August 27, 2005

Kenyah Longhouse Part 2

It's been a few days now, I'm starting to forget the details! I must include the second night of festivities. Olong Ulu means "upriver people" and Kenyahs are one of these groups. One of their traditional dances has each person performing individually as either a warrior (men) or a hornbill (women). My past never included flying or dancing, never mind being graceful! I think I would have been much better suited to the warrior capturing dinner with a few taekwondo kicks. So the men with a sword in one hand and the sheild in another, with a few shaking stomps on the floor, captured their prey in their hornbill coat. And the women with upright feathers on the head and feather pom poms in the hands, slowly turned, bending closer to the ground and up again, arms flying away.

Once the dance has been danced, someone else offers them (not that you have a choice) a shot of rice wine called tuak. It's simple ingredients are sugar, yeast and rice. White rice makes white tuak and burnt rice makes red. For some reason I was offered 2 glasses, one of each kind. There was only one older man to refuse the wine because of heart conditions. It just so happened I was the offerer which meant I had to drink his shot! A few of us had personalized songs sung to us. It was completely not in English, but the beaming smile of the singer, the interested audience around, sitting on a wooden longhouse veranda with a few candles glowing our only light, in the middle of the jungle, made for a deeply moving experience. It ended with a glass of tuak. Yes, another drunk night.

The morning started with some unstraight walking and a chicken ceremony. Which included (you guessed it), a glass of tuak. Back upstream the river we had come down 2 nights ago, we collected a couple durian on the way and headed for Long San. The larger town was not as traditional as Long Moh, but contained so many beautiful murals. Flowered pictures above the hotel room doors, black and white mirror images, the Malaysian flags of each state. Children played football and hung in trees and waved hello. There was an electric orange sunset over the river. The evenings plan was to party at a longhouse, however a recent death in the village meant 2 weeks without ceremony.

Back to Miri, the last couple days already seemed so far away. This was a glimpse at a fading culture as the younger generations prefer to study and work in the cities. Hopefully the future will bring more tourism to keep their tribes alive. But will tourism make the dances less genuine and their lives more dependable on the modern world? I suppose no matter how many animal species and tribes that become extinct, the world will continue to go through it's metamorphosis. Hope lies in the people who don't want change and put effort towards preserving what we still have. P

No comments:

Post a Comment