Sarawak, Kalbar Dayaks share many similarities
by Samuel Aubrey
ADIL ka’talino, bacuramin ka`saruga, basengat ka’jubata.
This is a salutation often used by leaders in West Kalimantan (Kalbar), Indonesia, in their speeches.
Originating from the Dayak Kanayatn (closely related to the Selakau in Lundu), the words symbolise the life philosophy of especially the Dayaks in the Indonesian province — which is fairness, respecting one another and believing in God.
Such a philosophy is seen as the uniting factor for the Dayaks in Kalbar as they are now strongly promoting and preserving their identity and culture as evidenced by the large motif engravings on almost all signages and even government buildings.
The 70-strong delegation from the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) visiting the Regency of Sanggau and city of Pontianak from July 6 to 9 were generally impressed to see these large and beautifully-designed Dayak engravings along the road after entering the Indonesian border-post of Entikong.
The engravings, ranging from the simplest motifs to the most complicated of forms, are not just artistic works pleasing to the eyes of laymen but also a reflection of the philosophy of harmony among the Dayaks.
Travelling in an 18-vehicle convoy through a mostly pot-holed road, the delegation were amazed to see the big Rumah Betang Adat Pontianak, a newly opened cultural centre, and equally astonished with plans by the Dewan Adat Dayak (DAD) Kalbar to develop a six-hectare Desa Dayak.
SDNU vice-president Anthony Banyan said the Sarawakian delegation were fascinated by the many Dayak-inspired structures in Kalbar province, especially along the way to Sanggau.
“We feel the Indonesian Dayaks are more outstanding than us in some ways. Along the way, we could see big and bright Dayak motifs, engraved and painted on the structures. This is the kind of spirit we in Sarawak can cultivate,” said Anthony during a welcoming dinner, hosted by Sanggau Deputy Bupati Paulos Hadi.
The SDNU delegation were in Sanggau at invitation of the Regency’s Dewan Adat Dayak to attend the Sanggau-level Gawai celebrations on July 7. It was the third consecutive time SDNU was invited but for this year, it brought along a larger number of participants.
For the Gawai celebrations — although they came a month later than those held in Sarawak – the Number 7, denoted by the day (July 7) and the month (July – the 7th month), has a specific meaning to the people of Sanggau, including to the Iban ethnic group, who identify it as the number of gods during the miring ceremony.
The ceremonial events during the celebrations included a blessing ritual similar to the Iban’s miring, the slaughtering of a pig, a lunch comprising an array of traditional food, as well as a beauty contest to choose the Domia (beauty queen) for the Gawai.
Officiating at the events was Sanggau Bupati Sematin Sudin, a Muslim but a strong supporter of the activities of the Dayaks who form the majority in Sanggau.
He said the native communities were encouraged to go into modern farming to improve their livelihood.
Though he did not specify which crops, the sights of oil palm estates and rubber trees indicate these two cash crops are now driving the economic growth of the Regency.
Sudin said the Dayaks of Sarawak and Kalbar, though separated by borders, had many similarities, adding that both sides could work together on many things such as social and economic co-operation within the platform of Sosek-Malindo.
“Sanggau Regency is made up of 60 per cent Dayaks, most of them Christians, and some Muslims. We also have Bidayuhs, Ibans and Selakaus, apart from other major Dayak groups — Jangkang, Kembayan and others,” he explained.
After leaving Sanggau, the SDNU delegation proceeded on another road trip to the city of Pontianak, the capital of Kalbar. There, they visited the old and new Rumah Betang Adat while some of the delegates called at the site of a new church, currently under construction.
In both Sanggau and Pontianak, Datin Sri Julia Suntong, wife of SDNU president Tan Sri William Mawan, and Tamin assemblyman Datuk Joseph Mauh Ikeh handed over contributions to the Dewan Adat Dayak of both areas. Iban entrepreneur Michael Lias chipped in by topping up the amount.
In his speech in Pontianak, Mauh, a strong advocate of the preservation of Iban customs and traditions, said he marvelled at how their Indonesian Dayak counterparts were able to practise their traditional arts while adapting to the demands of a globalised world at the same time.
Most of the delegates returned to Kuching on July 9.
Some went on to visit the Regency of Sintang where there are many Ibanic sub-groups, especially from the Seberuang and Mualang. Others took the ride along the coastal road all the way to border post of Biawak in Lundu.