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Photo Set :: Into the Heart of East Malaysia with Sawarak's Kenyah Tribe

Photo Set :: Into the Heart of East Malaysia with Sawarak's Kenyah Tribe

By Razlan Yusof

Never thought I would see myself in Sarawak living in a Long House for a whole week. A good friend of mine—whose dad is from Sarawak—decided to visit his family and asked me if I was keen on following them. To which I replied, “Why not?” A week before the trip, it hit me that I will be staying in a Long House with no internet connection, a comfortable bed, or even access to a hot shower after a long day. And I asked myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” But I found comfort with the fact that I would come back with photographs that nobody else would have. In Sawarak, there are many different tribes. For example, Kenyah, Kayan, Kelabit, Iban and Bidayuh. I visited a Kenyah tribe.

After a week of living there, I can say is that it was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken; photographing people there was an interesting experience. There was an apparent language barrier and even though I didn’t speak the language, smiling and laughing with them made me feel so comfortable. It was as though I was a part of their family only after spending a mere week with them.

Flying above the Baram River. A beautiful sight indeed.

We got a chance to gather everyone for lunch. And after finishing their meal, these two ladies started rolling self-grown tobacco and started smoking. This was one of my favorite moments during the trip.

It’s normal to see tattoos on old ladies around here. Most of them got their tattoos at a young age. And the way the tattoo is done isn’t your normal tattoo techniques seen these days. They do it using the traditional hand tapping style of tattooing.

This guy has a pretty interesting story. His daily routine would always be sitting down by himself, reading the Bible. Everyone there says that, if there was a competition about the Bible, he would win.

This man welcomed me into his home. He couldn’t walk properly because he injured his leg while working at the timber camp. He showed me his home that he recently repainted himself. I was standing on top of the stairs and there he was, making his way up. I saw this ray of sun leaking through the roof and I told him to pose for me.

A bridge made out of wood—looks slightly dodgy, but we managed to cross the bridge with no problem anyway.

Something you don’t see everyday. We were invited into a house by this lady who was building a miniature house out of hand-rolled cigarettes. Whenever someone gets married, these miniature houses are made and the groom would have to give each guest a roll of cigarettes.

The “Ngajat” dance is a traditional dance among the people there. Apparently, the newer generations of Kenyah are not familiar practitioners of this iconic dance anymore, so we were lucky to get to see it with our own eyes.

This is my good friend, Alfin, relaxing on the rocks. We couldn’t pass to the other side because the current was too strong, so we decided to chill here for a while.

Till this day, I’ve never regretted my decision of packing my bags and experiencing that adventure firsthand. Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit again soon.

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