The Unique of Dayak Tribe

For the tribe of Dayak Tola’s Sekayu, deep in the interior of Borneo, the planting season is a special moment. A ceremony is held to welcome the season, providing spectators with a glimpse into their extraordinary local wisdom and unique way of life.

It was quite an effort to reach Kepayang Village in the Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan. It takes 14 hours by a not so mooth road from West Kalimantan’s capital, Pontianak, until the hired car finally approached the sub regency of North Matan Hilir, then onto the small town of Laman Satong where the village is located.

Kepayang started to gather in a betang ( a Dayak traditional longhouse) to launch the two-day ritual, which commenced with a series of dances performed by Dayak men, accompanied by hypnotizing pentatonic sounds of gamelan, a time honored Indonesian traditional musical ensemble. My tiredness from the long journey vanished instantly in the deeply spritual atmosphere.

Six to eight men swirled around in a circle for quite some time. Their movement was simple and repetitive, but profoundly spelbinding. Then another man broke into the circle bringing and distributing lemang (traditional food made of sticky glutinous rice, coconut milk and salt, cooked in a hollowed bamboo stick lined with banana leaves), tuak (rice wine), arak ( a stronger traditional alcoholic spirit) and cigarettes.

The dance ritual ended with all of us- dancers, villagers, and spectators sharing a delicious feast of lemang, tuak and arak. Other traditional side dishes and condiments were served to complement the lemang. Laughter filled the betang, as well as thick smoke from the men’s cigarettes. But everyone was in such a joyful mood that the smoke didn’t bother us too much.

The next day, the dances continued underneath a sacred durian tree belongs to the genus Durio and the family Malvaceae. The fruit of this is recognized by its spiky exterior and sweet soft meat in the inside. Its pungent smell may discourage some first- time visitors and those who dare to try it either love it or hate it. But it is generally a much love tropical fruits in Indonesia, and a personal favorite of mine.

Once again dance performances were carried out in a circle around small eight-pillared structure constructed under the durian tree. A black cock was tied on each of the pillars. An offering of food, a white chicken and two jars of rice wine covered with yellow and red cloth was placed in the center as a request for the ancestors to bless the planting season.


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1 Response

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