Sunday, November 04, 2007

:: Bidayuh

The Bidayuh headhouse

Gong hung in the headhouse

Betel-nut implements and other tools in the headhouse

Gongs and martaban jars in one corner of the longhouse

Cages and baskets hung on the wall

A woven basket

Bidayuh woman demonstrating the dehusking of paddy

The hornbill, a symbol of good fortune

Effigies are set on the path to ward off evil spirits

The Bidayuh people, which accounts for 8.4% of Sarawak's population, live in the catchment of Sarawak and Sadong rivers. The Bidayuh is the tribe known to Europeans as "Land Dayaks", because of their habitation deep in the limestone mountains, near the water catchment areas of West Sarawak. Like many other tribes in Borneo, the Bidayuh live in long houses, which are really a primitive condominium. The Bidayuh belongs to five main language groups, namely the Puruh, Jagoi, Siburan, Bukar, Sadong, and Selakau Lara. The majority of Bidayuh are today Christians. They cultivate hill padi and cash crops such as pepper, rubber and cocoa.

The Bidayuh longhouses often cling to the steep slopes of hills, forming what look like a giant staircase. This offers better protection against invaders, and also because it affords the Bidayuh easier access to fresh water.

In the Sarawak Cultural Village, we have the opportunity of viewing the split-levelled Bidayuh longhouse as well as the circular headhouse, with the statue of a hornbill at its crest.

This is where the Bidayuh stores the prize of their headhunting raids - skulls of their enemies. Single Bidayuh men sleep in the headhouse, ready to spring into action should there be a surprise attack.

The Bidayuh headhouse is also the place for meetings to discuss farm work and other community affairs. The headhouse is also where weapons are stored. Drums and gongs are at the ready to call for alarm or for use during ceremonies. On the path leading to a Bidayuh longhouse or farm, one may find the tegundo. These are carved male and female figurines, placed there to ward off evil. The Bidayuh make good use of bamboo. A short distance from the longhouse is a Bidayuh bamboo bridge.