The Land Dayak of Sarawak

The Land Dayak of Sarawak

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The Dayak are native dwellers of Borneo, and the term ‘Dayak’ is a general term representing the vast numbers of ethnic groups living at either the hills or near the rivers. In Sarawak, especially within Kuching, one of the most well-known Dayak ethnic groups is the Bidayuh, the Land Dayak of Sarawak.

It is said that the Bidayuhs migrated from West Kalimantan of Indonesia. Some even claimed that they are the original dwellers of Sarawak. Despite of the uncertainties of its origins, they have filled the many colours that represent the density of Sarawak’s well-preserved tolerance and multi-cultural denizens.

One of the aspects that make this particular ethnic group unique is the variety of spoken Bidayuh dialects and languages, which are affected by the Bidayuh sub-groups dwelling within Sarawak districts. Within Kuching District alone, it is said that there are about 11 groups. Most Bidayuh dwelled within Kuching City speak Biatah dialect from Kuching District and Jagoi dialect from the Bau District, as well as some Bidayuh dialects from Serian District. Some dialects, particularly the Biatah and Jagoi, have its own similarities and differences
One of the examples to show this is the way words were pronounced. The word, “Have” in English is “Agi” in Biatah dialect and “Ogi” in Jagoi dialect. They may have shown minor differences but the words are the same. Where similarly, the Biatah and Jagoi dialects pronounce the number eight as “Mai”, the Bidayuh dialects from Serian district would pronounce it as “Ma’hi”.

Another notable uniqueness that has been shown is the variety of the traditional costumes, which represents the differences in Bidayuh sub-groups. In general, the Bidayuh women traditional costumes should have a ‘piah’ (hat), earrings, manik necklaces, bronze bracelets, belts, a black vest/blouse and black skirt with red and white stripes. Some groups wear short, round caps with less bronze bracelets worn. Some groups have tall caps, with more body decorations.

In the olden days, Bidayuh dwellers practiced animism. Nowadays, most Bidayuhs within Sarawak are generally Christians. At 10th Mile Kota Padawan in Kuching, the St. Ann Catholic Church is well-known for its unique ‘baruk’ church. The ‘baruk’ is a traditional Bidayuh house. This simple church has undergone several renovations and during Sunday Mass, the small ‘baruk’ can hold about 500 Christian denizens.

Sarawak is well known for its cultural diversity and tolerance between its denizens. With the mix varieties of races and ethnic group living together in harmony, it is not surprising that Sarawakians freely practices their beliefs and religion, as well as sharing their cultures with each other. The Bidayuh ethnic alone consists of different sub-ethnics living in different districts in Sarawak, speaking different dialects. It is hoped that this diversity should live on in the years to come.

damrak1

/// Written by Galileo Petingi, Malaysia

  • Alex Eriksen

    So, Sarawak is mostly populated by this ‘Dayak’ clan?

  • Marco de Groen

    I think so yes, but the expert on this is Mister Galileo Petingi

    • Alex Eriksen

      I’m just asking because my Cousin gone there for his vacation and the folk around there said these ‘Dayak Clan’ are mixture of a few other different Clan. So as i read these article a bit different that the brochures and magazine that my cousin brought home.

  • Marco de Groen

    Well this article is written by a local from there so I guess he knows best. But maybe there is a truth in both information. Just have to go there and find out! haha

  • Alex Eriksen

    Haha. travel to the south east asia, half way around the globe just to know about this Clan. haha.. Well, hope the writer is legit, because this article are quite different from the magazine. If not, it would be a disappointing for the Site.

    • Marco de Groen

      That is true yeah, but I trust this writing having his facts right. Thanks for your comments btw

  • Alex Eriksen

    Your site quite good. love the info given. Support your site.

    • Marco de Groen

      Thanks a lot Alex I am very happy to hear that.