Category archives: Cultural

Saban Peoples of Sarawak

Tabi basa and greetings everyone! In this posting today, I would like to write about Saban peoples.

Sa’ban people (or Saban people) is one of Dayak minority that resides in Sarawak. According to Sarawak government classification, they are categorised under Orang Ulu. Saban people resides in few districts in Sarawak, but mostly resides in Long Banga, Baram. Their ancestors came from East Kalimantan, Indonesia where they dwells at Bahau River Valley at 17th Century. They live at hill to avoid the attack from headhunters during headhunting-warring period at Sarawak. Three generations of Saban people fought these headhunters, where “Leprot Langet” was their last warrior to fight against those headhunters around 1842. Heahunting practice was put to a stop during James Brooke’s time.

Saban’s people has small population due to:
1. Headhunter wars, forcing them to move around for safety
2. Away from other peoples and late exposure to modern life
3. Diseases, such as malaria that causes mass death.

At Indonesia, Saban peoples are known as “Berau” by other tribes that live at East and North Kalimantan. They split into few villages at the interior Borneo such as Apauping, Pujungan, Bulungan, South Malinau, North Malinau and West Malinau. Their exodus to Sarawak starts at the early of 20th Century in stages until 1960s. At Sarawak they are the minority, with total population less than 2000. To look after their well-being and to safeguard their peoples, Saban Peoples Association (Persatuan Masyarakat Saban) was founded in 4th July 2002.

In Sarawak, Saban people resides in Long Banga, Baram, Long Puak and Long Peluan, where these are their main residence in Sarawak. Other than that, in line with modernisation and career opportunities, they also moved to Miri, Marudi and Kuching, while some make a living at Peninsular Malaysia. At Long Banga, Saban people live with Kenyah Lepo’ Ke, Kelabit, and Penan peoples. Despite their similarities with Kelabit and Lun Bawang, Saban peoples also has their own differences in terms of tradition, culture especially language. Nevertheless, they live in harmony with one another.

Mixed-marriages is not a common practice by Saban peoples even though most of Sarawakian peoples have no issue with mixed-marriages. This is because of their population as well as to uphold their values and purity in their community. That is the reason why Saban peoples are able to ensure the strength of their culture despite their small population. Just like other ethnics and tribes at Sarawak, they also benefits from the modernisation and managed to achieve good education level, good religious life and no longer practice their old way of life.

Orang Saban, Sarawak

Suku Dayak Sa’ban adalah satu suku Dayak yang minoriti di Sarawak. Menurut klasifikasi kerajaan Sarawak, mereka adalah tergolong di dalam kumpulan Orang Ulu. Orang Sa’ban menetap di beberapa daerah di Sarawak, dan kebanyakanya tinggal di Long Banga, Baram. Leluhur orang Sa’ban pula berasal dari Kalimantan Timur Indonesia, yang mana mereka menetap di Lembah Sungai Bahau pada kurun ke-17. Mereka tinggal di bukit untuk mengelak dari serangan kaum-kaum Dayak lain yang mengamalkan budaya mengayau (headhunting). Orang Sa‘ban menghadapi tiga generasi melawan budaya Headhunter. “Leprot Langet” adalah seorang pahlawan lelaki Sa‘ban yang terakhir dalam budaya perang ngayau pada sekitar tahun 1842. Perang ngayau diberhentikan oleh semua suku semasa pemerintahan James Brooke.

Orang Sa’ban ini tidak banyak disebabkan oleh beberapa punca antaranya:

  1. Perang ngayau, menyebabkan mereka selalu berpindah randah.
  2. Jauh dari lingkungan bangsa lain dan lambat terdedah terhadap kehidupan moden
  3. Wabak penyakit (malaria), menyebabkan ramai yang kehilangan nyawa.

Di Indonesia, orang Sa’ban dikenali dengan nama “Berau“ oleh suku-suku lain yang menetap di Kalimantan Timur dan Kalimantan Utara. Mereka berpecah-pecah di pelbagai kampung di pendalaman seperti di Apauping, Pujungan, Bulungan, Malinau Selatan, Malinau Utara dan Malinau Barat, Krayan. Penghijrahan orang Sa’ban ke Sarawak bermula pada sekitar awal abad ke-20 secara berperingkat sehingga ke tahun 1960-an. Di Sarawak, mereka adalah minoriti, dimana populasi mereka adalah kurang daripada 2000 orang. Bagi menjaga kebajikan dan hal ehwal orang Sa’ban di Sarawak, Persatuan Masyarakat Saban telah ditubuhkan pada 4 Julai 2002.

