Friday, December 11, 2009

A Night of Dayak Culture

On Sunday and Monday, the Dayak Youth Community will hold a gala event, “A Night With the Dayak,” at the auditorium of the Goethe Institute, Jakarta. “Natas Banyang,” a ritual ceremony of ancient Dayak traditions, will mark the opening night, followed by a toast of “tuak” (rice wine) among the guests and participants.

The Dayak Children’s Choir, whose members range in age from 6 to 18, will sing traditional songs and there will also be a dance performance that represents the life cycle of the Dayak people.

“For the people of the Dayak, land cultivation is the core of their livelihood,” Gregorio said. “That’s why each stage [of cultivation] is marked with a dance celebration.”

The Mandau dance, which symbolizes the clearing of the land, will be performed by a group of women; the Bahuma dance describes the happiness and enthusiasm of the men in plowing the fields; the Menugal dance describes the joy of the women when planting the seeds; the Hudoq is a mask dance, performed after planting the seeds, which is aimed at driving away bad spirits that may cause a bad crop.

“The faces of the masks represent the pests that may attack the crops, such as rats and locusts,” Gregorio said.

Traditionally, the dance was performed to please the goddess of rice paddies, Hunai Parai Avaang, so she would bless the upcoming harvest.

In addition to the dance performances, the event will also feature a live demonstration of hand-tapping tattooing by Aman Durga Sipatiti. Hand-tapping is a traditional method of tattooing in Indonesian, Polynesian and Maori cultures, and uses a thin wooden stick fitted with a needle at one end, covered in ink, which is tapped with another stick into the dermis layer of the skin.

The patterns of Dayak tattoos include the Bunga Terung (rosette), which signifies bravery, the Garing tree (the mythical tree of life) and a Hornbill bird for protection against evil spirits.

“It’s quite an intense, spiritual and philosophical experience,” Durga said.

Hand-tapped tattoos take three times as long as a modern tattoo, during which both the tattoo artist and the client must maintain full concentration and a soul connection, according to Dayak lore.

The event will also feature a photo essay by Rani Djandam, a Dayak anthropologist, which describes the “Ngamuan Gunung Pirak,” the wedding ceremony of the Dayak Ma’anyan tribe of Central Kalimantan. There will also be an exhibition of traditional beading and a demonstration of the intricate hand-weaving techniques of the Dayak Sintang tribe.

Tenun Sintang — the hand-woven textile of the Dayak Sintang — was discovered by Pastor Maessen, a Dutch missionary, in 1968.

“He visited a house and the wife cleaned a chair for him with a piece of old cloth, covered in vibrant colors and patterns,” Gregorio said. The cloth was a very old hand-woven piece of material, owned by the woman’s grandparents. The pastor helped the local people to revive the dying trade. Today, Tenun Sintang is one of the most coveted textiles in the country.

“Pastor Maessen himself will also attend this event,” Gregorio said.

“Our organization aims to be a cultural ambassador for the Dayak people,” he added. “Therefore, we hope that with this event, more people will be able to appreciate Dayak culture and traditions and the younger generations of Dayaks will again be proud of their roots.”

‘A Night With the Dayak’
Goethe Institute
Jl. Sam Ratulangi, No. 9 - 15
Menteng, Central Jakarta
For more information on the programs, visit


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