Life

'Hudoq', ritual dance of
Dayak Bahau


Edi Petebang, Contributor, Samarinda, East Kalimantan

Some 50 people, all wearing masks decorated with red-knobbed bill bird (enggang) feathers, emerged from one end of the Telivaq village by a tributary to the Mahakam River.

Their bodies covered with tassels of banana leaves, each of them carried a wooden stick and a mandau (dagger). They walked towards the Amin Ayaq customary stilt house, which is 2-meters high and 12-meters by 20-meters square.

As soon as they arrived, they danced round the house, led by the customary chief. The sound produced by their sticks when struck against the ground and the stamping of their feet, coupled by the long whining of the hudoq dancers, made your hair stand on end.

After dancing collectively for about an hour, people began to dance individually. After the hudoq dance performance was completed, the audience could enjoy other cultural shows.

It is on an occasion like this that the men and women of the Dayak Bahau tribe will appear dashingly courageous and graceful in their customary attire.

In the Dayak Bahau language, hudoq means a mask. Except in Telivaq, the hudoq dance performed by the Dayak Bahau community in all other villages along the Mahakam (or Mekam in the Dayak Bahau language) river basin is the same.

The Dayak Bahau people living along the Mahakam river basin perform their hudoq ritual usually in October and November, the time when they plant rice in the unirrigated rice fields.

Hanyak, 65, an elder from Mamahaq Besar village, Long Hubung district, West Kutai regency, said the hudoq dance was intended to accompany the soul of the paddy on its journey from the house to the rice field.

This annual rite must be performed in the most festive manner possible to ensure that the soul of the paddy will be pleased to stay in the rice field. The Bahau people believe that animals like deer, hogs, monkeys and birds bring paddy from heaven to them. The hudoq are designed to reflect these animals.

For the Dayak Bahau community along the Pariq River, the hudoq dance is performed every day for seven to 10 days ahead of the harvest. Each day a different hudoq dancer will appear. The climax of the hudoq festivity comes on the last day when all the hudoq dancers that have appeared before will again be seen.

Each hudoq dance requires different masks and accessories. In the Suh Doh hudoq, for example, the inheritor of a hudoq will have to harvest one kilogram of paddy from the rice field and keep it inside a piece of bamboo before the rite is performed. The hudoq rite will be performed for this paddy and at the end of the rite, the paddy will be distributed to the entire audience. Later, this paddy will be mixed with paddy seedlings that will be planted in the rice fields in the next year.

Although hudoq rites are not identical, generally they require wooden masks, banana leaves and roots to be used for tying. The banana leaves will be split into several parts to form tassels that are tied together by their roots. The tassels will cover the waist, the thighs, the legs, the arms and the shoulders. Every time a hudoq rite is performed, fresh banana leaves must be used. After the rite, the banana leaves cannot be burnt but must be piled up and then left to rot to be later used as fertilizer.

Hudoq performers are usually the people staying in the village where a hudoq rite is performed. The only hudoq that can be performed by guests or by dancers from other villages is the Hakaai hudoq dance. When a hudoq dance is performed, masks depicting pests in a rice field such as a monkey, a rat, a hog, a deer and a sparrow will also emerge to entertain the audience.

Aside from the male hudoq dancers, there are also female hudoq dancers. Some are masked while others are not. Some have their bodies covered with the banana-leaf tassels but others do not.

If the female hudoq dancers do not wear a mask, their faces and bodies will have colorful patterns painted on. These dancers carry household appliances such as baskets.

The hudoq dances by the Dayak Bahau women depict how the Dayak go dating and raise their babies or how they catch fish and go hunting. The hudoq performed by the Dayak Bahau women are comical.

It is interesting to note that in the Telivaq hudoq, the highest customary chief of hudoq is a woman.

Song Devung, 80, a hudoq customary chief, said that it was a Dayak Bahau woman that first laid down the hudoq custom and became the hudoq queen. That's why even today the hudoq rite is led by a woman. This, clearly, reflects the egalitarian nature in the relationship between men and women in the Dayak Bahau community.

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.