Iban is a tribe from Sarawak in East Malaysia. They were known as Sea Dayak, as opposed to the Bidayuh group that was known as the Land Dayak.
The Iban forms the majority among the ethnic groups of Sarawak. In the old days, they were the much-feared headhunters and sea pirates that in times of peace, were hunters, farmers and gatherers. The practice of headhunter was for the indigenous tribes a means for the survival of the fittest. The bloody headhunting raids staged by the Ibans forced many minor tribes such as the Seru and the Bliun to extinction, while other tribes like the Saribas and Ukits were decimated.
Before the 15th century, the Ibans were said to be living in what is today Kalimantan, Indonesia. When they started moving into present-day Sarawak in the 15th century, they were establishing forest settlements in land belonging to the Sultanate of Brunei, at that time an influential regional power. Warfare soon erupted when the local Iban leaders resisted paying tax to the sultans of Brunei. This was to continue over the centuries, and during that time, the might of the Brunei sultanate began to wane until 1841, when the unceasing warfare provided James Brooke, an English adventurer the opportunity to intervene. After putting down a Bidayuh uprising, Brooke threatened the Sultan of Brunei with military force, compelling the sultan to make him the Rajah of Sarawak, and receiving a chunk of Brunei which became Sarawak.
The most important festival of the Ibans is the Gawai Dayak celebrated on 1 June. Other notable festivals include Gawai Burong and Gawai Antu.
The most popular traditional dance of the Iban is the Ngajat, traditionally performed by Iban warriors upon their return from successful raids. It is now performed to tourists at the Sarawak Cultural Village.
The music of the Iban are usually percussion based. In other words, their musical ensemble comprises mostly of different types of gongs, especially a set of suspended gongs called agung.
Pua Kumbu is an Iban textile made of cotton and woven with intricate designs.
The most popular form of traditional Iban food is called Pansuh. These are foods cooked in bamboo stem. Among the ingredients can be meat, fish, vegetables or rice. Chicken pansoh, or pansoh manok, is chicken and lemongrass cooked in bamboo over an open fire. Forest greens such as ferns or pucuk paku are also popular items.
The Ibans have an alcoholic beverage called tuak, which is usually made by fermenting and distilling rice. Sugar cane, ginger and corn are also used for making tuak.
Iban Common Phrases
Here are some phrases in Iban that may be helpful for you to break the ice when visiting Sarawak:
Good morning: Salamat pagi
Good afternoon: Saalamat tengah hari
Good night: Salamat malam
Goodbye: Salamat tinggal
Thank you: Terima kasih
How are you? Gerai nuan?
Pleased to meet you: Rindu amat betemu enggau nuan.
See you again: Arap ke betemu baru.
What is your name? Sapa nama nuan?
Can I take your photograph? Tau aku ngambil gambar nuan?
not good jai also enda manah