30 oct 2011

Gesar Epic Tradition

The ethnic Tibetan, Mongolian and Tu communities in western and northern China share the story of the ancient hero King Gesar, sent to heaven to vanquish monsters, depose the powerful, and aid the weak while unifying disparate tribes. The singers and storytellers who preserve the Gesar epic tradition perform episodes of the vast oral narrative (known as ‘beads on a string’) in alternating passages of prose and verse with numerous regional differences. Tibetan masters carry bronze mirrors and use facial expressions, sound effects and gestures to enhance their singing, while Mongolian performers are accompanied by fiddles and intersperse improvised, melodic singing with musical storytelling and oral narrative. Epic performances, often accompanied by rituals such as offerings and meditation, are embedded in the religious and daily lives of the community. For example, when a child is born, passages about King Gesar’s descent into the world are sung. The hundreds of myths, folktales, ballads and proverbs handed down as part of the tradition not only serve as a form of major entertainment in rural communities but also educate listeners in history, religion, custom, morality and science. A continuing inspiration for thangka painting, Tibetan opera and other art forms, the Gesar epic imbues audiences both young and old with a sense of cultural identity and historical continuity.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: IEL of CASS

28 oct 2011

The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves

Name: Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves 
Dates: January 13, 2012–May 9, 2012 
Place: National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, Washington, DC 
This exhibition brings together rare works of art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline of the popular Twilight films. Interpreted by the Quileute people of coastal Washington, Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves offers an intimate look into the tribe's artwork and wolf creation stories, which are central to the Quileute world view. The exhibition includes two wolf headdresses from different regions, as well as replicas of items used on the Twilight set; a paddle necklace symbolizing the "canoe culture," and a necklace made from Olivella shells. A 12-minute video illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words.
“Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves” is an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian that brings together rare works of Quileute art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline depicted in the popular Twilight books and movies. Opening Jan. 13, 2012, the exhibition will be on view through May 9, 2012, in the museum’s second-level Sealaska Gallery.
The exhibition showcases 23 objects, including elaborate wolf headdresses, rattles, baskets and a whale-bone dance club. Historic drawings created by Quileute teens who attended the Quileute Day School at Mora, near La Push, Wash., from 1905 through 1908, depict activities, including wolf ritual dances and shamanistic performances, house posts that were part of the Potlatch Hall and a whaling scene that shows a crew of eight men coming alongside a whale in their cedar canoe.
Visitors will be able to learn more about Quileute ritual life and the five secret societies that maintained balance between the human and spirit realms, including the Wolf society for warriors, the Fisherman’s society for fisherman and sealers, the Hunter’s or Elk society for land-animal hunters, the Whale Hunters and the Weatherman’s Society, who predicted the weather. Whaling was an important but dangerous endeavor as the giant sea mammals where hunted on the open ocean from 35-foot dugout canoes.
The exhibition also includes a map of Quileute language place names of the modern village and the vast aboriginal territories stretching from the ocean to the Olympic Mountains, a timeline of Quileute history and a 12-minute looped video that illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words.
Replicas of items used in the Twilight films include a paddle necklace worn by the character Emily portrayed by actor Tinsel Korey, a traditional Quileute hand drum that hangs in Emily’s house, a shell necklace of Olivella shells that was on the wall of her house and the dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella as a gift.
During the exhibition’s opening weekend, Quileute tribal member and one of only two fluent speakers left in the tribe, Chris Morganroth III, will tell traditional stories for kids and families in the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center at 1:30 p.m. as well as presenting Quileute culture and stories in the Rasmuson Theater at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the Native Storytelling Festival, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14 and 15.
This exhibition was organized by the Quileute Nation and the Seattle Art Museum, where it was on view August 2010 through August 2011.

