Dayak Longhouses

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This longhouse contains 29 separate family apartments.

A Dayak longhouse isn’t just the focal point of a village: it is the village. These imposing structures, sometimes over 200 meters long, can contain dozens of separate family apartments, as well as public spaces for cooking, blacksmithing, ceremonies, and social life. The ongoing transformation of West Kalimantan from a remote jungle fastness to a sprawling agricultural hinterland is placing new pressures on longhouse communities, which respond to those pressures in different ways.

 

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Putussibau: The Heart of Borneo

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A traditional Dayak longhouse raised on stilts beside the river.

Putussibau is deep in the interior of Borneo, close to the border with Malaysia. The town is in the high reaches of the Kapuas River system, about six hours by bus from the larger city of Sintang. Putissibau and the small villages in the nearby forests are outposts of an embattled Dayak culture, which is under assault on all sides: from the government, which is developing the forest, transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia, and foreign missionaries.

 

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Supporting the Weaving and Traditional Arts

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Heading inland to Putussibau from Sintang requires a ride of 8 hours by motorbike or 6 hours by car

Threads of Life has been working for many years in West Kalimantan around the area of Sintang which is about a 9 hour drive from Pontianak. Our work in Sintang continues but we decided to head more inland towards Putussibau in the district of Kapuas Hulu to see if there are other weaving traditions that Threads of Life might be able to support. Kapuas Hulu is home tothe Taman Dayak, Iban, Kayaan and Punan, Kenyah, Kelabit ethnic groups among others.

 

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A Commitment to the Textile Arts of Sintang, Kalimantan

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The Kapuas River is the longest river in Indonesia

Kalimantan is the largest of Indonesia’s 14,000 islands with the country’s longest river, the Kapuas, running north-south in the west of the island. The town of Sintang is on this river ten hours by road from Pontinank, the capital of West Kalimantan. It is a wearying trip from Bali to Jakarta and Pontinak by air and then continuing by car. I traveled with Pung and Frog who work with Threads of Life’s sister organization, the YPBB Foundation. They have been working with weavers in Sintang for the past five years.

 

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