This ritual starts with one of the elders of the long house, deep in the jungle searching for the majestic call of the White-rumped shama or locally known as the Murai Batu. This tradition is called “Baburung” only after they have finished Baburung, can they start “Mali Umai”, an Iban ceremony that is done so that Iban crops are freed from pest.
The Iban people of Sungai Utik will then carve sculptures that are made to resemble humans. A pair of husband and wife who are called the “Induk”, but they also make the children of the Induk which are called the “Anak” that are based on the amount of fields that will be planted in the current planting season.
The night after the Agum is finished it is given to the person that will plant it in their field. Then it will be dressed with clothes and fed a mixture of Iban dish that is supposed to get it through the night in preparation for the day after where it will be planted by the very same person that has dressed it.
The morning after the Agum is dressed, the whole village come together to bless the Agum using the “Kayu Burung” that they collected after hearing the call of the Murai Batu during Baburung. Afterwards, they use the Kayu Burung along with a chicken that has been beheaded to sweep their field during which they also collect all the pest that are in the area such as grasshoppers and many other types of pest as they sweep, which they then put in a bamboo and burn it while they “Besampi” the Iban equivalent of praying, and only after that is done can they finally plant the Agum in the field next to the previous years Agum in hopes that it will protect their field from any dangers, may it be from flooding, pest, forest fire, or anything that may harm the crops.
Watch 14 year old, Kynan Tegar’s debut film: Mali Umai – A Dayak Iban Ritual, about his indigenous community in Sungai Utik, Indonesia.