© Text and image: National Museum of the American Indian

26 oct 2011

Sir Wilfred Thesiger

Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910 – 2003) 
Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger, CBE, DSO, FRAS, FRGS (3 June 1910 – August 24, 2003) was a British explorer and travel writer born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Thesiger was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford University where he took a third in history. Between 1930 and 1933, Thesiger represented Oxford at boxing and later (1933) became captain of the Oxford boxing team.
In 1930, Thesiger returned to Africa, having received a personal invitation by Emperor Haile Selassie to attend his coronation. He returned again in 1933 in an expedition, funded in part by the Royal Geographical Society, to explore the course of the Awash River. During this expedition, he became the first European to enter the Aussa Sultanate and visit Lake Abbe.
Afterwards, in 1935, Thesiger joined the Sudan Political Service stationed in Darfur and the Upper Nile. He served in several desert campaigns with the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) and the Special Air Service (SAS) with the rank of major.
In World War II, Thesiger fought with Gideon Force in Ethiopia during the East African Campaign. He was awarded the DSO[1] for capturing Agibar and its garrison of 2500 Italian troops. Afterwards, Thesiger served in the Long Range Desert Group during the North African Campaign.
There is a rare wartime photograph of Thesiger in this period. He appears in a well-known photograph usually used to illustrate the badge of the Greek Sacred Squadron. It is usually captioned 'a Greek officer of the Sacred Band briefing British troops'. The officer is recognisably the famous Tsigantes and one of the crowd is recognisably Thesiger. Thesiger is the tall figure with the distinct nasal profile. Characteristically, he is in Arab headdress. Thesiger was the liaison officer to the Greek Squadron.
In 1945, Thesiger worked in Arabia with the Desert Locusts Research Organisation. Meanwhile, from 1945 to 1949, he explored the southern regions of the Arabian peninsula and twice crossed the Empty Quarter. His travels also took him to Iraq, Persia (now Iran), Kurdistan, French West Africa, Pakistan and Kenya. He returned to England in the 1990s and was knighted in 1995.
Thesiger is best known for two travel books. Arabian Sands (1959) recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia between 1945 and 1950 and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedouins. The Marsh Arabs (1964) is an account of the Madan, the indigenous people of the marshlands of southern Iraq. The latter journey is also covered by his travelling companion, Gavin Maxwell, in A Reed Shaken by the Wind — a Journey through the Unexplored Marshlands of Iraq (Longman, 1959).
Thesiger took many photographs during his travels and donated his vast collection of 23,000 negatives to the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Obituary from The Guardian, August 27th 2003
Explorer whose mystic vision rejected the modern technological world in favour of the tribes people of Africa and the Arabian deserts
Once, in 1946, Wilfred Thesiger lay starving on a sand dune in Arabia’s Empty Quarter for three days, waiting for his Bedu companions to bring back food, and tortured by hallucinations of cars and lorries that could carry him to safety. “No,” he wrote later, “I would rather be here starving as I was than sitting in a chair, replete with food, listening to the wireless and dependent on cars to take me through Arabia.” As an explorer, Thesiger, who has died aged 93, recognised that satisfaction in attaining a goal was directly in proportion to the hardship and challenge involved in getting there.

