Life Transition Ceremonies
A Dayak Desa Ceremony Using Traditional Textiles


Thalu Lius working with Threads of Life since 2010

Thalu Lius is from the ethnic group Dayak Desa in West Kalimantan. Lius has been working as field staff in Kalimantan for Threads of Life since 2010. Lius is working with Dayak traditional natural dye weavers and basket makers. He comes to Bali twice a year to meet with the Threads of Life team and this year we had the opportunity to learn about the use of tradtiional textiles in Dayak ceremonies.


Offerings are hung covered with traditional textiles called bidang

Traditional textiles called bidang have many uses in traditional ceremonies even to this day. They are used to cover offering baskets that are hung in the long house where offerings are madeto the spirit that guides and protects a family member when they are traveling and living far away.


Ritual pounding of newly harvested rice called bedangang wearing tating textile

When families come together for the gawai ceremony after the rice harvest there are opportunities to perform other traditional ceremonies given the family members have all returned to the traditional house from afar. Other ceremonies may include; asah gigi or tooth filing ceremony as a rite of puberty, ngemaik manik or ritual first bathing of a newborn and netak buok or the first haircut of a young child. For all of these ceremonies offerings must be made using newly harvested rice that is pounded by women wearing traditional dress of tating in a ritual called begendang.


Pua Kumbu textile used as a hammock to put a baby to sleep

During the gawai ceremony one will see the pua kumbu or large blanket textile used not only as part of ritual coverings  for ceremonial objects or offerings  but also as a hammock to rock a young child.


A procession from the traditional house to the river

Ngemaik manik is a ritual bathing of a newborn asking the nature spirits to protect the child from any negative force. It is also said to be a time to introduce the baby to the spirit of the river. River systems were once the primary means of transport for Dayak people throughout Kalimantan. Sacred gongs and drums are used to process the child to the river.


During the Gawai other ceremonies such as the ritual bathing of a child take place

Themother and  grandmother of the child wears a tating textile – the grandmother will bath the child in the river evoking the spirits of the water to protect the baby throughout its life. Prior to the bathing, offerings of freshly pounded rice are made to the spirit of the river.


A chld being bathed and introduced to the spirit of the river

The grandmother bathes her grandchild in the river while the mother and other women dressed in shell and bead decorated tating textiles join. Women who have ceremonially pounded the rice (begendang) that is used as offerings for these ceremonies will also bath in the river as a means of purification.