Sepatukng Belontakng Statues of the Benuaq Ohookng Dayak and Some Protective Spirits Depicted on Them

By Zahorka, Herwig | Borneo Research Bulletin, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Sepatukng Belontakng Statues of the Benuaq Ohookng Dayak and Some Protective Spirits Depicted on Them


Zahorka, Herwig, Borneo Research Bulletin


Introduction

The Benuaq Ohookng Dayak referred to in this paper live in four villages, namely Lempunah, Pentat, Muara Nayan, and Mancong, all of them situated along the small Ohong River (Okookng in their language) in the Tanjung Isui area in East Kalimantan, Kutai Barat, Kecamatan Jempang. Each village is comprised of a longhouse, plus additional single-family houses built around it. The Benuaq are animists and believe in many kinds of territorial spirits which are thought to roam the environment. These spirits are variously associated with the water, forest, trees, sky, birds, the earth, and the village. Most spirits are benevolent if they are rewarded by the beliatn (shamans) with adequate offerings during periodic guguq tautng rituals. During the guguq tautng, or 'going (through) the year' ritual, the spirits of a longhouse region are collectively invoked, called into the longhouse, and presented offerings by the shamans over a series of weeks, either as an act of thanksgiving for a successful year or to seek release from hardships caused, for example, by an epidemic of illness, major crop failure, or an attack of padi pests. These spirits, however, may also punish people who disregard village adat by causing them to fall sick.

Funerary adat and the great guguq tautng ritual

The Benuaq perform both primary and secondary burial rituals. The body of a deceased person is initially interred following a brief ceremony two to five days after death. The grave in which the body is buried is generally covered by a roofed construction. Some personal items of the deceased and woven textiles are placed on the grave or hung from a beam erected over it because the Benuaq believe that the soul of the deceased is still present in this world. Generally, after some years, the bones are unearthed and a large secondary funeral ritual, called kwangkai, is held. Typically, it lasts at least a week or longer, depending upon the wealth of the sponsoring family. At the end of this period, the soul is guided by the nyahuq bird spirits to join the souls of the ancestors on Mount Saikng Lumut in the other world. In this world, this mountain is represented by Mount Lumut, an actual mountain in Central Kalimantan sacred to many Benuaq Dayaks. The bones of the deceased are enshrined in an intricately carved wooden coffin-like container which is fixed on top of a wooden post, 2-3 meters high. This whole structure is called a tempelaq. Alternatively, the container holding the bones is fixed on two posts and is called a kelerekng. Families who can afford it, also erect a carved sepatukng belontakng statue, or belontakng for short, at the funeral site. The sepatukng belontakng generally stand about two meters tall and depict a human figure, or, in some instances, several figures. These figures generally stand on a tempayan jar (a large antique Chinese jar) and, in the case of those erected at the time of kwngkai, face westward.

During the kwangkai secondary funeral rites these statues become the temporary resting place of the soul of the deceased, and sacrificial buffaloes are tied to them (in former times, probably a slave). After the conclusion of the ritual, the belontakng is left in place as a memory-statue commemorating the kwangkai ritual. During recent decades most families have fallen into the habit of selling their belontakng to antique dealers in Samarinda after the ritual is over in order to recover some of the money they spent financing the kwangkai ritual.

On these statues a protective tonoi (earth or village spirit) is depicted embracing the human figure in the form of a snake. Juata (water spirits) that similarly protect the human figure appear in the form of a crocodile or a fish, mostly attached to the back of the figure, while the protective timang spirit, depicted as a dog-like tiger, generally sits on the head or at the feet of the figure.

Tall belontakng statues are also erected on the occasion of guguq tautng rituals. …

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