Orang Sa’ban di Sarawak menetap di Long Banga, Baram, Long Puak dan Long Peluan, yang mana ini adalah kediaman utama mereka di Sarawak. Selain itu, selari dengan arus perkembangan moden, sebahagian besar daripada orang Sa’ban telah berpindah ke Miri, Marudi, Kuching, Long Lama dan Tawau. Tidak kurang juga ada yang berpindah ke Semenanjug Malaysia untuk bekerja. Di Long Banga, orang Sa’ban hidup bersama-sama dengan orang Kenyah Lepo’ Ke, orang Kelabit dan orang Penan. Disebalik persamaan, orang Sa’ban juga mempunyai perbezaan dari aspek tradisi, budaya dan terutama sekali bahasa dengan orang Kelabit dan Lun Bawang. Namun begitu, mereka hidup rukun antara satu sama lain.

Perkahwinan campur kurang diamalkan oleh orang Saban walaupun kebanyakan orang di Sarawak tiada masalah dengan perkahwinan campur. Ini adalah kerana populasi mereka yang sedikit disamping untuk menjaga nilai-nilai murni dan keaslian di dalam masyarakat mereka. Oleh sebab itu, orang Sa’ban masih dapat menjaga keluhuran budaya mereka walaupun populasi mereka masih sedikit. Sepertimana masyarakat Sarawak yang lain di dunia moden ini, orang Sa’ban juga dapat mencapai tahap pendidikan yang baik, kehidupan yang beragama dan tidak lagi mengamalkan budaya lama mereka.

Sumber: Eva Angel, Long Banga (2020)

“Immortalising Memories!”   

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“Tukang Rantek” Claudius is a Portrait, Wedding & Event Photographer based in Miri, with a passion for writing. 
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An Evening with Petra Dancers

Tabi basa & greetings family & friends,

How was your day? Today I want to talk about dance in Sarawak. Throughout the history of Sarawak, dance is one of the important aspect of its cultural development, where most of the indigenous peoples has their own dance, derived from nature. For example, Rejang / Langgi for Bidayuh peoples are inspired by the movements of eagle in the sky. Ngajat, a warrior dance for Iban people and most of Orang Ulu’s dance is also derived from the graceful movement of hornbill, signifying the close relationship of these peoples with nature. Long time ago, the life of Sarawakian peoples was built in such way that it is in balance with nature, because it was based on preservation of life. For a start, for newcomers, it is good to see them in action at Sarawak Cultural Village at Santubong to know the brief summary of Sarawak’s rich culture.

Pak Bek (fourth from right) and his dancers

I myself had personally involved with dances when I was still in tertiary education, and had a good down-memory-lane whenever I see traditional dancers performing. Yesterday I had a chance to see Petra dancers in action, led by Mr Awang Harabi, or famously known Pak Bek.

Petra Dancers Story

Petra Dancers was founded in 1991, which makes them 28 years old this year. That gave them a lot of experiences especially in the dancing arena of Sarawakian culture. They can dance all kind of traditional dancers of Sarawak peoples, including Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay, Chinese or even Indian people’s dances. They one they performed yesterday was Iban’s Ngajat, Orang Ulu’s Kanjet Ngeleput, Bidayuh’s Rejang Beuh, Malay’s Joget Melati, and finally a group dance.

In terms of dancing experiences, they have performed all around the nation, including Brunei and have been representing Sarawak in the international level. They have a different kind of dancers category as well, with the one that we had yesterday was the junior to give them more exposure. For more challenging events, the seniors will go and perform.

In total, they have around 40 active members, with 3 assistant leader, namely Suharto, Kartini and Roberto. For big events, they will collaborate with dance groups from all around Malaysia, or Sarawak to make it bigger due to limitation of manpower and trainers. E.g. during Sarawak Day celebration, where there is a lot of dancers required.

They have their own studio at Wisma Ung Hwa Geok, Lot 418, Tingkat 1, Jalan Kulas Utara Dua, 93400 Kuching, which is the studio that they build at their own initiative without government support as they also runs bridal company, under Petra Bridal.

The current challenge that they face include the other group of dancers because customer tends to find a cheap but with quality dancers. It is a perpetual challenge, but with their reputation, they have little difficulty in that.

Pak Bek also emphasises on the well-being of the dancers, where for every performance, they will be covered their logistics, food and payment. Every week there is a performance, but it will be paid lump sum the end of the month.

Training schedule per week is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8.30 – 10.30pm, 2 hours per day. That is the commitment required from every dancers in Petra dancers.

Pak Bek hopes to maintain cultural diversity through their works and wishes that every dancers has the discipline to remain focused so that they can achieve whatever they want, be it winning an international award or just to be a good dancer.  

Should anyone interested to join them, you may call 0168689226 to enlist yourself and dance.

Gear used: Leica M Monochrom and Noctilux 50.

Your Tukang Rantek,
Claudius Weson

Note: Claudius Weson is a tukang rantek (photographer) based in Miri, mainly doing portraiture (indoor / studio / outdoor photoshoot), weddings and event photography.

© Claudius Weson Photography (2019). All rights reserved.

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