轉錄 :IBAN OF SARAWAK: A Southeast Asian Austronesian People

02 April, 2008

source: http://tour.taitung.gov.tw/festivity/web_6-4.html

Festival of Austronesian Cultures in Taitung 1999』
Speech on Austronesian Cultures-a series

A Southeast Asian Austronesian Peopjavascript:void(0)
Publish Postle.
(A Public Lecture given at the "Festival of Austronesian Cultures," in Taitung,
Taiwan, 27 Junt- 1999).by Peter M. Kedit, PhD.  ~Introduction~

The Iban of Sarawak belong to the Malayo-Polynesian sub-group of Austronesian Family of languages. They are mainly found in the northwest comer of Bomeo Island. which is part of Malaysia, lban, at 30% of the population are. by far the largest indigenous group in Sarawak.(See: Diagram of Pie- Chart showing:Sarawak's Ethnic Composition"). They are found throughout Sarawak, especially in the lowlands, living mostly in longhouses along streams and river banks.

The Iban traditionally live in longhouses raised on support costs near the banks of rivers. A longhouse is basically a village community living under one roof. Each longhouse usually consists of 20 to 30 individual family apartments, linked by a communal corridor spanning the length of the house. (See Diagram: "model of Iban Longhouse").

Longhouse Architecture:

The individual family apartments in the longhouse are called the bilek. Each apartment or bilk usually has an open platform (tanju) in front of its allocation which normally fronts a river, a roofed gallery (ruai), a living room, a cooking place (dapor) and a loft (sadau). The ownership of the apartment runs from the tanju to the bliek, as well as, the ground below, where normally animal husbandry are kept. Space for each division is used for specific function.

Tanju: The space used for this part is mainly for activities that require the use of 'open-air' and sunlight, such as for drying rice, pepper, other crops and clothes. Here it is also used for ritual? performances during festivals.

Rual: This is the covered gallery for multi-purpose use such as a place for doing daily activities, such as mending tools, making fishing nets, weaving mats or ceremonial blankets (or pua kumbu); it is also a place for meeting, and entertaining visitors to the longhouse. It is a sleeping area for bachelors and male visitors. Ritual performances are also conducted here, especially for funeral ceremonies. It is by far one of the most important aspects of longhouse living that provide space for interactions between resident in the longbouse, especially for the socialization of young ones. Further towards the bilek is a space that lies between the main pillars is the tempuan; this is the space that runs through the length of the house infront of every bilek door, and is treated as the main path for all who pass through the house lengthwise. This Place is also where the women folk do their house-work, such as processing rice - husking and pounding.

Sadau : The loft is mainly use for storing farm implements, and the year's rice supply for the family. It is sometimes used in the past as sleeping place for young unmarried women of the family. Nowadays, the modern form of longhouse utilize the loft as 'bed-rooms'.

Bilek : This is the family room for members to have their meals and 'privacy', when they wish to be away from the rest of the household. It is the place where the family's heirloom and properties are kept. Only married men and the family's womenfolk sleep in there. Within the bilek, in most cases, is situated the cooking place (dapor). Meals are cooked and taken in this part usually at the back of the bilek. In some modem longhouse, the bilek is large enough to have a few divisions to
serve as separate bed-rooms within.

Social Organization of Longhouse Dwellers.

The Iban longhouse is a socioeconomic Institution with an "organized system" of territorial, communal and social relationships. An Iban is a member of a bilek family, which in turn is one unit of a longhouse. The longhouse community is a "federated union" of bilek-families, composed of individuals with inter-related interests and kinship all living under one roof. After his family, an Iban's allegiance is mainly to his longhouse: for it is his secondary level of social and cultural commitments. An important factor of longhouse living is the effects it has on the Individual. From an early age an individual is exposed to great diversity of social and physical contacts and socio-cultural activities through his intimate interactions with a number of kinsmen and friends in his immediate surroundings. Hence, longhouse: living provides a sense of belonging to a community, and also a means of socializing an individual to the cultural values and norms of his ethnic group, An Iban cherishes strong feelings of affections and loyalty for his longhouse: for he lives in an atmosphere of reciprocity,. cooperation, competition, freedom and egalitarianism, Longbouse lifestyle has inculcated in the Iban a mutually adaptive strategy of living an intense and intimate interpersonal relationship between each other. At the same time, the longhouse binds the individual to his community and his culture, and gives him strong sense of group identity and cultural belonging.

