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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 

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Costume of Dayung Bisingai

After many years of witnessing ethnic pageants I would say ethnic costumes of different ethnicity would have different versions and styles based on its locality. However, particularly with the modernisation of fashion itself and trend, the "originality" of such ethnic costumes might be stripped off due to over accessorising of the costumes. As years go by, with the many "add ons" being added to the costumes, the younger generation are now confused on even with the basic knowledge of wearing their ethnic costumes

As for me, Ngepan Iban consists of many accessories depending on the area of the ngepan. However, no matter how different it may be from each other, the costumes should at least display basic accessories and extra accessories should be adorned with caution so much so that it would not make the ngepan look like a Christmas tree or even offend others (especially the elders) because of incorrect usage of accessories due to taboo.  

Ms. Mia Saches is one of my Facebook friend who I always noticed that she really always emphasise on the correct way to way the Bidayuh costume. I came across one of the posts recently with her wearing the Dayung Bisingai or Woman of Singai costume to an event in Sarawak. 

I proposed to her that I would like to feature her view in the Dayung Bisingai costume and the basic way to wear it since posts on Facebook might simply 'disappear' in the archive and only to be reminded of it once the anniversary comes. I am glad that she agreed to share her knowledge with me and I hope I explained well in this blog of mine. 

Furthermore, it is the aspiration of Ms. Mia that she wants to see younger Bidayuh generation to know and understand not just their costume but their culture too. 

She wants them to accept their costume just the way it is  with no mix and matching. When all of these have been achieved, only then the Bidayuh costume can reach and "established"status like ngepan Iban.

Anyway, before we move on with our post for today, let me introduce to you Ms. Mia Saches:

Name: Angelina Hermia Charles Saches
Race: Bidayuh (Biperoh: Dad + Bisingai: Mother)
Lives in Kuching
She has been the jury for Dayung Sikora & Bujang Pogan REDEEMS Siingai 2015 and Dayung Gawea Tematu 2016.

Ms. Mia Saches in her simple Dayung Bisingai costume

Like where is Singai? The book "Singai Unveiled" would be a good source for you to know more about Singai area. 

Finally, we come to the part where we learn a thing or two about the costume of Dayung Bisingai. 

 (Patrick Rigep Nuek)
Ms. Mia showed me one of her reference is this book written by Mr. Patrick Rigep Nuek entitled "A DAYAK BIDAYUH COMMUNITY RITUALS, CEREMONIES & FESTIVALS" where it briefly explained the usage of accessories in the Bidayuh costume.

"Around her waist she would wear 'porik' (strings of silver tiny chains about 7.5cm in width), rawai (formed of tiny rolls of silver) and 'bokos kupuong (a silver belt). She would also wear bangles on both wrists, usually of solid silver, called 'gorang suat boid'. - page 59

"Around their waist were worn a number of ornamental belts and other decorations. Different kinds of silver belt included the 'bokos kupuong' and the 'porik'. A 'rawai' was created from small coils of silver arranged in such a way that they formed a belt about 10cm in width. Joining the front opening of their 'bojuh' tops was a linked series of silver brooches called 'krusang'. 'Krabu' (earrings) and 'sinuod' (a comb made of animal bone) were also worn, along with other jewellery. - page 226 & 228

The Headgear is called "Bojuh"
It is said that the "Bojuh" is adorned as a headgear in order to protect the 'soul' of the Dayung Boris. Particularly, it is to protect the soul from escaping or "tidak hilang" or "kalah semangat" when they are in the state of trance while performing the ritual. In contrast with bojuh, a sipiah would be worn as the normal Bidayuh headgear.

Sipiah (front view)
Sipiah (back view)

Earrings called "Krabu"
The earrings are made out of old coins and the normally do not wear beaded earrings.

The early attires of the Bidayuh were made from materials obtained from the jungle. This evidence can be seen by their bangles made out of rattan called "Jaka", "Stotoh" made out of rattan and the 'bone' of a fern called stotoh.

Jaka made from rattan

The brown colored material is the 'bone' of the fern, the white piece is rattan
Besides bangles made from jungle sourced materials, they too have the bangle made out of steel which is called "Gorang Suat Boid".

