Nov 30, 2007

US tourists meet head hunters’ descendants

Visitors describe their longhouse experience as unique.

KUCHING: A group of American tourists currently visiting Sarawak braved the heat and the muddy waters of the Lemanak River to get the unique first-hand experience on how the Iban tribe is adjusting itself to a fast-changing world.

The 12-member group, mainly from New York, is led by Datin Amy Hamidon, the wife of Malaysia’s New York-based permanent representative to the United Nations.

This is the second time that Amy has personally organised such a visit by American tourists after last year’s highly-publicised visit which included the wives of the British and Russian permanent representatives to the United Nations.

The current group includes Nina Burianova, the wife of the permanent representative of the Slovakian republic to the United Nations. Others in the group represent a cross section of American society.

The group arrived from New York on Oct 22 in Kuala Lumpur where it spent two nights before travelling to Sarubah Village, near Sri Aman town, on narrow long boats cruising across strong currents of the Lemanak River.

For many of the group’s city slickers, the experience of coming face-to- face with the Iban tribe, former head hunters who now earn a living tilling the soil and fishing, and engaging in less hazardous activities than their head-hunting forefathers, was worth their time and effort.
The group of tourists were able to not only try their hand at blowpipe target practising but also had an opportunity to join in the traditional Iban dance at the longhouse occupied by the Iban tribe along the Lemanak River.

Indeed, the tourists were warmly touched as the 78-year-old Iban chieftain, Udit, attired in his chieftain’s dress and feather-adorned headgear, personally welcomed the visitors and performed the tribal dance.

The tourists were simply “swept off their feet” by the old chief, as one female member of the group exclaimed.

For many in the group, the face-to-face meeting with the descendants of the head hunters was a unique experience, as they ate with relish the hospitality of the Ibans who had prepared for the visitors an elaborate lunch comprising fish, chicken, spinach, vegetables, topped with papaya as dessert, under the guidance of the seasoned tour guide Roslan Aki Maun Swat Rosli, who himself is an Iban.

The group also practised blowpipe shooting which was used by the head-hunting forefathers of the Iban who aimed their poison-tipped darts against rival tribes or against animal prey they hunted for food.

Fortunately, the target on which the American tourists practised was a green papaya fruit tied to a tree.

The Ibans, who have had European tourists in the past, have rarely played host to tourists from America in the past.

“It is very rare that you have American tourists taking the river journey across the Lemanak to see the Iban,” said Aki.

“I admire their (Americans’) courage and interest to come and see us,” an elderly Iban tribesman told Bernama through an interpreter.


Published by:The Borneo Post28th October 2007

Source : Sarawak Tourism Board

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