June 22, 2012

0256 INDONESIA (Kalimantan) - "If has the short ears mean he’s a monkey"

About the Dayak (or Dyak) people, from Borneo, I wrote here, only that then I insisted on Ibans, the most important branch of this ethnic group. This time, the postcard is from Indonesia, which hold approximately 73% of Borneo's  territory, divided into four provinces: West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan.

In terms of appearance, Dayak's are recognized by two distinct features: one the females have their ears peirced young and get heavy earrings placed on the lobes which cause them to stretch. The second feature is that they get their teeth filed into jagged edges. The reasoning for this is to help better eat meat. Neither the explanation for wearing heavy earrings isn't complicated. It is said that the first dayak who lived in the forest, long time ago, had a unique way to distinguish humans and monkeys, "If has the short ears mean he’s a monkey…" So according to Dayak Kenyah people, ears lobes elongation is used as a marker of their human identity. In line with this, the Ministry of Education and Culture confirmed for the Kenyah and Bahau, people who don't ear length is considered similar to an ape.

For the Dayak women, the longer the ears and the more ear pendants that she wears, the more beautiful she is. For the boys usually the pendant ears made from carvings. Not all tribes kept this tradition, but in East Kalimantan it’s still being conducted by the Dayak Kenyah people, Bahau, and Kayan. Among the Kenyah Dayak people, both men and women have deliberately lengthen the ears lobes, but the length varies between men and women. Men should not extend beyond his ears until his shoulder, while women may lengthen their ears up to limited chest.

According to its origins hundreds of years ago, ears lengthen was only for the nobility of Dayak tribe. It's also used to distinguish the women who became slaves because of the lost war or unable to pay debts. Different styles in different earrings shows differences in status and gender. Like for example the nobility has its own style of earrings that should not be used by ordinary people. The ear piercing process itself started since childhood, more or less one year old. Once the baby is born, the earrings will be very heavy. Then, every year the parents should add one heavier silver earrings.

Beside shape of the long ears, the other tribes tradition for Dayak Kenyah , Bahau, Iban, Kayan are the tattoos. For women, the presence of tattoos on their bodies are a sign of maturity, but also showed they were members of noble families. For men it is a sign that they've explored the other lands and has done something extraordinary, such as killing an enemy in battle. The religious tattoos have the meaning of a "torch" in the course of one's natural to eternity, after death. Therefore, the number of tattoos that more and more indicative of the growing number of "torch" that will illuminate the way to a natural person immortality.

Both tattoos on men and women, traditionally made using orange spines long and gradually then use some needle. What hasn't changed is the material tattooing, which typically uses soot from the pot black. This is what makes tattoo from Dayak different from any other tattoos, that often use different colors for beauty reasons.

There are three common types of tattoos used Kayan Dayak women: Tedak Kassa - covers the foots and used as an adult; Tedak Usuu - throughout the hands; Tedak Hapii - covers the thighs. The black spikes that run from the knuckles to the mid-digits are called song irang (shoots of bamboo), and the lines that run horizontally behind the knuckles are called ikor (lines). It's possible that this is an anthropomorph of some kind and may represent silong lejau (tiger's faces).

In conclusion, for Dayak women the elongated lobes of the ears, and the tattoos symbolises beauty and pride, and this is shows very clearly in the attitude of woman in the picture.

About the stamps
The stamps are part of the seventh issues of Indonesian Traditional Foods series (respectively 1/7, 2/7, and 6/7), about which I wrote here.

sender: Yanita Dwi Chairnani (direct swap)
sent from Bogor (Indonesia), on 30.05.2012
photo: Singgih W.

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