How does creativity and headhunting come about among Ibans?

It seems all creative objects are used by the Ibans to worship their gods eg antu pala, pua kumbu, pentik kenyalang etc. I think Perhams said that the Ibans are definitely religious with all their rituals and festivals. Further, some remarked that the Iban belief is very similar to Hinduism if one studies Comparative Religion. So, can it be concluded or thought that creativity flourished among Ibans in the last 300 years was principally caused by the requirements to worship gods via headhunting, rice farming and human renewal which can be summarized to a single purpose ie survival?

Wadley said that headhunting resulted from disputes gone awry but didn’t he not to notice from Benedict Sandin’s write up on the origin of Iban Adat and in this case the mourning rules, one of which states that a fresh head must be obtained to open the mourning jar during the ngetas ulit? So the concerned Iban ancestor by the name of Serapoh to whom the law was given to went on a sojourn to seek a freah head and brought a jar to entice anyone for a fight (bebunoh) in order to get a freah head but none agreed. At the end Serapoh managed to exchange the jar with a young Kantu boy which Serapoh killed to get his head. Upon hearing this news of the boy’s fate, the Kantu took revenge and thus started the Iban-Kantu War. This episode basically marked the starting point of the practice of headhunting among Ibans. However, it was not clear enough or sufficiently explained by Benedict Sandin’s write up how antu pala skulls can help in rice farming or human fertility. Can anyone explain these two aspects of Iban belief? Is it said so in the pengap or timang?

It should be noted that Iban expansion into new areas which were already populated although sparcely by other tribes like Bukitan, Seru, Kayan, Kenyah also resulted in some conflicts that were settled via headhunting or ngayau eg Iban migration to Saribas, Kanowit/Julau and Ulu Rajang.

Of course, later on some headhunting resulted from disputes gone awry especially the war between Saribas against the Lingga/Undop/Balau as detailed by Benedict Sandin. However, the reasons for OKP Dana “Bayang” to ngayau to areas around the Kapuas River mouth such as Sambas and Pontianak seemed to be seeking heads for ngetas ulit as he requested permission from James Brooke during the meeting to sign on the Saribas Treaty onboard a ship and of course to gain the loots eg Bujang Timpang Berang cannon by OKP Dana “Bayang” himself and golden handle keris by Rentap.

After Brooke rule, it seems the reasons for ngayau by Ibans appear to be requests from the Brooke government to ngaluske menoa (to pacify other Ibans or natives) which in turn appears to be a policy of “Only Dayaks can kill Dayaks.” which was taking advantage or exploiting of the Iban culture of ngayau eg Libau “Rentap” was defeated at Mount Sadok by Brooke troop during the third Sadok punitive expedition after a large number of Iban/native fighters joined and the surrender and joining of sons of OKP Dana “Bayang” ie Nanang and Luyoh.

Perhaps the Iban spirit of ngayau still exists during the resistance to Japanese Occupation, the Indonesia Confrontation and the Anti-Communist War in Malaya by Iban/Sarawak trackers.


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