Iban Culture Advise for a Couple of Maori?

Greetings,

We are Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand and in Dec 2006 we are starting our 10 year round the world trip and our first stop is Borneo.

Having our own culture, we are fascinated about other cultures and are hoping to stay in a longhouse. However, before we do that, we need to know about the Iban culture. We have searched the net trying to get an insight into the Iban culture and have read http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/3409/IBAN.HTM and [url=http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/oldworld/asia/iban.html]http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/ol … /iban.html - what is amazing to us is that alot of what is written on those pages are the same as our beliefs! This has made us even more excited about maybe being able to stay in a longhouse! :smiley:

Which brings us to our question about gifts. In our culture we have a certain way that gifts are presented and we were wondering if there is a certain way that gifts should be presented?

Most of the sites that we have read that mention giving gifts, do not say how to give them, but finding that there are similarites with our culture already, we thought we should ask as we have certain ways of presenting certain gifts.

We read in another post here about not mentioning food when travelling - that is a great tip for us as we do that alot - especially if we see a fat bird that looks particularly good to eat :slight_smile: But because of this forum, we now know not to do that - thank you for sharing this :smiley:

We have also read that sometimes the locals will do a performance and that the guests should also do one - this is another thing that is the same in our culture and we are so looking forward to seeing a performance of another culture and of course, as we are performers ourselves, we look forward to performing for our hosts, anywhere in the world as we travel :slight_smile:

With the longhouse stays, could someone kindly tell us if it is at all possible to help out in the community or is a stay just sort of observing and watching?

Finally, is there anything else that we must know and do? The last thing that we would want to do is offend. We ourselves have hosted travellers from other countries and before they come to stay with us we give them a big list of what to do and what not to do! Some however, don’t take the time to read it and break our rules - we never want to disrespect anyone like that!

Thank you for your time :slight_smile:

Hello there kotitihaere! Welcome!

Or, as we say it in our dialect : Selamat Datai.

On your question with regard to gifts… I believe that it is not necessary for guests to bring gift(s). So, I have to apologise for not being able to assist you on that.

With the longhouse stays, could someone kindly tell us if it is at all possible to help out in the community or is a stay just sort of observing and watching?

This depends on the length of the stay.

I hope you would enjoy ur stay in Borneo, to be specific, the place u’re heading to in Borneo is a state called Sarawak.
That’s where u can find long houses of various sizes :wink:

Hi kotitihaere,

Wow, you have really done your research didnt you. I dont know much about the Iban culture even though I am half Iban and have been living overseas for the past 5-6 years. But here is what I can remember.

Mentioning of food while travelling - A BIG NO NO. I think the local term for it is “Punek”. If they offer you something to eat and you dont feel like eating at that point of time, either touch the food with your fingers or grab a pinch. Especially when they offer you RICE.

When they offer you rice wine, it is an offence to refuse it. you must take either a sip or drink the whole thing. If you tasted Japanese sake, it the same taste.

The performances that you are going to see from the Iban culture is the Ngajat (pronounce NGA-JAAT). Its a dance normally performed by the warrior, tales about their hunt, or the women of the tribe, usually tales about farming and such. I am sure that they will be glad to see the Hakka. I love the Hakka too and get excited when I see it on the TV when the Rugby is on.

As for helping out, its advisable that you ask them if they need any help. Sometimes they let you in on it but generally, we do not ask guest to even lift a finger. :slight_smile:

I hope these tips help. If I happen to think of some more I will be sure to post it up here. I wish you a pleasent journey.

Hi kotitihaere,

Selamat datai & nagkir ba MiriCommunity.net! :smiley:

Terima kasih to all of you for all of your comments and help :slight_smile:

Nama saya Kamera and my son is Harley :slight_smile: And Kotitihaere (which is really 2 words, kotiti haere means wanderers as we will be wandering the world :smiley:

http://www.kapitro.sarawak.gov.my/php/m … ellers.php is the page we found that says “present gifts to the Tuai Rumah” but doesn’t say how and [url=http://www.sarawak.com.my/travel_features/ulu/longhouse4.html]http://www.sarawak.com.my/travel_featur … ouse4.html is another page that we found that mention that gifts can be given, but only says “Visitors should always bring a few presents for their guests” and not how or what!

