art & culture project




The Dyak people of inner Kalimantan (Borneo) were head hunters, who until recently kept settlers out of their dense jungles territories. The tribes still hunt and gather in more remote areas of the bush and practice slash and burn agriculture along the inland rivers like the Mahakam. The longhouse dwellers of these river districts hold planting and harvesting ceremonies that are believed to have originated with the Dong-Son migrations from the Annam region of northern Vietnam between the 8th and 2nd century B.C. These earliest rituals probably also form the basis for the trance dramas on Bali and Java.
Two Dayak masks, Borneo: Deer and Pig
The gods in red, black and white painted masks come and dance as deer, pig, dragon, tiger and humans. The spirits are also invoked in the netted beadwork designs that the Modang, Kenyah and Kayan Dyak women string to protect new children in their baby-carriers..
Penari HUDOQ Long Bentuk, Kutai TimurBerbeda dengan desa Gemar Baru dan Tanjung Manis, di desa Long Bentuk dapat disaksikan kehidupan masyarakat suku Dayak Bahau. Pakaian, ornamen, dan kesenian tradisional suku Dayak Bahau berbeda jauh dengan suku Dayak Kenyah. Salah satu tarian terkenal dari masyarakat suku Dayak Bahau adalah tari Hudoq, yakni tarian yang menggunakan daun pisang atau daun pinang sebagai penutup tubuh penari dan penggunaan topeng kayu yang menyerupai binatang.
History and Cultural Relations
Oral history and genealogies point to the upper Kayan area, the Apo Kayan Plateau, as the last major settlement area of the Modang before they migrated to the lowlands of Kutai and Doberai or Bulungan in the late eighteenth century. It is known as Kejin/Kejien, according to the various isolects. If one goes further back in time, the Bahau-Punjungan region was occupied by Modang, Kayan, and Bahau subgroups before the Kenyah migrations from Sarawak started in the seventeenth century. During the early nineteenth century (1810-1840), the Modang, as the major Dayak entity in Kutai and Doberai, were challenging the Malay sultanate's power. They were then practicing ritual headhunting on a larger scale than any other Dayak group in eastern Borneo. The Modang show close cultural similarities to the Bahau, the Busang, and Kayan. They are part of a central-northeast Borneo culture area. Social structure, religious beliefs, custom (adat), and technology constitute variations on a common background. Within the Kayan-Kenyah-Bahau cultural complex, however, the Modang exhibit a particular differentiation. They distinguish themselves by their village organization: the existence of a men's house (ewéang in Wehèa, petoèh in Long Way, etc.), and the institution of the chief's "great house" (msow pwun in Wehèa). Generally they appear more conservative than the other populations of the region. They have retained cultural elements discarded by others, for instance the great number of taboos (pli') observed during the rice cycle. The description given here applies mainly to the Modang Wehèa.

