Keeping rituals alive

In addition to protecting and preserving Bornean orangutans and their habitat, BOS works closely with local communities to help maintain their cultures and traditions.

One example of a traditional ceremony we participate in is the naq lom. It is the initiation ritual for children of the Wehea Dayak tribe in East Kalimantan.

The ritual confirms the lineage name of individual children and beseeches protection from their family’s ancestors. It usually takes place after the rice harvest festival, between May and June.

Naq lom starts with preparing the equipment and materials needed, including rice, pork, firewood, bamboo, and cutlery, among other items. 

On the first day, the participants prepare all necessary items for the ritual.

The second day, the participants spent preparing the venue: a house blessed with a ritual called ndeq kot, which involves spreading boiled pumpkin around the perimeter for animals to eat as offerings to the ancestors. 

As part of the main activity, on the third day, the Wehea Dayak community carries out leng dung, the symbolic act of giving fortune to animals, in the form of banana stems left on the side of the road. Meanwhile, the boys and girls, who are the ritual subjects, pound sugar cane in an activity called nde luaq.

On the last day, the ceremony continues with the slaughtering of a pig. The pig must be male, and the ritual leaders smear his blood on the traditional clothing worn by the children. The whole proceeding is accompanied by prayer readings, asking the ancestors for fortune, blessings, and safety.

Of course, there is no party without a feast and a dance! Ngeway, for example, is a communal dance performed by women, accompanied by percussion music played by men.

Dancing is an integral part of the ceremony.

The Wehea Dayak also perform gunggunggel, which involves tossing food or money for guests to compete over – somewhat like throwing a bouquet at weddings, symbolic of sharing fortune with others. 

The ritual usually ends with enlueng dendang music, the strains of Wehea songs sung throughout the night. These songs narrate the origins of Wehea ancestors, mentioning the names of the ancestors, the rivers, and their heritage.

Naq lom is deeply important in ensuring the status of children and their families within the traditional Wehea Dayak society. However, in this modern era, the costs involved in organising this ritual are too expensive for many, so fewer naq lom taking place each year. That’s why we continue to work together to keep this vital ritual alive. 

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