Today we went shopping for some postcards of Maori Meeting houses - they are large, one room buildings that are fully carved with our history and ancestors and we all sleep together in the meeting house - we thought that people of long houses would be interested in seeing something similar but different :slight_smile:

We appreciate your information about food absolut_feli - everything that you mentioned (apart from not talking about it while travelling) is the same as our culture. We are really good at accepting anything that is offered, and we are sure that some of our more cultural food specialties have helped to prepare us for what the world has to offer!

It seems that our dances have similar themes, and if you enjoy watching the haka on TV seeing it live is another experience again!

Could someone kindly tell us if Selamat datai is welcome? We have a few sound files to learn a bit of Bahasa Malaysia but the links we have do not have that phrase so we guessed that it is welcome. Adakah itu benar?

We were happy to find that the vowels are pronounced the same as our Maori ones, and that there are words that are so similar - rua (dua) rima (lima) and we are sure we will find other words as we learn more

Once again terima kasih for all your help :smiley:

Hi kotitihaere,

Firstly, welcome to MiriCommunity.net! :smiley:

It’s a wonderful thing you guys are planning to do, and I believe by now you should have a clearer idea on which longhouses to visit/stay here in Sarawak. There are also plenty of them over in Sabah, and Kalimantan, Indonesia and if you need a tour guide, you can easily find them in towns & cities.

I’m a chinese and haven’t stayed in longhouses yet. But based on my limited local knowledge when entering really traditional longhouses, here are some more tips to add on to absolut_feli’s list:

  1. Best not to wear shoes on the Ruai (patio) area when in longhouses. You can leave them over at the balcony area before the Ruai.

  2. Try not to be 100% naked when showering/swimming at their public wash area.

  3. It’s a custom to eat with your hands.

  4. Majority of the people now seldom hunt for food. They either buy from nearby markets, or barter trade with other families. If there’s a hunting game going on, avoid killing hornbills and rhinos - I believe they are protected species here in Malaysia.

  5. Take caution in demonstrating your traditional/spiritual performances at their turf which they are not familiar with - best to consult the headman first to get them ready.

  6. Some remote longhouses still practise barter trade system. But majority of them now prefers local currency.

That is as much as I can recall at this moment. If anyone feel that some of my points are irrelevant, kindly correct me. :smiley:

Yes kotitihaere, Selamat Datai in Iban’s Language mean Welcome. :smiley:

Hi kotitihaere,

Yes, “selamat datai” means welcome but spoken in our Iban dialect. The language you are familiar with is actually the Malay language. And, again, there are variants of Malay dialect depending on the area.

When you come to a longhouse, the host will lay out mats which means that you are welcome to their home.

In actual fact, the usual traditional gifts that I can remember when I was young living in the longhouse periodically are usually those like rice, wild game meat, sometimes jungle vegetables (“engkayu”). In modern times, visitors would bring other item(s). Anything is appreciated now.

Traditionally, when you come to a longhouse, you must call out a greeting at the foot of the stairs or (in the more traditional longhouse) the log stairs. Traditionally, one will call out : oh, sabuat! Jadi rumah kita? (Literally means : Hello there! Is your house ready?).

If the reply is : Jadi rumah kami, niti meh. (Literally means : Yes, our house is ready. Please come in.). Then you may proceed.

When the mat is nicely laid out, take your seat. Men would sit cross legged while women would sit with both legs to one side.

The host will ask you your intention for the visit and ask where you are from. You may present your gift after the initial greetings and introductions. You may, in general and casually, inform the host (which is usually the longhouse chief) that you come from which land and that your intention is such that you would like to have a visit and get to know the basic Iban culture (bakelala jalai pengidup bansa Iban).

There are good books to read about the origins of the Ibans and the best one I can recommend is the Sarawak Gazzette which is published by the Sarawak Museum and the best article I can find are those done by the late curator, Mr. Benedict Sandin. He colloborated with Professor Clifford Sather, an American who studied the Ibans of Paku-Layar region for more than 26 years. The late Benedict Sandin’s last accounts of the Iban’s origin was written just before he died and supposedly the most complete there is. The Sarawak Gazzette magazine with his writing was published in 1994.

