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THE CULTURE AND CUSTOM OF THE IBAN ETHNIC: THE CUSTOM OF BUILDING A RESIDENCE HOUSE

INTRODUCTION

Rumah Lamin, or also known as a Long House, is four-sided up to 300 meters long and up to 25 meters wide, built facing the river. The house has joint characteristics of a number of units of house each one belongs to a separate family. Inside each unit are two main parts; a closed area for the bedroom and kitchen, and an open area as the living area or veranda. There are walls encircling the private area as border for each family house. There are also walls to separate the private area and the living area or veranda. There is a door to enter and exit each private area.

Big wooden effigies are placed in the compound for ritual purposes as offerings to the residents ancestors.

THE CUSTOM OF BUILDING A RESIDENCE HOUSE

There are seven stages in building this house, as follows:

Stage One:Meramu or Collecting the Building Materials

The tuai rumah(head of house) discusses with his followers regarding the necessity to build a new residence house. After reaching consensus each family gathers enough building materials. With the help of Tuai Burung (a bird that acts as a predictor) the tuai rumah will then determine the lucky date to clear the house site.

Stage Two: Tuai Burung

Days before clearing the house site the tuai rumah goes into the jungle to seek for good omen. If the new house is going to be built downstream and on the former house site then he has to look for the sound of the Nendak bird on his right. Upon hearing the bird sound he pulls a young tree, called tambak burung, in that area to signify the event and brings back the young tree for keeping.

The tuai rumah goes into the jungle on the next day for the same purpose and repeats the same action. In the morning of the third day he goes into the jungle again and this time to look for the bird sound on his left and repeats the same action upon hearing the sound.

Stage Three: Clearing the House Site (Ngemberang) and Burning the Tambak Burung (Young Tree)

In the early morning of clearing the house site the tuai rumah burns the clearing site in the middle of the new site before leading the clearing works. After clearing is over the families gather their building materials on their respective house unit sites.

Stage Four:Sprinkling a Female Pig Blood and Pray to God and the Spirit

After the clearing of the sites is done the custom of erecting the main beam is held followed by the beams of the rest of the house units. The tuai rumah then sprinkles an adult female pig blood, citing short prayers requesting for God and the spirits, especially of their ancestors, to bless their new house and that the residents achieve success in their future undertakings.

Stage Five: Inserting Salt into the Beam Hole

After the prayers the house beams are inserted into their holes together with salt, a piece of tiny gold, the skin of the langgir fruit and a branch of a low lying tree that grows along the sea bed.

Stage Six: Placing the Roof

The roof is then placed swiftly and arranged accordingly.

Stage Seven: The Tuai Rumah Leads the Families to Enter Their New Houses

After the long house is built the tuai rumah and tuai burung lead all the families to enter the new building and their new house units. But before migrating each family must build his own kitchen for his family.

Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara, Sarawak

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Tel : 082-422006 / 082-423106
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