Within the egalitarian longhouse setting,the fundamental value of the bilek-family is self-sufficiency. Each member of the family is responsible for helping the family to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of food for his/her family and thereby gain respect and good reputation in the longhouse. It is this need lo 'Survive' and achieve recognition and fame, that strongly motivate members of the bilek-family to adopt normative behavior which emphasises upon independence. courage, persistence, adventure, and skill in productive enterprise. Thus, individualism, gregariousness, and autonomy arc also valued in the longhouse community.
Each longhouse in turn belongs to a larger community of the territorial tribe, a conglomeration of longhouses along the same river basin. In this context the conglomeration of longhouse communities along a river system constitutes a tribal association. The interlocking aggregation of kindred forms a diffuse.political structure. Although there is no rigid internal organization, such a unilineal descent to support a formal structure of chieftainship, leaders usually emerge to call on tribal loyalties for war or trading expedition. Such riverine conglomeration for example, are found among the Saribas, UluAi, and Sebuyau tribes. We can therefore, sum up Iban social organisations such as: from a strong, individualistic.Independent bilek-family, unit, to an egalitarian longhouse community, the Iban social organisation diffuse outwards to form a territorial network.

Longhouse as a Ritual Entity

In the Iban belief system, the longhouse is also regarded as a "Ritual Entity" belonging to a spiritual world of its own. Outside the spiritual longhouse is the world 91 of evil spirits and deities. For example an Iban traditional healer (or manang) regards the longhouse as a realm where the soul of the sick person is safe and that malevolent spirits outside the longhouse are the causes of the patient's illness. In all the sacred texts (timang/pengap ) sung during ritual festivals ( gawal.) the longhouse possesses an entity of its own in regard to the spiritual world of Iban beliefs and mythology. Therefore, the various points in the longhouse such as the entrv ladder (tangga ) and the fireplace ( dapor ) have some sacred meanings to the Iban.

Iban Belief Systems:

Iban pantheon :The Iban conceive the world as a place where all objects have souls of their own and that in daily activities, the soul of man ( mensia ) and that of gods or spirits (petara/antu) often impinge upon one another. It is from this conception of the world that Iban cultural values and social sanctions derived. The Iban pantheon is complex with many highly anthropomorphic deities who have specialized functions and powers. The two most important gods are Sempulang Gana (the god of the rice cult and tutelary deity of the soil ), and Singalang Burong ( the god of war and of general surveillance of Iban welfare )

Concept of the soul and Dream: The Iban have an unshakeable belief that all beings possess a separable soul, which forms the foundation of their super-structure of various cults. In mortal life the Iban's souls act as a medium of communication with the unknown powers through dreams and other ethereal encounters when the gods appear before the fortunate few. It is from such dream experiences, that we see many Iban creative work of art, such as the intricate and striking ikat weaving; their highly symbolic and rich oral tradition, for example the lengthy timang (sacred text), pantun (songs), and ensera (legends).

Ritual Obligations and Ritual Festivals: In every moment of importance in Iban life, it is marked by ritual festival, called gawai. There are for main types of gawai, namely: ritual festivals connected with the cultivation of rice ritual connected with health and longevity; those that are connected with headhunting and prestige. The scope and variety of gawai indicate that it is an integral part of Iban religious agricultural cycle.

The Iban have a system of augury in which they believe that their gods communicate with them through the calls of birds and other visible signs made by the actions of animals or insects. This is in fact a system of divine guidance for the well-being of man. For this reason, special augus (tuai burong) are consulted before the Iban undertake any importance activity, such as building a house, starting the cycle of farming, or before going on important expeditions.

Cults:Iban practised their beliefs through cults and rites concerning their economic, social and political welfare, examples of such cults are - rice cult. manang cult, and cult of? the dead. The basis of the rice cult lies in the importance the Iban attach to the cultivation of their staple food - rice. To them the rice seeds possess spiritual souls and therefore the planting of rice is essentially a ritual undertaking. The healing or manang cult is here again based on the Iban idea of the separable soul. The manang ( or shaman's )job is to recover the missing soul of sick lban, who in their wanderings away from the human bodies may become lost or-entrapped by evil spirits, by their esoteric knowledge of the ritual process. The cult of the dead is associated with the belief of the afterworld (sabayan ) to which all Iban souls ( semangat ) would go after death, and consists of elaborate ritual observations during, and after, death of an lban. In the practice of the various cults, especially regarding war, bravery, and death, head-trophies were featured as part of the ritual ceremonies.

Headhunting: Closely connected with the death cult is the headhunting activities of the Iban long ago. In the past, head trophies ( antu pata ) were secured to ceremonially end the long and strict period of mourning after a death. Other important occasion which required the acquisitions of head trophies include-- the death of leader, and the birth of a child, especially a male child. Head trophies were also acquired during bejalai missions of tribal warfare. The acquisition of head trophies was a sign of valour in battle and brought prestige to the conquering warrior.