Identification. "Modang" is a generic term covering a complex of culturally related groups living in the Kutai Regency of Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, along the Mahakam River and its tributaries. Outside Kutai proper (i.e., in Doberai or Bulungan), these people are known by the exonyms "Segai" or "Ga'ai." The term "Modang" also seems to have originated over a very wide area (about 63,000 square kilometers) in the province of East Kalimantan, roughly between 0° and 4° N and 115° and 117° E. They are comprised of five river-based groups loosely identified as Dayak: (1) Long Gelat (middle and upper Mahakam), (2) Long Belah (Belayan), (3) Long Way (Kelinjau), (4) Wehèa (TelenWahau), (5) Menggaè (Kelai-Segah, lower Kayan).
Location. Established on the middle and upper reaches of rivers in the lowland areas, the Modang occupy a distinct geomorphic region. It is situated between the rolling hills and mountains bordering the Apo Kayan Plateau and the marshy plains nearer to the river mouths. The Modang subgroups are divided among three drainage basins: Mahakam, Kelai-Segah, and Kayan. They have preferentially settled flat areas along the riverside where good fertile alluvial land is found.
Demography. Judging from field surveys and published census data, the total Modang population does not exceed 5,000 individuals for the five subgroups (1985). Epidemics, intermarriage with other ethnic groups, conversion to Islam, and a low birthrate have all had a negative effect on the population. The Modang Wehèa, the largest group, has a population of 2,100 (1985) concentrated on a relatively narrow stretch of land along the upper Telan and Wahau rivers. It has shown a steady growth (39 percent) in the last fifty years (from 1,266 persons in 1935). Some marriages are taking place between neighboring Modang groups such as the Long Way, Menggaè, and the Wehèa, mostly among aristocratic families. Out-migration to the nearby towns (Tenggarong, Samarinda, and Balikpapan), of temporary nature, is still unimportant.
Linguistic Affiliation. Modang is part of the Kayanic Family within Western Malayo-Polynesian, but it constitutes a discrete language group. The five Modang isolects are still mutually intelligible. It appears that a process of lexical innovation, combined with rare phonological changes, has been going on for a long time. The subgroups have been separated for more than two centuries. The languages spoken by the Punan Kelay and Punan Mahkam in Doberai are part of this group. These isolects form a dialectal chain with about 6,000 speakers spread from Kutai to Bulungan.
Religious Beliefs. The Modang cosmology gives an idea of a tripartition of the universe: upper world or sky (/engèt), earth (sun mna'), and underworld (dya' mna') are differentiated. The skies—divided in seven "layers" (telsun) —and the underworld are the dwelling places of the deities (metà). At the top of the pantheon one finds a pair of goddesses: Doh Ton Tenyè and Dèa Long Meluen, respectively elder and younger sister. Besides these main figures a complex of deities, malevolent spirits or ghosts (sekyah), and supernatural beings is recognized. Among the metà, the thunder-gods (dlay) have a predominant position: they punish humans guilty of transgression of taboos and custom or mockery of animals.
Ceremonies. The ritual life is extremely rich. The yearly cycle has two main phases: Edat na' plaè, "the Custom of Rice," and Na'pli', "to do the sacred [things]," which are comprised of no fewer than twenty-four rituals of varying scale. Transition rites (birth, naming, marriage, funeral) are carried out by ritual specialists, who are also spirit mediums (lun enjuk). Formerly, most of these ceremonies, when done for the chief's family, required human heads, as well as the building of the great house. Headhunting was abolished in the 1920s. Now for the great head-hunting ritual, Nemlèn, pieces of old skulls are used.
Death and Afterlife. Conceptions of the soul distinguish between a "soul of the living" (welgwen lun blom) and a "soul of the dead" (welgwen lun lewas). Eschatological notions refer to a journey of the soul to a village of the dead, Pang Kung Kelung. However, people who have died a "bad death," or lewas ak (i.e., by drowning, in childbirth, or violently), go to another place called Pang Kung Néang. In accordance with this belief, there are two graveyards (keldam) in the village. The chiefs used to be buried separately from the other villagers, in impressive mausoleums (belah) up to 10 meters high. Statues of dead persons (parents, grandparents) of high status are erected in the village toward the end of the Nemlèn ceremony as an expression of prestige. These images (bo' jöng), carved on the upper part of posts, display the particular aesthetic values of the Modang.
Arts. The Modang have a rich craft tradition of mat making, basketry, beadwork, iron forging, and wood carving, which has achieved a high degree of skill as evidenced by house posts, boards, doors, and staircases with intricate motifs of spirits, animals, and ornamental designs. Painted murals on the chief's house and mausoleum (especially among Long Gelat and Long Way) show the same symbolic figures. The performing arts are well developed also: collective dances (enjéak) and masked dances (hedo')—the masks worn by men only—take place on ritual occasions. Vocal music, expressed in chants (teluy) and epics (tek'na'), presents more complexity than does instrumental music.
Modang villages (ekung.) are located on high river banks, usually near the confluence of a major river with a stream. Longhouses (min) of three to six apartments or individual houses (msow) linked by plankways are built in rows (telsong min) parallel to the river course; the ridge beam follows the upstream-downstream orientation. The rows of houses are situated on both sides of a central street (lan). They correspond to the two named moieties of the village: dya' min, the row of houses closer to the river bank, and lon min, the row of houses farther inland. The village as a unit has a territory (lenih ekung), where all households are allowed to farm. Villages range from 200 to 600 inhabitants. In the Mahakam area, the politically dominant Long Gelat are sharing multiethnic villages with vassal Busang groups. Within the village territory, settlements used to shift every ten or fifteen years in response to inauspicious omens, deaths, or bad dreams; this is no longer the case. Because population density is very low, the swidden system operates fairly well.
Among central Borneo peoples, the Modang have a distinctive house type (msow). It is built with a strong ironwood structure on two vertical levels: a low platform (sun tah) and living quarters (maè msow), linked by stairs or a notched log (hesien). The same principle is applied to the different buildings: longhouse, individual house, the chief's great house, and even farmhouses. The platform has the same uses as the gallery in Kayan-Kenyan-Bahau longhouses: economic activities and ritual and leisure space. In the past (nineteenth century) , houses were very high, 8 or 9 meters above the ground, for defensive reasons. Households of neighboring houses (or longhouse apartments) are related by ties of kinship; according to the Modang's conception, they cannot be separated by nonkin (see "Kin Groups and Descent").
Bock, Carl (1882). The Headhunters of Borneo: A Narrative of Travel up the Mahakkam and down the Barito; also, Journeyings in Sumatra. London: Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington. Reprint. 1985. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Dewall, H. von, and A. L. Weddik (1849). "Beknopt Overzigt van het Reijk Koetei op Borneo." Indisch Archief 1:78-105, 128-160.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. ( 1983). "Le nom des ancêtres et la continuité: Remarques à propos d'une généalogie des hepuy pun Long Way (Long Bentuk, Kalimantan Timur)." Asie du Sud-Est et le monde indonésien 14:51-68.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. (1984). Min, "maisons"et organisation sociale: Contribution à l'ethnographie des sociétés Modang de Kalimantan-Est, Indonésie. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. (1985). "An Ethnological Survey of the Kelai River Area, Kabupaten Berau, East Kalimantan." Borneo Research Bulletin 17:106-120.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. (1987). "'Longue maison' et 'grande maison': Considérations sur l'ordre social dans le centre de Bornéo." In De la hutte au palais: Sociétés "à Maison" en Asie du Sud-Est insulaire, edited by Charles MacDonald, 45-66. Paris: Éditions du Centre National de Recherche Scientifique.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. (1988). "Le groupe Kayan: Essai d'inventaire ethnolinguistique." In Le riz en Asie du Sud-Est: Atlas du vocabulaire de la plante, edited by N. Revel, 174178. Paris: Éditions de l'Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
Guerreiro, Antonio J. (1989). "Entités, rhétorique et intention dans le discours rituel Modang Wehèa (Bornéo)." In Anthropologie de la prière: Rites oraux en Asie du Sud-Est, edited by S. C. Headley, 89-124. Paris: Études du Centre de l'Asie du Sud-Est.
Nieuwenhuis, A. W. (1904-1907). Quer durch Borneo: Ergebnisse seiner Reisen in die Jahren 1894, 1896-7 und 18981900. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Detail of a Bahay or Modang Dayak tribe pig mask, used in planting ceremonies, north east Kilimantan, Borneo. 35cm high

