Iban customary law – Building a longhouse


The Ibans highly respected one another’s longhouses.

They keep in their family room (bilek) all of their property, jars, brassware, and other heirlooms, the accumulated wealth of past and present generations.

Moreover, they expect people of other races when visiting them to respect their longhouse as much as they do (cf. Medway and Sandin (1959) for an ac­count of the rules that apply to a visitor to the longhouse).

Not surprisingly the construction of a new longhouse is an event of major importance that is closely regulated by adat.

Baum berumah
When a longhouse is old, it is the duty of the Tuai Rumah to call a meeting of his followers to discuss the building of a new longhouse.

If all of the household heads agree to such a plan, every able bodied man in each household is requested to collect sufficient ramu (wooden materials), such as posts, beams, rafters, floor-joists, planks, shingles, and so on, for construc­tion of his family’s section of the structure.

It requires approximately one year to complete this work.

Ngarembang ngau ngujakke tambak burung
After the families have collected sufficient materials for their individual section of the house, the Tuai Rumah will call another meeting to ascertain the readiness of each family. If all families report that they have completed the work of gathering ramu, the Tuai Rumah with the help of the Tuai Burong or Augur will then decide upon an auspicious date for clearing the site (ngarembang) for the new longhouse.

Nebas alai rumah

Adat berumah rules


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