He reserved the word “abomination” for cars and aeroplanes, and all his life resented the intrusion of any innovation post-dating the steam engine. His mystical regard for tradition was a product both of his childhood in still-medieval Abyssinia and an intense pride in his aristocratic forebears, the Barons of Chelmsford.
Born in Addis Ababa, where his father was British minister, he grew up in the barbaric splendour of an imperial court, and was privileged to see a victorious and blooded Abyssinian army marching through the city in the full panoply of war. It was an experience he never forgot.
Daydreams of Africa and the wider world were his means of escape throughout his awkward and often unhappy schooldays at St Aubyn’s school, Rottingdean, in Sussex (1919-23), Eton College (1923-28), and his time reading history at Magdalen College, Oxford (1929-33). During his first summer vacation from the university, he set off alone, working his passage on a tramp steamer to Istanbul and returning third-class by train.
So began the travels that he recorded in fine prose and black-and-white photography. On his return, he found both a personal invitation to attend the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, and a note from the Foreign Office appointing him honorary attaché to the Duke of Gloucester for the event - where he met Evelyn Waugh, a writer of very different sympathies.
For his second vacation, he set himself another endurance test, a month with a Hull fishing trawler off Iceland. Here he learnt to withstand the need for sleep.
But Africa was his goal, and at the age of only 23 he went to explore Abyssinia’s Awash River and the forbidding Aussa sultanate with its Danakil nomads, chiefly noted for a disturbing tendency to kill men and carry off their testicles as trophies. Such practices held little horror for Thesiger, who had survived fagging and flogging at Eton, and saw at least one young Afar man, flushed from the exertion of slaughtering and mutilating four victims in a day, as “the equivalent of a nice, rather self-conscious Etonian who had just won his school colours for cricket”.
Thesiger gained his own blue, for boxing at Oxford - when he captained the university team in 1933, a victory against Cambridge was marred by the breaking of his noble nose - and like many an athletically endowed young Oxbridge graduate of the 30s, he sought a career in the country where “blues” were said to rule “blacks”: the Sudan. As an assistant district commissioner in the Sudan political service from 1935 onwards, he served in arid Darfur, and later in the steaming swamps of the Sudd, where one of his chief jobs was shooting troublesome lions that attacked local herds.
It was in Darfur that he first learned to travel by fast-riding camel with local companions, dressing as they did, eating local food out of the same bowl, and asking nothing of technology but a good rifle, a torch and a compass. During one leave he completed a long and dangerous journey to the almost unknown Tibesti mountains in the Sahara, and fell in love with the desert: “I was exhilarated by the sense of space, the silence, and the crisp cleanness of the sand. I felt in harmony with the past, travelling as men had travelled for untold generations across the deserts, dependent for their survival on the endurance of their camels and their own inherited skills.”
During the war he was a bimbashi - the most junior officer rank - in the Sudan defence force. He won the DSO in 1941 for leadership under fire in fighting the Italians, under the idiosyncratic Orde Wingate in the liberation of Abyssinia. With a masterstroke of bluff, he subsequently forced the surrender of an Italian-held fort, taking 2,500 prisoners. He later fought as a major, as second in command of a Druze legion formed to fight the Vichy French in Syria - which enabled him to visit a deserted Petra. He also served with Colonel David Stirling’s Special Air Service (SAS) in north Africa. Following the defeat of the Afrika Korps in 1943, the SAS went to Palestine, and in October of that year Thesiger left the organisation to act as an adviser to Haile Selassie in Abyssinia.
A resulting chance meeting brought him a job in what became the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation’s anti-locust unit and the opportunity to make his most famous journeys in the deserts of Arabia under its aegis, between 1945 and 1949. Arabia’s legendary Empty Quarter had been the goal of all Arabian explorers from Richard Burton onward, and although Thesiger was not the first to cross it, he was the first to explore it thoroughly, mapping the oasis of Liwa and the quicksands of Umm As-Sammim. He crossed the desert twice with Bedu companions, and his trek across the western sands from the Hadhramaut to Abu Dhabi was the last and greatest expedition of Arabian travel.
During his journeys he was caught up in inter-tribal raids, pursued by hostile raiders, and arrested by the Saudi authorities. He travelled alone in the Hejaz, the Assir and Najran, and explored the Trucial Coast and Dhofar in southern Arabia. He lived with the canoe-borne marshmen of Iraq for several periods over the seven years up to the Iraqi revolution of 1958, attaining acceptance only by learning the unusual skill of circumcision.
He still found time to travel in Kurdistan, Hunza (north-east Pakistan), Swat, Chitral (both north-west Pakistan), and Nuristan (across the border in north-east Afghanistan), where in 1956, 16,600ft up in the high passes, he bumped into a dispirited Eric Newby and friend Hugh Carless, and invited them to spend the night with him. They got on well until Thesiger saw them blowing up inflatable air-beds before retiring. “You must be a couple of pansies!” he said.
He crisscrossed postwar Abyssinia, fought on the royalist side in the civil war in Yemen (1966-67), traversed most of northern Kenya, where he spent much time between 1968 and 1994, travelled with the Bakhtiari nomads in Iran, trekked across the burning plains of the Dasht-i-Lut, the Great Sand Desert of eastern Iran, and explored inner Afghanistan. All of these travels and many more - in total tens of thousands of miles - were made either on foot or by traditional transport, be it camel, horse, mule, donkey or canoe.
Thesiger felt least at home in his own culture and with his own kind. He resented the juggernaut of western “civilisation” and its inexorable movement to squash what he believed was the colour and diversity of the earth’s peoples. His sympathies were with the indigenes, and his closest human ties were with certain of them who were his companions on his many journeys - his Zaghawa servant in the Sudan, his Bedu companions in Arabia, his paddlers in Iraq and his Samburu family in Kenya. (”Sex has been of no consequence to me, and the celibacy of desert life left me untroubled. Marriage would certainly have been a crippling handicap.”) Few other explorers of the last century have tried so genuinely to see the world through the eyes of these foreign peoples. Yet much as he despised civilisation, Thesiger was never able to forsake completely his place in it.
Had he done so, he might never have left us his unique glimpses of strange worlds, in his classic books The Marsh Arabs (1964) and Desert, Marsh And Mountain (1979), his autobiography The Life Of My Choice (1987), his portfolio of superb monochrome photos, Visions Of A Nomad (1987), and above all his description of the traditional life of the Bedu, Arabian Sands (1959), probably the finest book ever written about Arabia and a tribute to a world now lost forever.
He won the founder’s medal of the Royal Geographical Society, together with three other medals from learned societies, honorary fellowships of Magdalen College, Oxford, and the British Academy, and an Honorary DLitt from Leicester University. In 1968, he was awarded a CBE, and in 1995 he was knighted.
Yet, far more than these many honours, he valued the friendship and confidence of the nomadic peoples with whom and among whom he travelled. Thesiger’s best years were the five he spent among the Bedu of South Arabia, and one cherished companion from those days, Salim bin Ghabeisha, when a greybeard in his 60s, remembered him: “He was loyal, generous, and afraid of nothing. He was a wonderful man to travel with.” Thesiger would, I am sure, ask no better epitaph.

Copyright: Wikipedia, Oxford University Exploration Club

22 oct 2011

Meet the Natives

Title: Meet the Natives
Year: 2007
Running time:  45 minutes each episode
Country: UK and USA
Plot summary:

Meet the Natives is a reality television show that first aired in September 2007 on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. This series included five tribesmen: Yapa, Joel, JJ, Posen and Albi, from the island of Tanna (Vanuatu) who travel to England to participate in an experiment which Guy Adams of The Independent called reverse anthropology.
The series has three episodes in which they visited a Norfolk pig farm, a Manchester estate, and Chillingham Castle in Northumberland.

