason or another. The debate on what a winner should wear has been in this Pekit Kumang (Kumang competition) arena for many years perhaps ever since it has ever started. No one will ever be happy, sore losers are the worse particularly those can’t really admit their weaknesses.

The word or title “Kumang” is so synonym to name a winner in all Pekit Kumang held in Sarawak throughout the Gawai season and that includes the recent Borneo Hornbill Festival (BHF) 2013. We have been using the term Kumang eversince BHF began in 2009. It’s not like we simply want to use the word Kumang it is because we want the younger generation to remember that Kumang was the Goddess that the Iban community look high upon; as being the perfect Iban woman, perfect in every sense that she is the master weaver, intelligent, caring, loving to her Keling and also possess the utmost beauty. 

Relating to the BHF context, this Kumang might not be able to possess the weaving skill, but she is talented in her own way. She must be an all-rounder character; honest, kind, has the passion in showcasing her culture, good in her communication skills, has the knowledge in nature conservation, beautiful (though this one is quite subjective) apart from being able to carry her costume well, which is original.

Well in this post I would like to focus more on to how a Kumang costume should look like? Any answer from readers out there? 

Eversince Pekit Kumang being doctrined with a standard set of guidelines for ngepan Kumang, it has been a rule that only such ngepan Iban will be eligible to enter a competition, atleast those “complete” ngepan will have the chance to win the title Kumang apart from other qualities in place. In the normal context of Pekit Kumang, she must be wearing Kain tenun/kebat/karap, selampai, Marik Empang/Tangu, Gelang Kaki, Rawai, Buah Pauh, Sugu Tinggi, Sementing buchai, Simpai, Tumpa and Tali Ujan in bright colour or mansau ofcourse.

The most recent BHF really created a controversy particularly when a black ngepan from the Ulu Rajang area won the title Kumang. This is also known as ngepan buri where the base of the material is black adorned with tiny cowrie shells that were abundant during those days.  It was so controversial because in Iban, black is a symbol of mourning, therefore a Kumang should not be wearing black. 

However, one has forgotten that the black material is known as Kain Buri, adorned with cowrie shells so that it will look beautiful. Generally, people who mourn will be wearing clothes which are solemn and dark mainly to show respect to the deceased and the bereaved family. However, this is not the case for ngepan kain Buri, it is pretty, brightly adorned with shells to beautify it and I do not think it shows any element of solemn there. Nothing solemn here where the ngepan is further beautified with strands of marik pelaga (fire agate beads) lampit pirak, tumpa rangki, sugu tinggi, selampai buri, and other accessories to complete the look.

A ngepan Iban is worn in occasions particularly to show the grandeur of a community, so how about ngepan Baju Kuas from Sri Aman then? Is it a mourning costume? Ofcourse not.

Next is Ngepan Saribas, worn by myself and eventually won in BHF 2011 and that created a havoc I must say. Well to some Pekit Kumang enthusiasts ngepan Saribas is incomplete, therefore should not even qualify to enter any Pekit Kumang. Some even said that it was too sexy? Well didn’t our ancestors wear that way i.e. high up to the bosom or in some cases it doesn’t really cover the bosom that much. To say that ngepan Saribas is incomplete is totally wrong just because it does not have marek empang.

Bringing back to the context of Borneo Hornbill Festival, it is not our objective to only show the common ngepan, we hope to feature as many Iban costumes that can be found in Sarawak. The variety of costumes are due to differences in geographical areas e.g. abundance of cowrie shells by the riverbanks hence ngepan buri is created, assimilation of different ethnics found in Sarawak and even parts of Kalimantan which explains the influence of beads, silver wear near Skrang as there were Memaloh community who were master silversmiths and ofcourse the daily activities such as barter trade which shows in the some accessories like buah pauh having the influence from the Chinese traders, lampit pirak if you can see the motifs of the buckles depicts goldfish, flowers and even monks. 

Borneo Hornbill Festival did their job well in upholding to their objective and therefore many different costumes from different tribes of Iban came to this platform from 2009 until now. However, there are risks that come with it, the term ORIGINALITY. 

In my opinion, if there is proof in documentation e.g. books and the accessories do hold their authenticity (by the physical look of the accessories, old / antique) or even such accessory is not old and authentic but presents the original look, I think it should be given credit as its maker has the effort to revive the old costume. 

This is because these old costumes can be so fragile until it can’t be worn but since the maker managed to achieve the original look i.e. how it looked in the olden days, then it should be showcased in BHF. 

I am not saying that the standard rule is wrong, yes it is correct, however, the "pro ngepan standard" people should not deny the fact that other types of ngepan Iban also exist by belittling those other ngepans by giving names and mocking them too. Not all of these ngepan Iban would qualify in the common Pekit Kumang arena so BHF is the platform to show it all. With all due respect, please refrain from comparing Borneo Hornbill Festival with the common Pekit Kumang in Sarawak, our objective is different.

Below are ngepan Iban that were featured in BHF throughout the years since 2009 to show how open we are embracing differences in the Iban tribes. 

Ngepan Ulu Rajang- Ms. Shirly Jimeli (BHF 2013)
Ngepan Skrang- Ms. Margareta Remang (BHF 2013)

Ngepan Marik of Kapit - Ms. Elyvenner Melaya Mau

Ngepan Kuas Sri Aman - Ms. Angel (BHF 2012)

Ngepan Batang Ai- Ms. Vanessa (BHF 2011)

Ngepan Saribas - Myself BHF 2011

Now let me rouse your minds...would you prefer to only know the common ngepan Iban like we always see nowadays you prefer to expand your Iban culture horizon by getting to know somewhat almost extinct in the face of this earth? I'll let you ponder on that...

In this case ignorance is not bliss..infact it would be a loss to our own community by ignoring ngepan from other Iban tribes. Please don't let these ngepan be chucked in the attic or sadau of your it to the world that Iban is indeed rich in culture...

Monday, 1 July 2013

Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013 - Ms. Sarawak Ethnic Pageant Iban (Kumang)

I bet most of you have already selected your favourites....Well it's the season again for Borneo Hornbill Festival 2013!
It has bigger and better format now...different titles, more titles (BHF 2013 included our neighbouring sister Sabah into this ethnic pageant), more subsidiary titles to be won thanks to the generous sponsorship...and not forgetting to mention that the contestants are judged based on other factors including their knowledge on conservation of Hornbills and culture...
So who will win the next Ms. Sarawak Ethnic Pageant Iban title? I guess you have to come and watch for yourself...I had my fair share in 2011 and managed to introduce the Ngepan Indu Iban Saribas that supposedly to be extinct, but this costume made its comeback after ages being somewhat buried and unremembered. Thank you Borneo Hornbill Festival for giving me the chance to showcase this ancient costume.
Subsequently, at the 2012 Borneo Hornbill Festival, many maidens came with even more never been seen costumes and I am glad to be part to see this magnificent showcase of unique ngepan Iban.
So come one come all, I know I will be there...why not you?
Early birds will get their tickets at RM30.....