The Iban

Topics: Borneo, Head, West Kalimantan Pages: 3 (978 words) Published: September 7, 2012
When mention the word ‘Borneo’, instantaneously these metaphors comes into our mind; beautiful elaborated designs of traditional costumes, graceful dance moves accompanied by tribal music, tattoos, headhunting, and the untouched beauty of floras and faunas.

Borneo refers to the two states in East Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. These states are well known for miscellaneous culture portrayed by their distinctive and multicoloured populace.
One of the most well known tribe in Sarawak is the Iban. The Iban are shifting cultivators who originated in the Kapuas River basin of West Kalimantan, and migrated to Sarawak in the 16th century, settling along the Batang Lupar, Skrang and Saribas rivers. There are some differences between those who settled along the Batang Lupar River, Skrang River and Saribas River, mostly, concerning their language and pronunciation. For instance, the word ‘You’ are spoken as ‘Nuan’ by the Iban who settled along the Saribas River, but the Iban from Skrang River pronounce it as ‘Dik’.

The Iban are well acknowledged for their unique culture and beliefs. But contrary to this, the Iban unique culture and heritage are waning as time goes on. Advancements in life and developments of new mindset change the perspective of the newer generation. These are a few of their near diminishing legacies. Ngayau

‘Ngayau’ was once an Iban custom. ‘Ngayau’ or headhunting custom was a noble practice among Iban tribesmen from the prospect of status, strength, and acceptance by their community. During that period of time, a man who does not join the headhunting mission, or never ever cut off someone’s head, he is worthless and the chance to get married and electrify maidens are slim.

This practice had long been illegal since the first ruling of the white Rajah. There are versions of stories on why the Iban men practices headhunting custom. But, the crucial reason why the Iban men practices headhunting is for honour. How the community values and sees...
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