According to anthropologist who studied the Iban culture, those of the Kalaka-Saribas Ibans are the group that practise the most elaborate of the ethnic Iban culture.

The Iban longhouses there, out of the longhouses that I have been to, are mostly built with the “belian” wood or known internationally in wood trading as “ulin” or known scientifically as Eusideroxylon zwageri.

The traditional Iban longhouse “gallery” or “ruai” in our dialect, as you can see at the Sarawak Culture Village, has three section : the “panggau” (outer most section), the “ruai” itself (middle section) and the “dinding ukoi” or literally means the dog’s wall and the one before the “bilik” or the private compartment.

Modern longhouse don’t usually keep a large gallery to save cost on building material.

Our longhouse is modern but maintain the original structure with a slight modification. The gallery still have three section but the upper loft is made longer to cover the whole of the gallery. Normally the upper loft or known as the “sadau” is only built up to the “ruai” section.

A traditional longhouse, as you may know, is built without a single nail.

Of all the Iban longhouses that I have been to (1 in Lawas, 3 in Miri-Bintulu area, 10 in Bukit Begunan area, 10 in Pakit area, about 15 - 20 in Paku-Layar region and about 5 in Kalaka district), to me none is as majestic as the one at the place known as Matop in the Betong Division.

The “bedilang” or the skulls are put in two places of the longhouse which is built with the “belian” wood.

By coincident, the word “Iban”, or actually “Ivan”, itself means a wonderer and it was given by the Kayan/Kenyah (not sure which Orang Ulu ethnic group) to the Ibans as they were always on the move in the olden days to find land to cultivate.

So, I shall say that “Iban” and “kotiti haere” would means just about the same. :smiley:

endudaratinchinrutan:impresive

if u come here dont forget to get ‘pua kumbu’ as a souvenirs…many books about Borneo culture or Iban culture…

[quote=“chilskater”]endudaratinchinrutan:impresive

if u come here dont forget to get ‘pua kumbu’ as a souvenirs…many books about Borneo culture or Iban culture…[/quote]

Not to worry, I have some of those. And the books too. Anyway, I learned those from the older generation of my longhouse where I come from.

We really appreciate all of the advise that everyone has given and rest assured, all of your advise will be heeded :smiley:

We will not be able to get souvenirs as we are traveling for at least 10 years and carrying souvenirs around the world will get really heavy, and our back packs would soon get over full :slight_smile:

Once again, everyone, we so appreicate all of your advise and time, and if anyone else can add to this great list, feel free!

[quote=“endudaratinchinrutan”][quote=“chilskater”]endudaratinchinrutan:impresive

if u come here dont forget to get ‘pua kumbu’ as a souvenirs…many books about Borneo culture or Iban culture…[/quote]

Not to worry, I have some of those. And the books too. Anyway, I learned those from the older generation of my longhouse where I come from.[/quote]

Sorry, chilskater, thot you were addressing me.

no worries…my late aunt very good at weaving it…can put on the dashboard…nowadays hard to find very nice pua kumbu…from the shop is the cikai one…

kotitihaere:10 years??u can buy the items here and ask them to post to ur home address…how about getting natives tattoo?

Hi chilskater,

Imagine what it would be like to come home to 10 years worth of mail! We don’t know anyone who would ahve the room to store it :smiley:

Also, in our culture we have a tattoing system - Robbie Williams has a Maori tatto and so do a few other celebraties, but a good suggestion though - thank you for that :smiley:

Kia ora kotitihaerae!

[quote=“kotitihaere”]Hi chilskater,

Imagine what it would be like to come home to 10 years worth of mail! We don’t know anyone who would ahve the room to store it :smiley:

Also, in our culture we have a tattoing system - Robbie Williams has a Maori tatto and so do a few other celebraties, but a good suggestion though - thank you for that :D[/quote]

1st of all, you’re most welcome here :smiley: By the way, im interested in maori tattoo’s. Do maoris have a certain taboos or customs related to tattoo designs? Iban tattoo motives have certain meanings. Example, a “bunga terung” tattoo on the neck means that that fellow has killed at least one adversary in combat.

http://www.janeresture.com/oceania_tattoos/main.htm