Meet the Natives: USA is a spin off of the UK version of this television series in which the tribesmen travel to the United States, this time on a quest to learn more about the land and also share their ideas and beliefs. Meet the Natives: USA aired on the Travel Channel in November and December 2009.

The 6 episodes for the American series are:
1. "Montana"
For their first stop, the tribesmen traveled to a cattle farm in Montana. During their visit, they learned how Americans raise and maintain farms. The tribe did not like the fact that medicine is injected into the cows that people actually eat for the fear of "spoiling the body".

2. "New York"
The men visited New York's upper class area where they meet Bunny, who lives alone while her husband is away on business and her children are away at college. Bunny introduces them to the art of painting. The tribe starts to realize that America lives off of money. They take interest in an individual who is homeless and quickly explain how their culture would not allow for an individual to be homeless.

3. "Peoria"
In Peoria, the tribesmen get the chance to experience Thanksgiving. While helping cook the meal, they have some concerns with the way in which the food had been stored. They were particularly concerned with using a plastic oven bag to cook the turkey in for the fear of being poisoned. They also were shocked that people ate food that has been stored in tin cans for months, maybe even years. They realized that the way Americans cook is very different from the way they are used to cooking.

4. "Orange County
The men travel to Orange County, California where they experience the life of being pampered with pedicures, facials and mud baths. They also play golf, observe a home Botox party, and ride roller coasters at Knott's Berry Farm. They notice that there is a lot of food available as well as the usage of cars for almost everything.

5. "Fort Stewart"
The tribesmen travel to Fort Stewart and Washington, D.C., where they learn more about the war that America is fighting and they also give advice on keeping peace. They explain that they do not agree with people fighting other people and they vigorously tried to relay the message that America should put the guns down and keep peace. They speak with Colin Powell to try to get their message across to the people of America.

6. "Reflections"
The group reflects back on the experience they had while visiting America. They express that they know there are some differences, but for the most part people in America are loving and very welcoming individuals. They also reflect back on the "big animals" of America, such as the buffalo, and their first time seeing snow. While in the U.S they loved eating ice cream and sweets such as candy. They are preparing to go back home and tell the rest of their tribe about their experience and everything they learned about American culture.

American series cast:
Chief Mangau is the chief of the tribe who is the elder and leader of their tribe. He was sent with the others by his father, the supreme chief of the tribe back in Tanna. His purpose of going on this journey with the other four men was to serve as a leader and to help keep the rest of the men on track. He is the oldest of the five men at the age of 65 years old.
Keimua serves as the "head dancer" of the group. Back in Tanna he helps coordinate dance routines and teaches the children of the tribe how to do the traditional dances. In America he brings smiles to many faces with charm and love for dancing.
Sam is the "medicine man" of the tribe and serves as somewhat of a doctor of the tribe. During his visit to the United states he was specifically interested in how Americans treat themselves of different infections and diseases. He gave advice and shared the different treatments that his tribe has traditionally used throughout the tribes history.
Kuai serves as the "happy man" of the tribe. He is known for spreading happiness and jokes. In Tanna his purpose is to help keep the tribe happy in times of sadness and also everyday life. While in the United States he kept the families that they were staying with laughing and kept the field open for memorable moments.
Namus is the translator of the group. Holding one of the most important roles of the group he helps to connect the two worlds together. Without him the experience may have been very different for the tribe and the families in America. As a young child he had gone away to school to learn English. He is also the youngest of the group at the age of 27 years old.

"Tom Navy" is one of the major reasons for the tribesmen's visit to the United States. The tribe has learned that America is at war and they want to return the message of keeping peace that the U.S had given them once before. During World War II, the Americans helped to keep the tribe at peace during a time when the tribe was fighting. "Tom Navy" is described as an African American serviceman who helped the tribe during this time. During their visit to America the tribe had wished to meet Tom Navy to thank him for his help, provided during hard times. The show's executive producer, Charlie Parsons, guessed that back during the war there was a man by the name of Tom, who was from the Navy and his name was understood by the tribe as being Tom Navy.