Tari Hudoq
Tari ini berasal dari suku Dayak Bahau dan Modang, yang merupakan tarian untuk mengusir hama-hama tanaman atau mengusir roh jahat. Biasanya para penari memakai topeng-topeng yang menakutkan dan menyeramkan, supaya dapat mengecoh dan mengusir hama tanaman atau pun roh jahat.
This dance comes from Dayak Bahau and Modang tribe that represents a dance to chase away the crop pests or bad/evil spirit. Usually, the dancers wear the scary mask to chase away the crop pests and the bad spirit.
Among the most dramatic Dayak Modang-Bahau-Kenyah-Kayan-Kajah works are hudoq: ritual masks created to protect the rice crop. Rice is the staple food of the Dayak, and crop failure can mean starvation. In Modang-Bahau-Kenyah-Kayan belief, rice has a female spirit or "soul" that can be attacked by malevolent spirits, resulting in a poor harvest. To protect the "rice soul," men don masks depicting fearsome creatures to frighten dangerous spirits from the ricefields. Armed with menacing teeth and adorned with tendril-like motifs, these brightly painted masks represent both human and animal forms. The masks are worn with shaggy costumes of banana leaves and are danced before planting and again at various times as the rice plants mature.A second mask type, sometimes called a "soul-catching mask," was formerly used by shamans in curing rituals. During sleep or unconsciousness, the human soul is believed to travel outside the body. If the soul becomes "lost" on its journey, the body quickly sickens. When illness due to "soul loss" is suspected, the shaman, usually a woman, is summoned. The shaman goes into a trance and, using masks and other ritual paraphernalia, attempts to recapture the wandering soul. If the soul cannot be caught and restored to the body, the victim may die.
Modang Sculpture, Borneo (Carbon dated to the 14th C.)

