Iban thanksgiving ceremony

Friday July 23, 2010

Iban thanksgiving ceremony enacted at Borneo Cultural Festival

Story and photos by PHILIP HII
philiphii@thestar.com.my

THE Gawai Teresang Tinggi, a traditional Iban thanksgiving ceremony, was enacted last Sunday morning at the Dayak section of the Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) in Sibu. The elaborate ceremony lasted four and a half hours.

Traditionally, it is held at longhouses during the Gawai Dayak to thank deities such as Keling, Laja and Bungai Nuing for the year’s harvest and ask for better harvests, health and prosperity in the years to come.

Some 40 men and women adorning traditional Iban costumes – the kain kebat, sugu tinggi and tangu – took part in the ceremony staged in six parts.

Reverberating: Drums being played to summon the deities.

It began with the ngalu pengabang – a welcoming ceremony for the guests.

With respect: The warriors being served with coconut juice.

Ladies dressed in full traditional costume lined one side of the staircase and greeted the guests with glasses of tuak (rice wine).

On the other side was a man holding a manuk pemiau (cockerel) to bless the guests by waving it over their heads. More tuak was served when the guests were on the stage.

Nutungka tawak, the beating of the gong, was performed when the guests were seated on the floor to summon the deities.

The ceremony continued with the piring alu where a plate of rice with eggs and popcorn was placed on a ceremonial bamboo pole as an offering to the deities.

This was followed by a round of beating on long drums called begendang by a group of men.

A second round of begendang beating welcomed the deities to the celebration and marked the start of the miring teresang tinggi.

As the ceremony began, poems were recited and more offerings, including chicken blood, were offered to the deities.

The poems were in praise of the deities and warriors, asking them to render wealth, better harvest and protection for the longhouse inhabitants.

Reenactment: Iban maids carrying coconuts which represent human skulls and other ceremonial items.

The final sixth and final part was the naku buah inyak.

A group of ladies in traditional costume performed thanksgiving to the men for their achievements as warriors.

After the taku (song) was sung in praise the warriors, the buah inyak (matured coconut) representing human skulls was placed on plates and offered to the warriors.

The warriors had to cut open the coconuts with a parang (long knife) without breaking the plates and drink the coconut water in one gulp to show they were successful warriors.

It was the second time the Gawai Teresang Tinggi was staged at BCF.

Organising chairman Jadam Datok hoped it would promote better understanding of Dayak culture among those attending the BCF.

http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2010/7/23/sarawak/6708900&sec=sarawak

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