Gorang Suat Boid
Next, we move on to the bodice part of the costume. 

The necklaces adorned is called "Pangieh" which is beaded necklace designed with common Bidayuh patterns and colours. Normally, one one pangieh is sufficient. The longer necklace worn across the left shoulder to right is called "Sombon". Sombon is made out of round glass beads in dark green and dark blue called "rikis browan" with  some stringing of wildboar's fangs and old bells.

Pangieh and Sombon

Old "Krusang"
"Krusang" is basically a metal brooch stringed in three tier and it is one of the rarest items that can be found nowadays. 
"Sirapai" or the red sash is worn together at the bodice and normally a sirapai for the female would be fancier in its design as compared to the male sirapai

The belts
If you are to refer the photo above, the Bisingai costume would have an array of different metal belts adorned on their waists. Based on the photo from top to bottom, the belts are "Bokos Kupuong", then "Rawai"(formed of tiny rolls of silver) and finally "Porik(strings of silver tiny chains about 7.5cm in width). 
Jomuh Proras
The significant black skirt designed with silver, gold lace and red fabric is called "Proras Jomuh". Sometimes it can also be further adorned with bells and coins depending on the creativity of the designer.

Gorang Po on

Bidayuh ladies of Bisingai do not wear silver anklet like the Iban ladies, instead they wear anklet made out of stringed brass bell called "Gorang Po on" (note: the pronunciation and name of this accessory might differ from one place to another, after comments in the FB we take it as gorang po on)

So, there you go, the costume of Dayung Bisingai of Bau, Sarawak. Yes, it is definitely way different from the ngepan Iban. I believe that even if a costume might be simple it should not be adorned with unnecessary accessories in order to make it more beautiful. 

This is my first feature on costumes of different ethnicity and I would love to feature your ethnic costume if you are willing to share with me the input just like how Ms. Mia shared with me. In our opinion, this is the time to educate and enlighten the younger generation, if not now, then when?  

Finally, I would like to thank again Ms. Mia Saches and the rest of my Facebook friends who contributed their ideas for this post. Photo credit to Ms. Mia.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

BHF, 9 Years and Going...

Borneo Hornbill Festival has always been my muse ever since joining its pageant six years back in 2011. Why is it my muse?

First of all, it has always inspired me to do more exploring, digging, seeking on what is Iban all about. The fact that there are many pageants in Sarawak, to-date I think that Borneo Hornbill Festival is the only one that tasks their contestants to do research only any topic that is related to their roots and yes, present it during the indoor judging. Whereas, many other pageants would just be, at the most explaining about the costumes being worn and displaying it to the judges and viewers, and finally the question and answer session.

Old Folklore from Bidayuh Biatah tribe

An Old Baju Burik
That is how the indoor judging looks like,
quite intimidating, no?

Young team of indoor judging judges from various backgrounds and ethnicity

This year’s BHF had opened my eyes as one of the indoor judges on the art of Tuak making and also creating new variety of tuak by combining it with different ingredients in order to have a more unique taste of tuak, for an example by adding the “kelulut” honey or the honey from the stingless bee. One of the contestants from Sabah displayed her costume from the 1940s and the history behind it besides playing the bamboo flute as her talent. 

Research on Tuak Kelulut
Research on traditional clothing of Dusun Tindal Tribe

How about the art of making Nuba Laya? Yes, one of the finalists’ presentation was about the history of the Lunbawang people and she demonstrated to us on how to make Nuba Laya or rice wrapped in a special leaf which is native to the Lunbawang people. Of course being not a Lunbawang I would only know how to eat Nuba Laya but not how to make it, and that is my friends that makes Borneo Hornbill Festival being unique from any other pageants held in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Making of Nuba Laya

Presentation on Kelingai Iban (Iban Tattoo)

Baju Burik costume (Iban Kapit Tribe)

This brings to the second reason on why BHF has always been my muse; to see the younger generation preserve their age old culture by bringing them back to life. Most of the indigenous traditional knowledge have become almost unheard of or even extinct due to the word globalization and its relevance to the current world. There is nothing wrong to discover what history was because history is what shapes the future. I myself would not want my children to not know what a “ngepan” (Iban traditional costume) is, or how our forefathers came up with Iban law of Tusun Tunggu. Law, culture, clothing, food are among the components that created the society at that time and to understand how people live long time ago would create the awareness on how we behave now. Therefore, I really love watching the younger generation contestants who presented their research and relate it to our current life.

