The amazing Penan and Iban tribes ….
“The land is sacred; it belongs to the countless numbers who are dead, the few who are living and the multitudes of those yet to be born;” this is a quote from the Penan tribe of Sarawak, Borneo. I have had the pleasure of living with and learning from another tribe called the Iban, whilst living in Brunei. The Iban like most other tribes of Borneo have a unique and special relationship with the rainforest. Their knowledge and understanding of their surroundings is breathtaking and even now with the pressures of modern day life, (especially technology) they, still practise their traditions, whether it is basket weaving or hunting. The older Iban members still pass on their stories and teach the younger generations how to live in the rainforest. Today the Iban are a very welcoming and peaceful people, however, this wasn’t always the case. Before Christianity the Iban had a fierce reputation as headhunters and were one of the most formidable tribes living in Borneo.
What’s it like living with the Iban….?
One word sums up my time living in the rainforest with the Iban and that is, “SPIRITUAL!” I am not someone who uses such words in a trendy, hippy way, but someone who has come to respect and love the rainforests through the eyes of their guardians, such tribes as the Iban. Their respect and spiritual affection for the rainforests is born through their knowledge and understanding of their role in nature. They understand the importance and role the rainforests play in everyday life and only take what they need and is sustainable. Whilst living with the Iban I was shown how to hunt by making traps, how to fish, how to make simple, quick and effective shelters using the forest. Where I would see trees of green they would see medicinal plants and camouflaged insects! They have the ability to make animal noises, so call and attract birds and monkeys. Although I am well educated, up to degree level, I feel small and totally inadequate when I spend time with the Iban; their knowledge and understanding of the rainforests is far beyond ours and it is something we need to cherish and never lose.