In the UK series, the tribesmen meet finally and off-camera, Prince Philip, who they adore as a god. The Prince Philip Movement is a religious sect followed by the Yaohnanen tribe on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
The Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being; the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit and brother of John Frum. According to ancient tales the son travelled over the seas to a distant land, married a powerful lady and would in time return. The villagers had observed the respect accorded to Queen Elizabeth II by colonial officials and came to the conclusion that her husband, Prince Philip, must be the son from their legends.
When the cult formed is unclear, but it is likely that it was sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Their beliefs were strengthened by the royal couple's official visit to Vanuatu in 1974, when a few villagers had the opportunity to observe the Prince from afar. At the time the Prince was not aware of the cult, but the matter was eventually brought to his attention by John Champion, the British Resident Commissioner in Vanuatu between 1975 and 1978.
The Resident Commissioner suggested that the Prince send them a portrait of himself. A signed official photograph was duly dispatched. The villagers responded by sending a traditional nal-nal club. As requested, the Prince in return sent them a photograph of himself posing with the weapon. Another photograph was sent in 2000. All three photographs were kept by Chief Jack Naiva, who died in 2009.
On September 27, 2007, British television station Channel 4 broadcast Meet the Natives, a reality show about five Tanna natives of the Prince Philip Movement on a visit to Britain; their visit culminated in an off-screen audience with Philip, where gifts were exchanged, including a new photograph of the Prince.
Yaohnanen people were featured on the second season of the Spanish television series "Perdidos en la Tribu" (Lost in the Tribe), on which they cohabitated with a Spanish family during the course of 21 days, teaching them their customs and culture, and also in the first season of the same Portuguese series called "Perdidos na Tribo".

© Text and image: Wikipedia, Channel 4

20 oct 2011

The Iban of Sarawak

Name: Iban
Living Area: Sarawak (Malaysia)
Population: >600.000 people
Language: Iban language
The Ibans are a branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo. In Malaysia, most Ibans are located in Sarawak, a small portion in Sabah and some in west Malaysia. They were formerly known during the colonial period by the British as Sea Dayaks. Ibans were renowned for practising headhunting and tribal/territorial expansion. In ancient times the Ibans were a strong and successful warring tribe in Borneo.
Today, the days of headhunting and piracy are long gone and in has come the modern era of globalization and technology for the Ibans. The Iban population is concentrated in Sarawak, Brunei, and in the West Kalimantan region of Indonesia. They live in longhouses called rumah panjai. Most of the Iban longhouses are equipped with modern facilities such as electricity and water supply and other facilities such as (tar sealed) roads, telephone lines and the internet. Younger Ibans are mostly found in urban areas and visit their hometowns during the holidays. The Ibans today are becoming increasingly urbanised while retaining most of their traditional heritage and culture.

The origin of the name Iban is a mystery, although many theories exist. During the British colonial era, the Ibans were called Sea Dayaks. Some believe that the word Iban was an ancient original Iban word for people or man. The modern-day Iban word for people or man is mensia, a totally modified Malay loan word of the same meaning (manusia) of Sanskrit root.
The Ibans were the original inhabitants of Borneo Island. Like the other Dayak tribes, they were originally farmers, hunters, and gatherers. Not much is known about Iban people before the arrival of the Western expeditions to Asia. Nothing was ever recorded by any voyagers about them.
The Ibans started moving to areas in what is today's Sarawak around the 15th century. After an initial phase of colonising and settling the river valleys, displacing or absorbing the local tribes, a phase of internecine warfare began. Local leaders were forced to resist the tax collectors of the sultans of Brunei. At the same time, Malay influence was felt, and Iban leaders began to be known by Malay titles such as Datu (Datuk), Nakhoda and Orang Kaya.
In later years, the Iban encountered the Bajau and Illanun, coming in galleys from the Philippines. These were seafaring tribes who came plundering throughout Borneo. One famous Iban legendary figure known as Lebor Menoa from Entanak, near modern-day Betong, fought and successfully defeated the Bajaus and Illanuns. It is likely that the Ibans learned seafaring skills from the Bajau and the Illanun, using these skills to plunder other tribes living in coastal areas, such as the Melanaus and the Selakos. This is evident with the existence of the seldom-used Iban boat with sail, called the bandung. This may also be one of the reasons James Brooke, who arrived in Sarawak around 1838, called the Ibans Sea Dayaks. For more than a century, the Ibans were known as Sea Dayaks to Westerners.

The Ibans were traditionally animist, although the majority are now Christian. Many continue to observe both Christian and traditional ceremonies, particularly during marriages or festivals.
Significant festivals include the rice harvesting festival Gawai Dayak, the main festival for the Ibans. Other festivals include the bird festival Gawai Burong and the spirit festival Gawai Antu. The Gawai Dayak festival is celebrated every year on the 1st of June, at the end of the harvest season, to worship the Lord Sempulang Gana. On this day, the Ibans get together to celebrate, often visiting each other. The Iban traditional dance, the ngajat, is performed accompanied by the taboh and gendang, the Ibans' traditional music. Pua Kumbu, the Iban traditional cloth, is used to decorate houses. Tuak, which is originally made of rice, is a wine used to serve guests. Nowadays, there are various kinds of tuak, made with rice alternatives such as sugar cane, ginger and corn.
The Gawai Burong (the bird festival) is held in honour of the war god, Singalang Burong. (Singalang the Bird). This festival is initiated by a notable individual from time to time and hosted by individual longhouses. The Gawai Burong originally honoured warriors, but during more peaceful times evolved into a healing ceremony. The recitation of pantun (traditional chants by poets) is a particularly important aspect of the festival.

