Location : Kota Malinau, Kalimantan Utara, Indonesia.
In Sarawak this tribe is currently known as Lun Bawang. They used to be called the Muruts by the early day European adventurers to Brunei and they can be found in Bario, Ba Kelalan, Lawas, Brunei and Sipitang. Later they were bundled into the general category of Orang Ulu by the Sarawak government. Now they are happy just to be called Lun Bawang and nothing else. But the Lundayeh in Malinau have always been Lundayeh and always will be. Lundayeh means Upriver People.
We had to catch the early morning ‘taxi’ which was actually a converted tiny van with minimum luxury. Lucky thing we needed to wait only 10min for it to pass by our lodging house. Taxi fare is quite expensive here as petrol is expensive, if available. By the time we arrived at the venue (which was about the size of 6 football fields), the centre field was already filled with the Lundayehs. It was their day and the stage belonged to them and them only. The musicians and dancers, maybe a thousand of them, were dressed in their traditional best, eager to welcome the Bupati (Regent) and his wife to officiate the opening of the show.
Beautiful body art on her legs
Double hornbill headgear
Luckily it was not a very hot day. Gongs and drums roared as the VIP pair walked into the venue and ushered to a specially made wooden hut.
Prayer was offered followed by a tribal miring with fire and we saw a piece of palm leaf offered to the Bupati probably signifying a gesture of peace.
Beautifully choreographed dances kept flowing by different sets of dancers. The tribal band backing the dances were equally awesome.
Pounding the lesong dance
The sape player was my favourite. Beside the dance performance, there was a special booth on the side showcasing the culinary skills of the Lundayeh. Generous amount and variety of dishes in bamboo containers surrounded a mountain of cooked rice shaped like a gong. Wondered how they kept the flies away. The highlight of the day’s program was the erecting of the 100 footer totem pole signifying the spiritual importance of Irau like a thanks giving of the Gawai in Sarawak.
The Gong Gang. Somebody in the crowd told me there ever was an event with a thousand gongs! That must have been awesome!
There were other smaller events held during the afternoon session, next album and the last on Irau.