TWO Dayak community leaders led 55 Dayak participants from Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah on a challenging three-day, three-night 1,143km Bandong boat cruise from Danau Santaruk down the Batang Kapuas to Pontianak recently.
This could be the world’s first customised Dayak-Bandong cruise down the Kapuas River. Both the cruise leaders — First Malaysian Infantry Division Commander Major General Datuk Stephen Mundaw, and a leading Sarawak pemancha, Datuk Pemancha Janggu Banyang — are Dayak Ibans as well.
The wooden Bandong is a traditional cargo boat that used to ply the Kapuas before the 70s when there were no roads linking the interior to the Kalimantan Barat (Kalbar) capital of Pontianak.
Today, many politicians of Kalbar remember going to school in Pontianak by slow Bandongs, taking more than a week to reach the capital from Hulu Kapuas.
In fact, when this cruise was proposed, many Indonesians were intrigued but this did not stop three participants from Jakarta from signing up.
The specially chartered, refurbished 200-tonne Kapal Bandong, Mitra Baru, ferried the 60-odd passengers through six regencies and four towns before finally stopping at Pontianak.
A happy passenger Louis Kanyan enthused: “It is like a floating house actually. I feel very safe in the boat which is big enough for 100 passengers.
“The captain has more than 30 years experience. In the belly of the Bandong, we passengers relax like on the ruai of a long house. Any one can sleep, any time. The vinyl covered floor is clean, a buffet table placed in the middle for meals. There is a second floor for more sleeping space. A ladies’ changing room has also been specially built.”
A fellow passenger from Miri, Johnathan Pengiran told thesundaypost during the cruise: “For three days and three nights, all of us are living like one family. That is the thrill I get. I think my retired friend, Subah, also from Miri, really enjoys himself. It is, indeed, a cultural trip in which we learn so much about our shared cultures.”
A delighted Terence Temenggong Jayang chimed in: “It is a real cultural experience and most of the participants bought fantastic Dayak batik, baskets and bead crafts. They will be definitely spending millions of rupiah.”
The cruise threw up a lot of opportunities to view the arts, crafts, architecture and textiles of the Dayaks in the Kapuas Valley — from Badau to Pontianak. The Dayaks form 70 per cent of the population in Kalbar.
Tours of museums
Stephen Beda, who is from Kanowit and made the trip with his good friend Edward Nyallau, commented that the tours of four museums in Pontianak were really educational for the Dayaks from Sarawak.
“These museums are very impressive, comprehensive and well managed with good solid structures and equipped with IT and air-conditioning. Truly first-class.”
Dayak motifs are everywhere — along the Kapuas River and on buildings, especially the museums.
One of the most impressive Dayak arts are the engravings found on the pillars, walls and roofs of the museums and buildings the tour group visited.
Bernard Sellato in his book ‘Hornbill and Dragon’, wrote: “The Dayaks possess high valued wealth of engravings. A design can be engraved on paractically any object in an appropriately esthetic and philosophical manner.”
Traditionally, the Dayaks would spend time, especially after the padi harvest, doing some engravings. The women too would start their weaving and the skillful ones were (still are) revered.
The famous Pua Kumbu is used for religious rites or presented as a gift to newlyweds. Fern leaves, eyes of birds, bamboo shoots and waves are common motifs woven into the pua kumbu.
Extraordinary motifs can be seen in the engravings on the buildings, especially government buildings and offices such as those in Sintang and Sanggau.
The residence of Kalbar Governor has some of the most awesome Dayak motifs in the engravings on its walls and beams.
Even a church has Dayak motifs engraved on the walls — both inside and outside.
Fellow tour member Richard Holt, who is very interested in music, loves to own a sape with authentic engravings from Kalbar, saying that the engravings would enhance the beauty of the sape.
Many of the sapes found locally but made in Sarawak, only have painted Dayak motifs.
Holt said he was really inspired by the Dayak motifs of Kalbar and would like to go back again.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sampling Dayak arts and cultures in Kalimantan Barat.