Iban music is percussion-oriented. The Iban have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles - percussion ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drones without any accompanying melodic instrument. The typical Iban agung ensemble will include a set of engkerumungs (small agungs arranged together side by side and played like a xylophone), a tawak (the so-called 'bass'), a bendai (which acts as a snare) and also a set of ketebung (a single sided drum/percussion).
The Iban as well as the Kayan and Kenyah also play an instrument resembling the guitar called Sape (instrument). The Sape is the official musical instrument for the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is played similarly to the way rock guitarists play guitar solos, albeit a little slower, but not as slow as blues.
The Ibans perform a unique dance called the ngajat. It serves many purposes depending on the occasion. Iban men and women have different styles of ngajat. The ngajat involves a lot of precise body-turning movements. For men is more aggressive and depicts a man going to war, or a bird flying (as a respect to the Iban god of war, Singalang Burong). The women's form of ngajat consists of soft, graceful movements with very precise body turns. Each ngajat is accompanied by the taboh or the body.

Known by their: headhunting
Headhunting among the Ibans is believed to have started when the lands occupied by the Ibans became over-populated. In those days, before the arrival of western civilization, intruding on lands belonging to other tribes resulted in death. Confrontation was the only way of survival.
In those days, the way of war was the only way that any Dayak tribe could achieve prosperity and fortune. Dayak warfare was brutal and bloody, to the point of ethnic cleansing. Many extinct tribes, such as the Seru and Bliun, are believed to have been assimilated or wiped out by the Ibans. Tribes like the Bukitan, who were the original inhabitants of Saribas, are believed to have been assimilated or forced northwards as far as Bintulu by the Ibans. The Ukits were also believed to have been nearly wiped out by the Ibans.

© Text: Wikipedia, Image: Kumuka 

18 oct 2011

San Francisco Tribal Show 2011

Date: November 4-6, 2011 
Place: Fort Mason Building D, Fleet Room, San Francisco (USA
Webpage: www.sftribal.com 
NOVEMBER 4 • 6pm - 9pm
sushi and champagne
$35 at the door

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5 • 11am - 7pm
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6 • 11am - 5pm
$10 entrance

San Francisco Tribal is an association of tribal art dealers from the San Francisco Bay Area. The association is comprised of 13 experts in African art, Oceanic art, Asian art, pre-Columbian art and North American Indian art. The members offer a wide range of high quality sculpture, masks, textiles, ceramics, weapons, shields and jewelry from ancient and traditional cultures and are committed to a standard of excellence and professional conduct.
San Francisco Tribal member dealers guarantee the quality and authenticity of everything they sell. From pre-Columbian to tribal Asian, the dealers have sold important works of tribal art to renowned museums and private collections worldwide. San Francisco Tribal enhances accessibility to this important community and promotes the Bay Area as a major destination for collectors of fine tribal and textile art. To this end, San Francisco Tribal presents tribal art exhibits that showcase the diverse specialties of its members and maintains this website with information about the dealers and the works of art they have for sale.
Participating SFT dealers: Dave DeRoche, Erik Farrow, Joe Loux, Vicki Shiba,
Frank Wiggers, James Willis  
Guest Dealers: Peter-Michael Boyd, Taylor A. Dale, Joshua Dimondstein, Sandra Horn
and Ari Maswell, Mark Johnson, Lewis-Wara Gallery, K.R. Martindale

© Text and image: San Francisco Tribal Show 2011

16 oct 2011

Farmers’ dance of China’s Korean ethnic group

Gathering in fields or villages during community festivals, members of the Korean ethnic group in Jilin and other provinces in north-eastern China offer a traditional sacrifice to the God of the Land to pay homage to nature and pray for good fortune and a plentiful harvest. This is the beginning of the farmers’ dance of China’s Korean ethnic group, a popular folk practice passed on by senior members of a community to younger generations. Musicians play oboe-like suona, bell-shaped gongs and a variety of drums, while masked or unmasked dancers move farcically to the accompaniment. The dance is inspired by the motions of farming, which it imitates through gestures such as ‘walking the field ridges’. Spreading from its agricultural origins to Korean people of all walks of life in both urban and rural areas, the dance has evolved considerably since it was brought to China at the end of the nineteenth century. For example, the musical ensemble has been expanded to include wind instruments and the dancers’ costumes have been influenced by the clothes of other Chinese ethnic groups. As the product of accumulated labour and wisdom, the farmers’ dance remains an important expression of the cultural heritage of China’s Korean ethnic group.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Yanbian Culture & Art Research Center

12 oct 2011

Tom Harrisson

Tom Harrisson Anthropologist, ETHNIKKA blog for human culture knowledge
Tom Harrisson (1911 - 1976) 
Major Tom Harnett Harrisson DSO OBE (1911–1976) was a British polymath. In the course of his life he was an ornithologist, explorer, journalist, broadcaster, soldier, guerrilla, ethnologist, museum curator, archaeologist, documentarian, film-maker, conservationist, and writer. Although often described as an anthropologist his degree studies at University of Cambridge were in ecology before he left to live in Oxford. He is also known as the Barefoot Anthropologist and founded Mass-Observation.

