by Stephanie Morgan
This glance at relatively recent history has brought out some of the main characteristics of Iban migration. It was in most cases rapid; aggressive; persistent; and successful. It also seems to have been so basic to the Iban outlook on life that there are few cultural and technological traits of their society that do not either necessitate a frequent change of site, facilitate it, or (the exact relationships are hard to trace) even derive from it. Culture and the migratory pressures perhaps evolved together; where this happened, what might be the source land of migration, is itself a problem frequently discussed. As recounted in Mr. Sandin’s book, the earliest people to possess a recognizably Iban culture seem to have been inhabitants of the Kapuas basin in West Kalimantan.
Most probably the curious immigrants from overseas, landing at Merudu Hill and Cape Datu, head some of the traditional Iban genealogies because their descendants married Ibans rather than for any Iban identity of their own; indeed, Derom is curiously linked through his offspring not only with Ibans but with peoples as diverse as Bukitans, Melanaus, and Kelabits.7 Through many similarly misty links (such as those shown in the tusut appended to Mr. Sandin’s book) the line of Iban ancestry seems to go back to men, if they were men, living somewhere in the Middle East (some of them near Mecca) who moved, or whose descendants moved, to Sumatra then to Kalimantan, sometimes by way of Brunei. It is not likely that this outline represents any actual mass movement of population (favourite recourse of early theories, like that of Dr. Hose which derived the Ibans from fighters imported from Sumatra by Malay pirate nobles); but it may be symbolic of the drift of some of the cultural traits which apparently diffused into the Kapuas area, there to be woven by a people of unknown origin into their own style of life, whose shape we can only guess at, with explosive results. The historical processes surrounding the evolution of the Iban ethnic identity can only be viewed through a prism of myth; the commitment to expansion which permeates traditional Iban culture, however much of it may be the result of what it might be used to explain, is far easier to investigate.
...to be continued
*source Tansang Kenyalang GN Mawar