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Wednesday October 20, 2010

Bidayuh from Sarawak visit brethren in Kalimantan for nyobeng ceremony

THOUSANDS from near and far converged at Kampung Sebujit recently for the annual nyobeng ceremony – a ritual involving the bathing of human skulls.

Nyobeng was practised by pagan Bidayuh a long time ago and is still observed by the community in Sebujit in the district of Siding Kabupaten Bengkayang in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

In the old days, the nyobeng was held to welcome warriors from head-hunting trips, but since such activities no longer exist, it is held instead to bath the skulls captured by their ancestors.

Each time such a ceremony is held, the Sebujit Bidayuh invite their Sarawak brethren.

Women of Kampung Sebujit in West Kalimantan throwing eggs at visitors to welcome them to the Bidayuh Festival of Skulls. Thousands from near and far converged at the village for the annual nyobeng ceremony – a ritual involving the bathing of human skulls. – By KERNI PUAH / THE STAR

A group of 17 Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) supreme council members and branch leaders led by its president Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik were invited by the Dayak Bidayuh Indonesia (DBI) to celebrate the Festival of the Skulls and the Budaya Serumpun gathering.

The nyobeng that lasted three days was held to appease the spirits of the skulls, so that no harm would befall the villagers.

The spirits, according to Kampung Sebujit ceremonial chief Pak Amin, were fed and the skulls kept in the ceremonial house were bathed.

During the ceremony, warriors gathered at the entrance of the village and every guest was greeted and asked the purpose of their visit.

Dressed in red with beads and animal teeth around their necks and armed with parangs, blowpipes and guns, they fired shots into the air to welcome the guests.

“The shots are to call the spirit of komang or leluhur and seek permission to perform the ritual,” said Pak Amin.

Ancient rite: The warriors cutting bamboo as a ritual during the nyobeng.

During the ceremony, the ceremonial chief threw a dog into the air and a group leader of the DBNA was given the honour of slaughtering the dog.

The warriors shouted, and those present strictly observed the dos and don’ts to avoid being harmed by the spirits.

A black chicken was also thrown into the air and again a delegated leader was asked to slaughter it.

The ceremonial chief later invited some women participants to throw eggs at the guests. If the eggs broke, it meant the visitors come with sincerity.

The ceremonial chief then threw white and yellow rice into the air while chanting to the spirit to seek permission to hold the ritual.

Later, the women offered tuak to the guests and escorted them to Rumah Balug in the village centre for another nyobeng session.

Meanwhile, the Budaya Serumpun was organised by Dinas Budparpora Bengkayang through Kasi Kesenian Tradisional dan Moden, Ricky H. Silalahi Jumat.

The organisers for DBNA were Ik Pahon and Alim Mideh.

Ceremonial: The nyobeng ritual being performed in the village.

The journey from the Malaysian-Indonesian border to Seluas in West Kalimantan was arranged by K. Gunawan of Sebujit. It took about one hour through Jagoi Babang and Siding district.

From Seluas bazaar, the group took a boat ride to reach Sungai Bumbum before continuing their journey on foot for one and a half hours to reach the village.

“We had to walk through muddy jungle paths and it was a tiring journey for the participants but everybody was all smiles as they arrived in Sebujit,” said delegate member Joseph Jindy.

Jindy said the visit was to enable DBNA and DBI to enhance cultural cooperation between the Bidayuh of the two countries.

“It is hoped that the visit and the organisation of the Budaya Serumpun would promote positive ties between the Bidayuh from both sides economics, social affairs, culture and agriculture,” he said.

A homestay programme is operational in Kampung Sebujit with 15 homes and a canteen available for guests and tourists. Each house can accommodate five to six guests.

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