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Melanau culture background

Couple of solid chronicled records of the Melanau exist before the nineteenth century, albeit
European voyagers and guide producers put names not unlike Melanau" on the northwest bank
of Borneo. There are likewise plausible references to the Melanau significantly prior in Chinese
records. The Coastal Melanau and the Kajang amasses in the inside relate that their precursors
moved from focal Borneo and established a Kajang kingdom from which the Coastal Melanau
split away. The Coastal Melanau trust that quite a bit of their way of life and a significant number
of their organizations are gotten from the fanciful realm of the society legend Tugau, who was
toppled in a battle with Brunei. A few Historians Suggest that these occasions happened in the
fourteenth century, others, as right on time as the seventh. In 1861 the Melanau beach front
locale was surrendered to James Brooke, the rajah of Sarawak, by the sultan of Brunei. The
Rajang Delta was at that point under the control of Sarawak. The cession was made to pick up
control of the fare of sago flour to Singapore. The exchange was vital for the survival of the
administration of the rajah of Sarawak. So as not to irritate the stream of exchange, the rajahs
meddled as meager as could be allowed with the nearby social and political association. Amid
World War II the third rajah sold the nation to the British government, which, until Sarawak
turned into a part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, founded various modernizing monetary
and instructive changes, joined by further advancements in delegate government and
authoritative institutions. Melanau or A-Likou (which means River individuals) are an ethnic
gathering indigenous to Sarawak,Malaysia. They are among the most punctual settlers of
Sarawak. They speak Melanau dialect, which is a piece of North Bornean branch of Malayo-
Polynesian dialects.

Origins

In the nineteenth century, the Melanaus settled in scattered groups along the principle tributaries
of the Rajang River in Central Sarawak. Melanau or dangerous Kajang talking tribes, for
example, the Sekapan, the Rajang, the Tanjung and the Kanowit bit by bit moved and
acclimatized into Dayak relocations settling in the Rajang. The Melanau individuals are viewed
as a sub-ethnic of the Klemantan Dayak people.Today the Punan (or Punan Bah) individuals are
additionally firmly connected to the last riverine staying Melanau people group already
possessing the center and upper Rejang tributaries. The Kajang dialect is kept moderately alive
by the confined Sekapan people group Kapit division of Sarawak. The Melanau are considered
among the most punctual pilgrims in Sarawak. The name Melanau was not utilized by the
Melanau to allude to themselves as of not long ago. They call themselves a-likou signifying
'individuals of the waterway'. Legend has it that the name Melanau was given by the Malays of
Brunei to the occupants of the beach front bog pads and riverbanks of focal Sarawak which may
connotes "drift dweller" Eda Green, writing in 1909, alluded to "...the Milanes, whose young
ladies are as reasonable as any Europeans and the beauties of Borne
FOOD

Melanaus had an assortment of customary nourishments. In any case, the well known sustenance
which all the Melanaus like it, which is conventional Umai (Melanau Sashimi).The umai is made
by the crude fish. Generally the angler utilize the red fish to make umai as it taste sweet. The fish
must be crisp and still half alive as it tissue will be delicate, sweet and delicious. There is the
route how to make it. The fish must be sliced absolutely to dispose of its bone and the skin. The
tissue is the most fundamental elements for making the Umai. At that point, it will blend it up
with the some cut onion, some lime juice, 3 spoons of chillies and finally the pound of grounds
shelled nut.
Not just Umai, Linut likewise being acclaimed as the staple nourishment for the Melanaus. It is
produced using the sago palm trees. The sago flour is blended it up with boiling hot water. Also,
it will shape a bunch of paste and constantly blend it up with boiling point water and the last
results; it will seem sticky and strong as paste. Linut is best eaten with the bean stew prawn glue
while it is still hot.