Moral Obligadons and Adat Customs : The rationale for Iban moral obligations and their attending social and legal sanctions was their fear of disorganization which threaten to break-up their social groupings. As a form of morality, Iban adat customs condemn vices and praise virtues: such vices being lazy ( burok ), greedy or selfish (rangka) are condemned, whilst to be courageous ( berani ), masculine (gagah), and famous(berita) are Virtues much sought by Iban individuals.

Iban believe that their adat customs were given to them by their gods ( petara) therefore, anyone who repudiates the adat, repudiates the gods, and would be duly punished supernaturally is no immediate reparation is made. Hence, the adat are regarded as hallowed, and conceived as a body of correct behaviour essential to the well-being and continued existence of
their society. Iban adat customs require that in addition to monetary value of reparation, ritual payment have to be made by the transgressors to compensate for the damage done on the victims' souls. The ritual fines were meant for the victims to
make propitiatory rites to cleanse the injury against a guardian spirit.

Traditional Longhouse Economic Activities :
Traditionally, the Iban bilek-family, achieved self-sufficiency through their main economic activities of rice cultivation and other agricultural activities. Rice is the staple diet of the Iban, supplemented by other minor crops such as maize, tapioca, fruits, vegetables and meat from chicken and pigs, as well as fish from the river.

Traditionally, Iban employ the method of shifting cultivation in planting their rice. This method of rice planting involves moving from one plot of land to another from year to year to exploit the rich nutrients of fresh earth. The cultivation of hill rice begins and ends the social and economic life cycle of the Iban in the longhouse. The whole cycle of rice cultivation involves the following steps:

* May/June/July : Clearing the forests
* August/September : Drying the land and burning he cut ?timber
* October/December/January : Sowing the seeds, growth, and,?weeding
* February/March/April : Rice ripens and is harvested
* May : Harvest Festival.

During the yearly cycle of rice cultivation, the Iban also conduct other economic activities like fishing, wild boar hunting, boat building, making farm and household implements, house repairing, and subsidiary farming. Now, the Iban are also going into the cultivation of cash crops such as rubber, pepper, cocoa, and oil palm.

Shifting Cultivation: Its Influence on Iban life and culture :

Cooperation within the longhouse: Shifting cultivation in the tropical jungle is a very tough and labour intensive activity. Cooperatrive efforts of groups of families is thus required, especially since each family of six will need about five acres of land for rice cultivation in order to sustain them for a year.

Individualism:The intense demands of rice cultivation meant that the bilek family devoted most of their time and energy to this endeavour. Thus, the cultivation of rice became a competitive undertaking in the longhouse, instilling in the Iban a love of demonstrative achievement and individualism.

A mobile and martial society: New land is required for rice cultivation after one or two harvests. In the past, this has resulted in the Iban invading territories of other tribes. Because of this insatiable need for new land, the Iban developed a mobile and martial society.

A Mobile Society - Custom of Bejalai:

An important indication of the value place on mobility in the Iban community is the custom of bejoial. The Iban custom of bejalai encourages young men to leave their longhouse and venture out into the world to seek wealth, material goods and social prestige. In the old days, bejalai which involved warring expeditions or migration to another area was common, due to the necessities of shifting cultivation In the late, 1900s, many bejalai missions involved collecting jungle products in exchange for priced antique Chinese jars. These voyages are "omewhat in the spirit of the medieval European quest seeking old Chinese jars, sometimes, imbued with magical powers, instead of the holy grail or fragments of the true cross."'

A wide variety of Iban forms of mobility are described by bejalai: adventure seeking journeys, migration, prolonged absences for work, education and business.Rituals are performed before embarking on bejalai and those who return successful are given the right to perform esoteric rituals.

Bejalai had a critical function in the rapid adaptation of the Iban to economic changes. People in the longhouse live in relative isolation, and therefore, men who have been on bejalai are agents of change in that they provide information for the longhouse on the outside world. Bejalai has evolved into the following forms today, in the Iban's attempt to adapt to progress and modernization. * leaving the longhouse to take up wage labouring in urban centres (as builders, oil riggers, cleaners, etc.) * working in a non-manual, salaried job, such as with the government.

The Modern Iban: The cultural heritage of the Iban is constantly adapting to the lban's environment. Traditional customs such as bejalai and the gawai festivals have been modified to suit the 20th Century, and the traditional agricultural activity of shifting rice cultivation is slowly disappearing as less land- consuming and better economic alternatives appears.




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