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borneo / the warrior dance

“...[the birds] were the yellow of all yellows, the kind of yellow that every other yellow secretly wishes to be.” -- Redmond O'Hanlon, Into the Heart of Borneo

while the women, feather fans in hand, glistening in self-woven, beads-covered dresses & head pieces - perform their graceful dance routines depicting the flight of hornbills in the background, the men stepped to the front to perform the warrior dance -- a ritual done in the olden days to greet returning warriors & to express gratitude, marking the end of the rice harvest season. a tradition of the 'upriver dwellers / orang ulu' tribe of Borneo that has been passed down through generations, it is now performed during weddings, school celebrations and other special occasions. 

i grew up as a dancer, performing this dance on school stages for years. i knew how to craft hornbill feather fans out of paper cardboards before i could memorize the multiplication table. it's part of my childhood that i am so grateful for -- that despite growing up in the modern days, the tradition & culture of my ancestors are still taught to me relentlessly. 

△  the orang ulu dance is accompanied by sape' music - 

here's something i found on youtube

, though nothing beats listening to it live. :)

▽ the 'ngajat' Iban / dance of the sea dayaks

holding a long sword in one hand & an ornately decorated shield in the other, making slow movements as if he's stalking the enemy & dramatic prances, as if he's leaping forward to attack - here's a traditional dance of the sea Dayaks. this time, it's also performed with a heavy mortar weighing almost 20kg - which the dancer holds with his teeth while he spun around. the ngajat dance is also performed in the olden days to greet returning warriors from their headhunting expeditions. 

after years, i've finally had the chance to watch these dance performances again during our visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching last month. i'd also managed to introduce Ken to some traditions of Borneo that are rarely seen or understood by the people on the other side of Malaysia - something i'd only came to notice in the recent years. in many ways, Borneo is an entity of its own & our pride of a culture isn't familiar to the people on the peninsular -- though it makes sense, seeing that as a country, we're literally an ocean apart. perhaps that's a topic for another day. 

i watched these performances with indescribable feelings, bursting with pride as the music of sape' continues to haunt me for days after -- perhaps i'm just happy to feel like i'm home again.