Sago is an infinitesimal sago which being made physically by hand. They are best being eaten
with the dry fish, curry, and Umai. The essence of sago is salty and velvety. It can supplant rice
as it has high starch levels and useful for diabetics.
This is the guaranteed committed post on Tebaloi. The sustenance that is synonymous with the
Melanau of Sarawak. Tebaloi is a wafer produced using sago powder (in destroyed shape). This
wafer is produced using similar stuff the sago grub eat.
Arts

In the nineteenth century, the Melanaus settled in scattered groups along the primary tributaries
of the Rajang River in Central Sarawak. Melanau or risky Kajang talking tribes, for example, the
Sekapan, the Rajang, the Tanjung and the Kanowit bit by bit moved and absorbed into Dayak
relocations settling in the Rajang. The Melanau individuals are viewed as a sub-ethnic of the
Klemantan Dayak individuals. Today the Punan (and Punan Bah) individuals are additionally
firmly connected to the last riverine abiding Melanau people group beforehand possessing the
center and upper Rejang tributaries. The Kajang dialect is kept generally alive by the disengaged
Sekapan people group Kapit division of Sarawak. The Melanau are considered among the most
punctual pioneers in Sarawak. The name Melanau was not utilized by the Melanau to allude to
themselves up to this point. They call themselves a-likou signifying 'individuals of the
waterway'. Legend has it that the name Melanau was given by the Malays of Brunei to the
tenants of the beach front marsh pads and riverbanks of focal Sarawak which may implies "drift
inhabitant".
The Melanau were customarily anglers and additionally padi and sago ranchers. Some were
talented pontoon developers. They used to live in tall stilt and long houses, yet these days, they
live in Malaysian kampung-style houses (individual and isolated houses). Considering religious
closeness, the lion's share of Melanaus live socially and socially like whatever remains of the
Malays in Malaysia.

It is one of the uncommon ethnic gatherings in Malaysia which scarcely develops or increments
in its populace. This is because the Muslim Melanaus that have moved to greater towns in
Sarawak have "naturally" get to be "Malays" particularly amid the National Census Operation as
their names (and ordinarily the dialect the senior citizens use with their kids at homes) are
indistinguishable from the Sarawak nearby Malays. This has helped the Malay populace of
Sarawak to have essentially expanded in the enumeration.
Most Melanaus have a "Container" (child of) and "Binti" (little girl of) in their names like the
Malaysand it is additionally likely that the Christian Melanaus too were assigned as Malays in
the enumeration.

The 2010 Malaysian Population Census demonstrated the Melanaus populace in Sarawak,
Malaysia was around 123,410. They make up the fifth biggest ethnic gathering in Sarawak, after
the Ibans, Chinese, Malays and Bidayuh. The nonstop between marriage between the Melanau
and different races in Malaysia has additionally created the vanishing of the Melanau personality.
Information from some private research estimated that the actual Melanau population (in
Malaysia and outside Malaysia) is much higher.

Being vagrants in the good 'ol days, Melanaus are discovered wherever in Sarawak.
Unfortunately, however their kids know their underlying foundations, a considerable lot of them
can't talk or even comprehend their Melanau dialect. Purposefully or unexpectedly, several them
have enrolled themselves as different races, for the most part as Malays. Now and again, their
folks, both Melanaus, want to speak Malay or English to their youngsters. This dialect pattern is
mostly found in the towns and urban areas in Sarawak. There have been little endeavors done to
save the Melanau vernaculars and to educate the current Melanau era constant utilization of their
own tongues.

The steady vanishing of the Melanau societies and vernaculars is further disturbed by the
nonattendance of qualified Melanau staff individuals taking care of the documentation on the
Melanau culture and history in the 'Majlis Adat Istiadat' office in Sarawak. This division is
included in the conservation and documentation of the way of life and histories of the different
ethnic gatherings in Sarawak. The Melanau are gradually being emulsified into different
societies. The Melanau Kaul celebration will just serve as an indication of the Melanau Pagan
custom.
The craft of collapsing leaves into various shapes may not be notable, but rather it is especially
alive among the Melanaus in Sarawak.The specialty of leaf collapsing, similar to that of Japanese
origami, is a convention of the Melanaus, which has been passed on through eras. As indicated
by Laina Edward, a Melanau-Likau, the leaf collapsing is not limited to coconut takes off.