Tom Harrisson was born in Argentina, educated in England at Harrow School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, conducted ornithological and anthropological research in Sarawak (1932) and the New Hebrides (1933-5), spent much of his life in Borneo (mainly Sarawak) and finished up in the USA, the UK and France before dying in a road accident in Thailand.
In 1937 Harrisson, with Humphrey Jennings and Charles Madge, founded Mass-Observation, a project to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain.
During the Second World War Harrisson continued directing Mass-Observation and was Radio critic for The Observer from May 1942 until June 1944. For much of this time he was in the army and gave up reviewing on leaving the UK. After service in the ranks he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Reconnaissance Corps on 21 November 1943. He had been recruited (some sources say by a confusion of names, despite his apparent suitability) for a plan to use the native peoples of Borneo against the Japanese. He was attached to Z Special Unit (also known as Z Force), part of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD: a branch of the combined Allied Intelligence Bureau in the South West Pacific theatre). On 25 March 1945, he was parachuted with seven Z Force operatives from a Consolidated Liberator onto a high plateau occupied by the Kelabit people. An autobiographical account of this operation (SEMUT I, one of four SEMUT operations in the area) is given in World Within (Cresset Press, 1959); there are also reports - not always flattering - from some of his comrades. His efforts to rescue stranded American airmen shot down over Borneo are a central part of "The Airmen and the Headhunters," an episode of the PBS television series Secrets of the Dead. The recommendation for his Distinguished Service Order which was gazetted on 6 March 1947 (and dated 2 November 1946) describes how from his insertion until 15 August 1945 the forces under his command protected the flank of Allied advances, and caused severe disruption to Japanese operations.

At the start of the Brunei Revolt in 1962, Resident John Fisher of the 4th Division of Sarawak called on the Dayak tribes for help by sending a boat with the traditional Red Feather of War up the Baram River. Tom Harrisson also arrived in Brunei. He summoned the Kelabits from the highlands around Bario in the 5th Division, the centre of his wartime resistance. Hundreds of Dayaks responded, and formed into companies led by British civilians all commanded by Harrisson. This force reached some 2,000 strong, and with excellent knowledge of the tracks through the interior (there were no roads), helped contain the rebels. And cut off their escape route to Indonesia.

Harrisson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 New Year Honours, for his work as curator.
The title of his biography, The Most Offending Soul Alive, gives a flavour of the strong feelings he engendered, but he also had many admirers and is recognised as a pioneer in several areas.

His works
Following the war, he was Curator of the Sarawak Museum 1947-1966 (although he did not relinquish his commission until 14 March 1951). In the 1950s and 1960s Tom and Barbara Harrisson undertook pioneering excavations in the West Mouth of the Great Cave at Niah, Sarawak. Their most important discovery was a human skull in deposits dated by radiocarbon to about 40,000 years ago, the earliest date for modern humans in Borneo. The results of their excavations were never published in an appropriate manner leading to uncertainty and doubts as to their results; however, they are largely vindicated by results of excavations carried out by the Niah Cave Project from 2000-2003. Three films (amongst more made for British TV) record the Niah work
Harrisson's TV series The Borneo Story was broadcast by BBC television in 1957.

  • Harrisson, T.H. (1931). Birds of the Harrow District 1925-1930. Harrow School.

  • Harrisson, T.H. (1933). Letter to Oxford. The Hate Press: Gloucestershire.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1937). Savage Civilisation. Victor Gollancz: London.

  • Madge, Charles; & Harrisson, Tom (1937). Mass-Observation. Frederick Muller: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (ed). (1938). Borneo Jungle. An account of the Oxford University expedition of 1932. Lindsay Drummond Ltd: London.

  • Madge, Charles; & Harrisson, Tom (1939). Britain by Mass-Observation. Penguin: Harmondsworth.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1943). Living Among Cannibals. George G. Harrap & Co: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (ed). (1943). The Pub and the People. Victor Gollancz: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1959). World Within. A Borneo Story. Cresset Press: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (ed). (1959). The Peoples of Sarawak. Sarawak Museum: Kuching.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1961). Britain Revisited. Victor Gollancz: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1970). The Malays of South-West Sarawak before Malaysia. Macmillan: London.

