Dayak - New Naratif

Long Ears, Tattoos, Fading Traditions

The Wahea Dayak were already busy with the nemlen traditional ritual when I arrived at the village of Bea Nehas in the Wahau District of East Kalimantan. The ritual, used to initiate a male child into adulthood, begins with a three-day fast and is celebrated by the whole community of Wahea Dayaks. It’s a major event, usually held about once every five years, because of the costs and preparation involved.

The village of Bea Nehas and their nemlen ritual was where I, armed with a camera, I began documenting Dayak women and men with long ears and tattoos from East to North Kalimantan throughout July and August 2018. A four-hour journey on dirt road from the city of Tanjung Redeb in East Kalimantan, the villagers of Bea Nehas receive visitors once every two to three months.

Four grandmothers who live in the village still have long ears. They’re about 80 to 90 years old, but are still strong enough to wash clothes by hand and complete other household activities. They were very friendly, offering me nginang (betel nut leaves) to chew and a place to stay the night.

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