"You can likewise utilize other palm leaves, for example, daun apong (from nipah palm) and
daun sawit (from oil palm) to make prawns, feathered creatures, fish, blossoms et cetera," said
Laina, who took in the craftsmanship from her mom.

Arts. Among most Melanau groups, tattooing was never widely practiced. Strongly built
longhouses, fortresses thirty feet above ground, were traditionally decorated with elaborate wood
carving. Bilum carved in sago pith were widely used and are a sophisticated form of sculpture.
Ceremonies were accompanied by gong orchestras with distinctive chants and music; bards
recited and sang epics, legends, and myths of considerable poetic merit at ceremonies or simply
for entertainment.

Language
The MelanauKajang dialects are a gathering of dialects talked in Sarawak, Malaysia, by the
Melanau, Kenyah, and related people groups.

MelanauKajang
Daro-Matu, SibuKanowit-Tanjong, Melanau (Central Melanau), Seru (spurious). Outer Central
Sarawak: Bukitan, Punan Batu, Sian, Ukit, RejangSajau (5 dialects), Buka

The biggest being the Matu-Daro aggregate. Every gathering has its own trademark vernacular
yet they all have similar social and lingual foundation (Exception would be the Melanau Bintulu
lingo which can scarcely be comprehended by the rest. Numerous etymologists feel that it
scarcely fits into the Melanau dialect gathering. This tribe is otherwise called "Vaie" whose
dialect is fundamentally the same as Punan Lovuk Pandan and Punan Bah. Their initial
foundation was from Lavang and Segan riverine). The Melanau dialects have been isolated in the
accompanying eleven dialects,Oya,Dalat,Matu-Daro,Rajang,Seru,Tanjong.

Another Melanau gather worth saying and incorporation is the Melanau Igan. They live in
kampungs by Igan River (case: Kampung Skrang, Kampung Tengah, Kampung Hilir.) that
fringes the Mukah - (Matu-Daro) region. The primary dialect is Melanau. However, some talk
nearby Malay vernacular. This gathering of Melanau is most likely all Muslims. They for the
most part embrace the Malay culture even though a portion of the Melanau societies are yet
being kept up. It is trusted that this gathering was initially Malays who settled in the zone.
Nonetheless, blended intermarriages with the Melanaus over eras delivered new eras who viewed
themselves as Melanaus.

Like the Igan Melanaus hereditary beginnings, numerous Melanaus who had moved to various
zones in Sarawak encountered similar change. A gathering of Matu Melanaus settled in Bintawa
zone in Kuching after World War 2. However, their offsprings, even though for the most part
Melanaus by blood, regularly don't talk the dialect. They are considered as Malays. Be that as it
may, as a state of intrigue, the new auxiliary school worked in Bintawa Kuching in 2007 is
named SMK Matu Baru. Numerous zones in Kuching remarkably Petra Jaya, Lundu and
Santubong do have a noteworthy Melanau populace. Miri, Bintulu and Sibu are additionally puts
where there is a noteworthy Melanau populace.

However, the "Receptacle" which signify "child of" and 'Binti', signifying "little girl of" elements
in every one of their names (be they are Muslim, Christian or "Likou") had likely befuddled the
evaluation laborers (read the accompanying passage). One reason the Muslim Melanau "moved"
to wind up Malay is that amid the enrollment of birth of the babies, they will consequently be
being expected as Malay if the guardians don't advise the birth and demise enlistment officer of
their racial inclination.

.Festival

Kaul (or Pesta Kaul) is a Melanau yearly "purifying" when generally, uninvited spirits and other
terrible impacts were escorted out of the town by a flotilla of vessels, and formal offerings of
sustenance, cigarettes and betel nut were determined to the Seraheng (beautified post) at the
stream mouth.