Finally, having given the opportunity to speak to the younger generation contestants gives me the inspiration to be more open to accept their ideas and perspective in traditional culture because this is the platform where we can share ideas of the traditional knowledge and create something creative and new in order to make it more relevant without leaving behind the root of the original idea of the traditional knowledge. Most of the contestants of BHF are eager to share their knowledge just that what makes one more outstanding than the other is on how deep their understanding of the subject. So, the more you read and research, the more you understand and up to my fifth year of being one of the judges I can roughly gauge who did their research well and sincere enough to show the knowledge.
Giving moral support to especially those who never joined pageants in their life

As BHF bids adieu every year there will always be unhappy spectators or even contestants. Most of the time they would blame the organizer and the judges for not choosing their favourite, but do they know the organiser’s criteria or objective of this event being held at the first place? That is the question that you need to answer before giving rants of unsatisfactory and negative thoughts. Yes, we might be a young team of judges, we do make mistakes but we try to be stronger by learning from the mistakes.

A beautiful contestant may wear the winning costume but is it enough to make her as the Kumang? That is for that contestant herself to answer and for us to see, whether she is well equipped with the knowledge of her subject matter of that traditional knowledge, whether she is sincere enough to present it or it is just a matter of winning a title and not contributing to the community after that. "Tepuk dada tanya selera".

I wish all the best to the London Qualifiers of BHF 2017, may you shine bright in London and show the best of what you are.
Male London Qualifiers 
Female London Qualifiers

Photo Credit to Mr. Anderson Kalang, Mr Paren Nyawi, Mr. Ricky Racha' Kimwah & BHF FB Page. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bala Indu Bengepan

Bala Indu Bengepan 
(Pelilih menua pegai Betong enggau Saratok)

Indai aku Madam Sylvia Sayah

Bala petunggal aku siku ke nama Bibi Tera lumur dua ari kanan

Bala Indu bengepan nya udu lawa. Ba sanggul sida diujakka sugu tinggi pirak belilap ti dilagu enggau bunga keretas. Pending sida Dara kering ditating antin panjai ti merundai ngagai tuntun dagu ngilah pun rang. Janga kedua-dua bau kiba enggau kanan dilempaika selampai panjai ti dibelit sandik kandi ke kiba enggau ke kanan sereta lalu ngelamun buah dada. Ujung panjai selampai panjai nya dipelawik lalu besabung ujung ba urung tengan belakang. 

Marik empang di beukir mayuh macham sereta berambutka bunga rambu dirasukka ba urung rekung lalu mungkur kedua-dua janga bau sereta ngebap engkepan dada nyekang. Ba ruas lengan ari aras buku siku, dirasukka engkerimuk betusuk ngagai pun berang. Tumpa pirak dirasukka ari dekuan sampai ke buah lengan nyau berak-berak terang. Rawai dipasukka nyengkerung perut enggau punggung lalu nyakum kerigai ari atas rusuk marang. Singkap duit ringgit tauka nyawir ti lekat ba rawai nya bekekelip baka bintang. 

Kain kebat tauka kain sungkit benang emas ti dikena nya betatingka singkap duit ringgit ti nyau bekesering dibai sida Endun Kumang nyingkang. Ba engkepan punggung nanggam kain nya lampit bepala besai ditambit rapit nadai meranggang. Jari kiba sida Dara Nganta ngenggam perecha diberi sida Aya Mawa Dum Bujang. Jari kanan sida Dara Ganggam minching sigi buah paul begamal melan-melan. Nyengkilung rekung lalu merundai ngagai urung dada nya tali rantai pirak panjai ti disebut tali luji. 

Ba urung rakat ari atas buku ali kedua-dua piak kai dirasukka gelang dikumbai kerunching ti bisi disangkingka gerunung mit.

Ari Bup Ripih Pengawa Gawai Antu
ditusun Jantan Umbat & Janang Anak Ensiring
The Tun Jugah Foundation Publication Series

Gambar ari koleksi keluarga