The Historical Culture of Sarawak

May 8, 2009 · 3 comments

There used to be 26 tribes in Sarawak, Malaysia; however only 6 remain and they have integrated a bit between each other now due to modernisation.
Sydney (who has never been to the cultural village before himself) kindly drive me there so we could check it out and take some photos and get a little education of the Borneo state.

First up was a small Chinese house (with nice dragon style door handles!) followed by a Chinese farm house, where they demonstrated how a pepper farmer would live. A selection of clothes inside the house:

Knock knock

Knock knock

Chinese farmers wife's clothes

Chinese farmers wife's clothes

Around from that was a giant oven in a building which is used for baking pottery.

Giant oven made of stone to bake pottery

Giant oven made of stone to bake pottery

Next was the native Malay house, which had beautiful material everywhere for curtains bed sheets, etc and there was also a women inside was making some biscuits over coals. The mixture was pressed to a clamp, heated over the coals, then peeled off and rolled so they set and hardened ready for eating.

Traditional Malaysian biscuits

Traditional Malaysian biscuits

Underneath the house (they are built on stilts) there was a swing me and Sydney relaxed on for the start of a spinning top presentation that never happened because the man supposed to do it spent over 20 minutes in the lavatory, so we checked out an elderly lady who was cutting the branches from a coconut tree using a blade, the branches would be tied together and used for a broom later on.

Lady cutting branches to make a broom

Lady cutting branches to make a broom

Next was the tall house, which as the name implies is pretty tall. They are built high rather then ‘long’ like the long houses and are quite attractive looking from the outside.

Sarawak tall house

Sarawak tall house

Sydney

Sydney

Inside was the usual tools, pots, weapons, local cloths, etc. One of the standout parts was the stairs which were made out of ironwood and literally just a carved trunk, so very steep and a bit difficult to get up and down, as demonstrated by Sydney here.
We then passed through a biscuit making hut (biscuit called Tebaloi or Sago biscuit) which is made out of Sago flour. I bought some whilst here as it was nice to see it all being fresh ingredients being mashed about, cut and turned into edible items.
Next was a small sword making shop where a local tribesman used a fire to melt metal and shape the swords. There was also a musical instrument made in here for demonstration too that Sydney played ‘Mary had a little lamb’ on.

We then climbed up the long stairs to the Orang ulu house. A tribesman had a guitar like instrument and played whilst the women of the house did a welcome dance for us. I was told later the small red dots on the wall in the background painting represent every person living in the house and the more bigger well dressed flower like red dot represents the leader of the house. When the other dots and turned into a more floral design it means that person has passed away.

Next was another small hut where one could try blowpipe shooting, of course I had to give it a go and found I would not make a good tribesman after failing to hit the target set up at all.

Hunters who use blowpipes

Hunters who use blowpipes

Finally was the Iban longhouse (the Iban group make up 1/3 of Sarawakians) Inside they typically hold up to 20 families, a rice grinder was outside and inside 2 women weaving cloth to make curtains, a big one can take around 6 months to complete with work done on it daily, whereas a smaller one takes 3-4months.

Woman making curtains

Woman making curtains

With all the houses out of the way, the day was not complete without the final cultural show to watch the traditional dances. They were all dressed very colourfully for this and a lot of effort from the staff went in to make it as genuine and original as possible, well worth going to see if you have some time and in Kuching.

Tribes woman dancing

Tribes woman dancing

Hunter with blowpipe

Hunter with blowpipe

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex May 11, 2009 at 7:59 PM

Great post bro, some serious cultural upheaval you are going through! Pretty intense I imagine.

Plus Sydney looks like he is going to murder you in that picture! Hahaha!

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Adventure Rob May 12, 2009 at 4:12 AM

He took a picture of me going down one of those stair cases nervously so I took one back and put it on here. Mwahaha
If you look closely you can see it is ruddy steep and the steps are tiny, so with my massive feet its difficult as I only went down using a bit of my heel so quite unbalanced.

:)

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