The Beginning of Kaul


Starting from the animistic convictions generally held by the Melanaus, the Pesta Kaul is held
every year in Bulan Pengejin (The month of the Spirits) [2] of the Melanau Calendar, which is as
a rule in March or early April, as sanitization and thanks providing for mollify the spirits of the
ocean, land, timberlands and homestead. It matches with the end of the Northeast rainstorm, once
a period of hardship when the ocean was too harsh to angle and the towns frequently experienced
flooding. Customarily, Villages would be palei or forbidden for quite a long time before Kaul.
Nobody was permitted to leave or enter, and individuals experienced sanitization services amid
Kaul. The festival of Kaul finished up with a mutual excursion at the stream mouth, trailed by an
arrival to the town and again three days of recommended confinements.
The Serahng
The celebration would begin with offerings of customary nourishment in a unique offering
wicker bin or "serahng" which would be put on the shoreline at a picked site close to the
waterway mouth. If there were remains it would likewise be left close to the seraheng site.

The Celebration of Kaul


The Father of the Kaul (Bapa Kaul) would sing them mantras to that effect to start the
Kaul(KAWUL). Then they would celebrate them in a grand feast where all the people would
bring with them food and drink to eat at a huge picnic by the river mouth and the beaches. They
would build huge swings or 'tibou' for them to play with the spirits. They would also send
offerings in the form of 'seraheng', an arrangement created with the leaves of the sago palm, the
staple food of the Melanau. They would play all sorts of games on the beach during for the whole
day. They would leave whatever food that is left on the beaches and the river mouth for the
spirits to feast upon at the end of the day when the festival is done for the day. It is taboo to bring
the food back as it is for them who have guarded them and provided for them all their lives.
otherwise, they would be cursed.

The Spiritual Meaning of Kaul


Kaul - celebrated in the Melanau month of Pengejin to thank the Ipok (spirits/guardians) for a
bountiful year past and a prayer for a good year ahead. The Melanaus belief is animistic and they
believe that the world is protected and guarded by the various spirits, such as Ipok Guun (the
guardian of the jungle), Ipok Talun (forest), Ipok Sungai (rivers), Ipok Pangai (wind) and Ipok
Daat (sea). During this time, they would honour them for what they were given for the year and
ask them for their good will for the coming year. They would sing their praises and thank them
for the harvest given to them in the past and pray that they would grant them protection and give
them a bountiful harvest in the year to come. In up-river Melanau towns such as Dalat and
Medong, there are also all kinds of water sports including traditional canoe races with as many
paddler as can fit into the boat and, in more modern times in the richer towns, power boat races.
All the while they are accompanied by a larger boat containing a traditional gong orchestra.

Kaul as the Melanau New Year


Bulan Pengejin (The month of the Spirits) is the first month of the Melanau Calendar ( Bulan
Melanau).For many societies the month January signifies a renewal of life. Hence the Spirit of
celebration for the regeneration while discarding the old and worn out. On the contrary, the
month January coincides with the eleventh month of melanau calendar called Bulan Pemalei
(The month of Taboo.) This Month is to remind the tragic killing of a great shaman ( a bebayuh)
in ancient times. Hence all activities such as Marriage, fishing, planting or any activities of
livelihood are not allowed during this month. It is regarded as a month of ill fortune. Therefore,
New Years Day on 1 January is celebrated on the melanau month of ill fortune The Melanau
however celebrate their New Year on Bulan Pengejin (The month of the Spirits) which coincides
with the month of March. Kaul Festival is also celebrated to welcome the New Year.

The Tibow

The Tibow is an outrageous 20-foot high swing, in which young people plunge from a
highbamboo platform and catch a swinging rope as it achieves the tallness of its curve. Initial
one, then two and in the end eight young fellows hang in a cluster from the mammoth swing as it
takes off over the shoreline. Pesta Kaul is a bright celebration with a flotilla of exceptionally
enhanced vessels, shoreline diversions and Melanau sustenance. Customarily, amid the
rainstorm, the stream mouths were shut.