Hudoq means hornbill. These wild-looking masks are worn during agricultural ceremonies and to welcome important guests. Donning the mask, the Hudoq dancer scares away evil spirits from the longhouse. By clowning around, the dancer provokes tears of laughter which are believed to help water the newly planted rice.The mask is a unique morphing of many elements of Dayak mythology, including the hornbill (celestial messenger of the upper world), the dragon (symbol of the lower world), and an ancestor-spirit form. The horn-like projects coming from the top of the ears are stylized bird heads. When worn with the wicker cap and long hornbill feathers, this is a very impressive character. The feathers are missing because hornbills are an endangered species.

Indonesian culture has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Indonesia is central among ancient trading routes between the Far East and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, centrury Early Christian, Catholic, Confucianism, Protestanism, and Islam, all strong in the major trading cities. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original. Examples include Agama Hindu Dharma, a denomination of Hinduism now practiced by 93% of Balinese, the fusion of Islam with Hindu in Javanese Abangan belief, the fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism in Bodha, the fusion of Hinduism and animism in Kaharingan, and many others.
Indonesian art-forms express this cultural mix. Wayang, traditional theater-performed puppet shows, were used to spread Hinduism and Islam amongst Javan villagers. Both Javanese and Balinese dances have stories about ancient Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, while Islamic art forms and architecture are present in Sumatra, especially in the Minangkabau and Aceh regions. Traditional art, music and sport are combined into a martial art form called Pencak Silat.
Western culture has influenced Indonesia mostly in modern entertainment such as television shows, movies and songs. India has notably influenced Indonesian songs and movies. A popular type of song is the Indian-rhythmical dangdut, which is often mixed with Arab and Malay folk music.
Despite the influences of foreign culture, some remote Indonesian regions still preserve uniquely indigenous culture. Indigenous ethnic groups of Mentawai, Asmat, Dani, Dayak, Toraja and many others are still practising their ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes.

Asmat – Agats
Puppet-Mask Costume

182 cm in height.

The Body Mask, found only in the coastal and northwest areas of Asmat, is made in great secrecy in the feast house when the time has come to drive certain spirits of ancestors from the village to Safan, the land of the dead.
The head and chest have finely knotted string in vertical and horizontal arrangements. The shoulders and bodice are made of rough rattan. The eyes are fish shaped wooden pieces painted with white lime and tipped with black soot. The arms and skirt are made of strips of sago leaf.

The Asmat People and Their Culture
The first recorded sighting of the people of Asmat by explorers was from the deck of a ship in the year 1623. A Dutch trader, Jan Carstenz, recorded this sighting. Later Captain James Cook and his crew were the first to actually land in Asmat on September 3, 1770. According to accounts by Captain Cook, the Asmat warriors engendered such great fear that the explorers retreated. In 1826, another Dutch explorer, Kolff, anchored in the same area as that visited by the earlier explorers. This time, when the Asmat warriors again frightened the visitors with loud noises and bursts of white powder, which appeared to be gunfire, Cook’s crew returned rifle fire on the Asmat people.The Dutch, who gained sovereignty over Asmat and the western half of the island in 1793, did not begin exploring the region until the early 1900’s, establishing a government post in Merauke. From there, exploratory excursions set out for Asmat to gather specimens and information. (Though Indonesia became independent in 1949, Dutch New Guinea was held by The Netherlands until 1962.)During the first two decades of the 1900’s, Asmat artifacts were taken to Europe where there was great excitement about this new discovery. In 1938, the first permanent post of outsiders was established in Agats as a result of government and missionary patrols through the area. In 1942, however, this post was closed due to the conflicts of World War II.After the war, Fr. Zegwaard, a Dutch Missionary of the Sacred Heart, began patrols from Mimika into Asmat. In 1953 he reestablished the post in Agats, which was to become the government headquarters and the base for Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries. In 1958, the first four Crosier missionaries from the United States arrived in Asmat. In 1962, the Indonesian government took over Dutch (western) New Guinea, bringing many new changes for the Asmat people and their area.