  • Harrisson, Tom (1976). Living through the Blitz, Collins, London

© Text and photo: Wikipedia

8 oct 2011

Tribe (Going Tribal)

Title: Tribe (Going Tribal) 
Year: 2005 
Running time: 60 minutes each episode 
Country: UK 
Plot summary:
Tribe (known as Going Tribal in the United States) is a documentary television series co-produced by the BBC and the Discovery Channel, and hosted by former British Royal Marine Bruce Parry.
In each series, Parry visits a number of remote tribes in such locales as the Himalayas, Ethiopia, West Papua, Gabon and Mongolia, spending a month living and interacting with each society. While there, Parry adopts the methods and practices of his hosts, participating in their rituals and exploring their cultural norms. This often enables him to form personal bonds with the members of each tribe.
Parry tries to learn the basics of the tribe's language but is also accompanied by a translator.
The series is co-produced by BBC Wales and the Discovery Channel. A second series aired in July, 2006 and the third began on 21 August 2007 on BBC2, and ended on 25 September 2007.
Parry was awarded the BAFTA Cymru "Best On-Screen Presenter" award in 2008 for his work on the 'Penan' Episode. A BAFTA Cymru "Best Camera: Not Drama" award was also awarded for Gavin Searle's work in the same episode.

Tribe (Going Tribal) follows former Royal Marine and expedition leader Bruce Parry as he tests the physical limits of living with ancient tribes in some of the world's most remote areas.
Parry sheds social trappings (and sometimes his Western clothes) by living alongside people from the virtually unexplored areas of the Himalayas, Ethiopia, West Papua, Gabon and Mongolia. To the degree possible, while spending a month immersed in each society, Parry also tries to adopt the methods and practices of his hosts.
Parry enthusiastically embraces jungle hunting and the rituals of the warrior, being taught by strangers how to survive using bows, arrows, blowpipes, dogs, spears, traps, snares and clubs. He must cook and eat his catch using traditional methods such as hot stones, waxy leaves and bamboo pots.
Parry is accompanied by a translator, but learns the basics of tribal language. The series is accompanied by subtitles. Viewers hear unique languages and watch the sometimes-graphic practices of living and surviving in the jungle among some of the world's disappearing cultures.
Going Tribal is co-produced by the BBC Wales and the Discovery Channel.

Series 1
#          UK Title           US Title           Plot
1          Adi       Lost Tribe: The Adis   Travelling to north eastern India. The episode involves the sacrifice of a bull.
2          Suri     Dangerous Game: The Suri  Parry travelled to Ethiopia.
3          Kombai           Living with Cannibals Parry travelled to West Papua.
4          Babongo         African Vision Quest  Parry travelled to Gabon.
5          Darhad            Horse Masters of Mongolia    Parry travelled to Mongolia. He witnessed a shamanic ritual.
6          Sanema          Waking the Spirits      Parry travelled to Brazil. He took part in a ritual involving hallucinogenic drugs.

Series 2
#          UK Title           US Title           Plot
7          Nyangatom     Return to Africa          Parry returned to Ethiopia, to stay with the tribe who are sworn enemies of the Suri, whom Parry had met in the previous series.
8          Hamar Rites of Passage: The Hamar           Parry stayed in Ethiopia.
9          Dassanech     Crocodile Hunting       Parry again remained in Ethiopia.

Series 3
#          UK Title           US Title           Plot
10        Matis   Hunting with the Jaguar Tribe            Parry visited Brazil in South America.
11        Nenets            Nomads of the Siberian Tundra        Parry travelled to Russia.
12        Anuta   Lost Island of Anuta    Parry travelled to the Solomon Islands.
13        Akie     Life in the African Bush: The Akie      Parry travelled to Tanzania in Africa.
14        Layap  Journey to the Clouds: Bhutan          Parry travelled to Bhutan in Asia.
15        Penan Ghosts of the Forest  Parry travelled to Sarawak, Borneo.

About Bruce Parry:
Commissioned by the British Royal Marines in May 1988, Bruce Parry completed one year of management, leadership and commando training before spending several years as a troop commander.
In the Royal Marines, Parry specialized as a physical training instructor and became the youngest officer ever to be in charge of all physical aspects of Royal Marines commando training. He also served in Norway and Iraq before retiring as a lieutenant after six years of service.
As an expeditioner, the 35-year-old resident of England has personally organized and led more than 15 major expeditions to extreme parts of the world. Parry has extensive remote experience in the desert, arctic, jungle and mountains.
In film and television productions, Parry has worked as a location manager, assistant director, camera operator, director and host.
In addition, Parry hosted BBC's Extreme Lives: Cannibals and Crampons, the award-winning film about his journey into the heart of Irian Jaya, and he has recently appeared in an award-winning kids' series called Serious Jungle.

© Text and image: Discovery Channel, BBC

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