Believe system

Religious Beliefs. In 1980, 53,689 Melanau were Sunni Muslim, 8,486 were Christian, 1,749
were tribal, 5,328 were recorded as having no religion (however were likely all tribal), and 326
were recorded as incidental. For Muslims, Christians, and tribals alike, the world comprises of
this, the center world, the upper world (the sky), and the world beneath. Generally, the world was
egg-molded, seven layers or universes above and seven beneath the center world, the entire being
adjusted on the leader of a wild ox remaining on a snake, all encompassed by water. The
breathing of the bison created the egg and stream of the tides. For a few people the place that is
known for the dead was an underworld; others thought it somewhere else, yet did not know
where. Its Topography was correct, however varied for Muslims, whose view was shared by
Christians.

Religious Practitioners. No agnostic clerics exist. Master carvers of soul pictures, or


bilum,diagnose what soul (now and then likewise called "bilum" and not "tou") is probably going
to have brought on a disease and, in a short service, compels the soul into its cut picture with the
goal that it might be assumed to its appropriate position and illegal to hurt the patient for no less
than three days. Soul mediums, with the assistance of recognizable spirits, additionally cure
disease and practice divination. Each town, Muslim and tribal alike, holds a yearly purging
ceremony,kaul,to call uninvited spirits that have relocated to the town to a devour before they are
sent home to their appropriate spots.

In 1980 53,689 Melanau were Sunni Muslim, 8,486 were Christian, 1,749 were tribal, 5,328
were recorded as having no religion (yet were likely all tribal), and 326 were recorded as
incidental. For Muslims, Christians, and tribal alike, the world comprises of this, the center
world, the upper world (the sky), and the world underneath. Customarily the world was egg-
molded, seven layers or universes above and seven underneath the center world, the entire being
adjusted on the leader of a wild ox remaining on a snake, all encompassed by water. The
breathing of the wild ox created the back and forth movement of the tides. For a few people the
place that is known for the dead was an underworld; others thought it somewhere else, yet did
not know where. Its geography was correct, however varied for Muslims, whose view was
shared by Christians.

For Muslims, Christians, and tribals alike, the world, the sun, the moon, and the stars were made
by Alla-taala, however how is not known. He is remote and minimal intrigued by human
undertakings. All "layers" of the world are possessed by spirits (tou ), who, together with people,
creatures, and plants, share this center world. Each being has its own legitimate place on the
planet, which is requested by adat. Exceeding limits causes inconvenience, and most human
disease is brought about by trespassing on some soul's living space. Spirits are of numerous
sorts: earth, air, water, woods, and so on. Here and there they are alluded to as ipu', who are less
vindictive than tou, and may without a doubt be welcome to live in and secure homes.
Supernatural live on the moon and rebuff dislocated and conduct by men, particularly joke of
creatures. A female protects the passage to the place where there is the dead. Individuals are
hesitant to call such supernaturals "tou" or "ipu'," however no other term exists for such
demigods. Muslims and a few agnostics call themmelaikat.

Medicine. Most illness was attributed to an attack by a spirit, but certain ailments, mostly minor,
were attributed to a failure to keep a proper balance between hot and cold conditions in the body.
Herbal medicines existed to restore the balance, most of which have been taken over by
practitioners of Malay medicine.

Traditional costume

Costumes
Accordingly, the traditional costume for the Melanau womenfolk closely resembles the baju
kurung donned by Malay ladies.

Female
Black satin blouses, yellow songket sarong, red embroidered chest decoration complete with
string pendant.
Male

A handsome fit in jacket cut tunic with brocade samping, canary green chiffon shawl as
waistband and a Javanese styled headgear. The traditional Melanau costume for men is called the
Baban. This costume bears strong resemblance to the traditional outfit worn by Malay men,
called the baju melayu, and it even incorporates the wearing of a samping around the waist.
Taboo & Norms
during pregnancy
For spouses, they can't eat organic product that has solid possess an aroma like durian as it
causes repulsive body smell, and not eating creature that was chased as they accept by doing that
it will make burn their unborn youngster.

For spouses, they accept by eating stingray (ikan pari), it can bring about congenital fissure (bibir
sumbing) for their youngster. They can't take a gander at dead bodies as it will make sickness the
unborn infant.

