Location : Kampung Tadan, Dusun Sei Biang, Desa Bengkawan, Kecamatan Seluas, Kabupaten Bengkayang, Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia.
After missing out on the last 2 years’ celebration we were glad indeed to be able to attend this year. It was first made known to us through our friend Frans Wijaya when he shared his photos on Facebook. Since that first sharing we had been yearning to visit Tadan but the event date had always coincided with other events around Borneo. Tadan village (30 minutes upriver from Sebujit) lies on the bank of the Biang River which is part of the Seluas River.
Our original plan to visit Tadan was via Sebujit overland but 3 straight days of heavy rain rendered the dirt road from Meredeng to Sebujit too dangerous for ojeks. So while driving towards Serikin, we received a call from our Sebujit friend Aking to switch to Plan B, that was to drive to the town of Seluas where he would pick us up by boat. The fact that we had never used this option to travel to Sebujit made Plan B even more exciting. Recalling, our very first trip to Sebujit was hiking 8hrs from the Sarawak village of Gumbang (For more info on our 1st trip, pls check out our web https://bombasticborneo.com/2012/07/nyobeng-sebujit-2012/). The second and third was by car to Merendeng and continued by motorbike (For our second trip, please click here). Finally, we had the chance to try this third option by boat. The boat ride was about an hour along a very shady Seluas River.
After arriving at the Sebujit jetty we still needed to use the bike for another 10min along a concrete path. We had to come to Sebujit a day earlier to be able to make it on time for Tadan’s nyobeng in the morning the following day. Sebujit on the day we arrived was a far cry from what it was 4 days ago with its own Nyobeng Sebujit. No loud music and motorcycles zooming in and out, just soothing quietness.
At about 9am the next day, we set out by boat for the most intimidating Nyobeng of Kalimantan Barat. The event marked also the inauguration of its skull house or ‘baluk/baruk’ which resembled that of Sebujit’s.
Upon enquiring, Tadan had obtained permission and blessing of Sebujit elders in copying that design. So had the village of Kadek. Pak Gunawan of Sebujit made no effort in hiding his pride about this trend setting Bidayuh icon. When we arrived at the village, last minute preparations were still ongoing. The long drum was in the process of installation. So were the handrails up to the baruk.
In about an hour all was ready for the occasion. Beetle nut juice was prepared and the red juice anointed on every warrior’s forehead and cheeks. Additional herb mixed with water was smeared on the shoulders, a practiced never seen in other villages. As the gong and drum reverberated through the jungle air, the warriors formed a long line from the old shack storing the skulls to a temporary altar. The piercing war cries sent chills down my spine as the senior ladies dance to the rhythm of the drum in trance like grace.
First to be handed out to the line were deer horns with some very uniquely deformed shape signifying some kind of spiritual power.
Orangutan skulls followed. Then came the highlight, the human skulls. Some with their eye sockets covered and others with cracks, obviously from the slash of a machete. Some were too fragmented to be recognizable.
If numbers of trophies were to determine the bravery of a tribe then Tadan had definitely stamped its mark. This tribe is not to be messed with.
After finishing lining up the trophies, the offering of food and rice wine was performed by the Ketua Adat. More dancing followed.
While this was going on, Tatep a friend from Bengkayang, signaled to me to look up in the sky. Right under the hot midday sun was a white ring of light in the sky. A spiritual significance I find no answer for.
Anyway, when all the spiritual feasting was over, it was time again for the warriors to line themselves up again but this time all the way up to the baruk where all the skulls and horns were laid to their new resting place. It will be another year before the same ritual is repeated.
For the villagers of Tadan this year’s event would be remembered for a long time as it was their proudest moment with the crews of CNN Indonesia covering it for the first time.
Ijuk / Ijok Palm Hair
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