Malaysia is an exotic country in which modern and colonial buildings are intertwined with high-tech industry and ancient cultures. It is not surprising, therefore, that Malaysia is one of the ten most visited provinces in the world.
One of the most interesting things about Malaysia is the people themselves. Here we take a look at 5 facts you need to know about the Dayaks, a tribe living in Borneo with a reputation as a terrible bounty hunter.
- The Daiakis were headhunters from Borneo.
The Daiaki, as it is known, were engaged in bounty hunting and in ancient times had a formidable reputation of a strong and prosperous military tribe. Their houses lived in long houses built on stilts, the main trophies were stored in long houses as a sign of bravery in battle and brought prestige to the warrior-conqueror.
The bounty-hunting culture no longer exists today, but the tribe was still known as strictly territorial. In 2001, armed with spears, machetes and wind pistols, the Daiaki drove through a town in the Indonesian province of Borneo to expel Indonesian migrants who they said had returned to their jobs and land.
In less than a week of violence, 200 migrants were killed. They were either chopped down by Borneo’s traditional swords or shot with arrows poisoned by wind pistols.
- Rich culture
Animist Dayak (most of whom are now Christians) observes both Christian and traditional ceremonies, especially at weddings and parties.
Major festivals include the Hawaii-Daiak Rice Harvest Festival, the Hawaii-Burong Bird Festival and the Hawaii-Antu Ghost Festival.
During the festival, the Daiaks gather to drink rice wine called tuak and perform a unique battle dance called Gnajat (an image of a man going to war, or a bird flying in honor of the warlord Iban).
Visitors to long houses (or panjang rums) are usually invited to watch dances and take part in a tuak drinking ceremony with the head of the long house as host.
- Singer-actress Jessica Alba was a giver.
Jessica played Diane in Guy Jenkin’s 2003 film Sleeping Dictionary. Filmed in Sarawak during British colonial rule in the 1930s, Jessica played the role of a woman sleeping with a naive young Englishman John Truscott (played by Hugh Dancy), who went to Borneo trying to try her father to apply for Iban.
The love story was built on the concept of the Ngayapa, the style of the Iban court, which was practiced in the early 1920s and 1930s. Jenkins combined the story with the story of young Britons who were assigned their first posts in the jungle and who were ‘thrown into the depths’ when they had to learn the local language in record time.
The film has never been larger, but has won several DVDx awards, including best actress for Jessica Alba.
- Courting girls at night (ngayap)
Ngayap’s charity is a test of the courage and maturity of boys who have to walk in the woods at night, cross rivers or swamps to reach the long home of girls. The court at night should not exceed three nights, and at the end of the meeting the boy will be asked whether he is serious about marrying a girl.
The night court is pre-agreed with the girl, and it should only be a series of conversations for the two parties to get to know each other.
In times of bounty hunting, this type of night travel can be very risky as they may stumble upon a swarm of marauding enemies. But because Dayak is known as a tribe of warriors, the night yard is considered a sign of bounty hunter’s bravery.
- Modernized Dayak
The Daiaki will now be calmer and hospitable than in the colonial era. Some long homes are now equipped with air conditioning, refrigerators and Internet access.
The days when bounty hunting was the norm are long gone, and although it is a tradition, dayak tattoos are increasingly becoming a symbol of heritage and culture. The increasingly urbanized Dayak has become a jaded past, and the old crafts of boat building, weaving, dancing and tattoos are rapidly dying.