Celebration

Thanksgiving to assuage the spirits of the homestead, land and ocean

Celebration check the end of stormy season and the begin of angling season
Wedding Ceremony

The couples have a few Dos and Don'ts that they need to see, for example, they can't clean up at
the stream and can't rest amid the day. During the evening, they need to experience a stately
Temuan Rice supper at the lady's home.

Death function

Another taboo of Melanau individuals is their service of burial service. After the burial service,
the relatives are not permitted to go out of expire for four days. While the villagers are not
permitted to go down the field for two days. This is a grieving function for the expired.

Ceremonies. Aside from the yearly kaul, private services of expanding multifaceted nature and
cost are held for the curing of sickness by soul mediums. Functions for the security of a
youngster two months before its conveyance start a progression of taboos, coming full circle in
the birth. There are likewise functions at the wake of a dead individual; they may proceed for a
while, until an auxiliary entombment.

Death and Afterlife. An individual's burial service is a standout amongst the most essential
occasions in the life cycle. At death, the spirit starts a vessel travel, joined by specialist spirits
as a rule called "tou" to the place that is known for the dead. Serenades, functions, and
recreations amid the wake guarantee the spirit a sheltered adventure. Once conceded, the spirit is
sent to one of seven agnostic towns, suitable to the way of death, and carries on with an existence
like that of this center world. Inevitably a second passing happens, and numerous trust that the
spirit then gets to be dew. Muslims and numerous Christians additionally trust that the spirit sets
out for the place where there is the dead by watercraft or, as indicated by a few, along a street
that goes to a place where the way turns into a sword over a pot of bursting flame. A person who
has driven a decent life can stroll along the level edge of the sword; the sharp edge of the sword
guarantees that one who has driven an awful life falls into the pot. Past the sword is the place
where there is Mohammed, Jesus Christ, and the agnostics.
Education

Melanau were only given vocational education such as farming, hunting, handicraft. Education
in Sarawak were established by Christian missionaries, Brooke government and Chinese
community. 1938 Roman Catholics run schools in Kuching and Kanowit; Anglican missionaries
in Sibu and Kuching and used English. 1917 Melanau school was built 1924 Brooke set-up
Education Department as follow-up from Hammond Report 1940 Ethic-based school established
1941 Malay Teacher Training College Stage Two After the Second World War (1946-1956)
Primary and Secondary Education Due to the Japanese Occupation registrations for schoolings
and quality of teaching decline, why? But then after 1946, the two medical institutions reopened
and the British had to spent a lot of money to restore education. Restructuring plan by
Cheeseman 1946 recommended: i) free education for basic primary education for all ii) the use
of all medium of instructions at secondary level iii) English language becomes a compulsory
subject in all vernacular schools Cheeseman failed to address the issue of integration and
collapsed with Malayan Union issues. Barnes Report 1951 Chaired by LJ Barnes from Oxford
University they failed because of the radical recommendation i.e abolishing all vernacular
schools using the mother tongue

SJKC Ek Hua (Ek Hua) of Mukah. The school was built in 1930 and had given way to the
present wooden block in 1957. The new secondary school built in Bintawa Kuching in 2007 is
named SMK Matu Baru. Many areas in Kuching notably Petra Jaya, Lundu and Santubong do
have a significant Melanau population. Miri, Bintulu and Sibu are also places where there is a
significant Melanau population.
Society structure

Melanau

The Melanaus have been thought to be among the first pioneers of Sarawak. Originally from
Mukah (the tenth Administrative Division as propelled in March 2002), the Melanaus
customarily lived in tall houses. These days, they have embraced a Malay way of life, living in
kampong-sort settlements. Customarily, Melanaus were anglers and still today, they are rumored
as a portion of the finest watercraft manufacturers and experts.

While the Melanaus are ethnically not quite the same as the Malays, their ways of life and
practices are entirely comparable. This is particularly the case in the bigger towns and urban
communities where most Melanau have received the Islamic confidence. The Melanaus were
accepted to initially summon spirits in a work on skirting on agnosticism. Today a large portion
of the Melanaus people group is Muslim while some remain Christians, however despite
everything they celebrate conventional animist celebrations, for example, the yearly Kaul
Festival.
In Sarawak, the Dayaks all in all can be subdivided into various gathering. Dayak which implies
upstream or inland, is utilized as a sweeping term by the Islamic waterfront populace for more
than 200 tribal gatherings. Commonly, they live in longhouses, conventional group homes that
can house 20 to 100 families.

Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Hunting and gathering, combined with the cultivation of
sago gardens (normally about 4 acres in area) and the export of sago biscuit and forest products
(gums, resins, rattan, timber) in exchange for metal goods, weapons, ceramics, and cloth
traditionally formed the basis of the Melanau economy. The cultivation of sago gardens was
supplemented by growing swamp rice (padai paya) and orchards on the levees of the rivers.
Floods at the end of the north-east monsoon frequently ruined the rice crop, which could not be
relied on for subsistence. Villages on the coast, where the water of the estuaries was too saline
for extraction of flour from the sago palm, depended primarily on fishing and on the import and
export trade.

Trade. During the northeast monsoon, when access to the rivers was limited and fishing was
dangerous, expeditions upriver from the coastal villages with dried fish, salt, nipa palm sugar,
and craft productspalm-leaf thatch, mats, baskets, and hatswere undertaken to exchange
these items for sago biscuit, fruit, canoes, and timber. A similar trade for forest products and rice
was also maintained with Iban settlements in the hills beyond the swamps. Traditionally sago
biscuit was exported under the auspices of aristocratic leaders from both inland and coastal
villages and of Malay traders from Brunei and elsewhere. With the foundation of Singapore in
1819 and the demand from the European and American cotton industry for cheap industrial
starch, the nature of the sago-export trade altered. After the conquest of the coastal district by the
rajah of Sarawakin 1861, Melanau and Malay carriers and traders were replaced by Chinese
immigrants, who also entered the production of flour to the extent that they were allowed. The
government, however, did not permit the sale of land to immigrants; the primary production of
flour remained in the hands of Melanau villagers until after World War II, when all production
was mechanized and only the gardens remained in Melanau ownership. Even though the primary
production of flour remained in the hands of the Melanau until then, by 1900 the economy had
become dependent on the single cash crop, and extensive changes had occurred in the social
system.

Division of Labor. Male tasks include clearing the forest and planting and maintaining sago
gardens, felling the ripe palm and bringing the trunk to the villages, and stripping the bark off the
segments into which the stem has been cut, before rasping the pith inside into a rough sawdust.
The sawdust is given to the women to wash on a platform over the river. This rasped pith is
placed on a fine-woven mat on the platform, mixed with water, and trampled by the women; the
water with the flour in suspension is forced through the mat and a thin straining cloth onto
draining boards leading to a trough below the platform, where the crude flour settles and surplus
water is drawn away. The sale of this crude flour to a Chinese dealer is also the work of women.
The proceeds of the sale are divided in various ways between the owner of the palm, the male
feller, and the female trample of the pith. This cottage industry, in which men and women
controlled their own labor and profits, came to an end in the 1950s when Chinese dealers
mechanized all aspects of the industry, except the growing and felling of palms. The Chinese
dealer did not usually pay cash, but entered the transaction in his books and allowed goods to be
bought on credit from his retail shop, thus ensuring that his clients could be kept at regular work
and that he could supply his creditors with a regular and predictable supply of flour for export.

Because only Melanau can own sago land, only those with sago gardens now have any part in the
production of sago. Many of the crops are mortgaged before they become mature. A large part of
the male population is forced to leave the villages as migrant laborers in the lumber industry;
others migrate permanently. Women are no longer economically independent.
Industrial Arts. In the cottage industry, most of the necessary equipment was made locally or
acquired through the trade. Ironwork and weaving ceased with the advent of a cash economy at
the end of the nineteenth century.

Land Tenure.Every village collectively owns a delimited territory that it was formerly ready to
defend against all outsiders. Within that territory sago gardens and orchards, carefully delimited,
are individually owned. Joint tenancy is possible, especially if a single garden is inherited by two
women, for gardens are almost never subdivided. Such an arrangement is not thought
satisfactory; other solutions are preferred.

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