|A ritual hat in the making|
In general shape, the ceremonial hat is in a circular form with borders at the side and slightly cone-shaped. It is also equipped with a cap on the inner side to make it wearable. It is woven from narrow bamboo strips of 1 to 2 millimeters in width.
The hats display a large number of red symmetrical patterns on the upper surface.
Sapuyung dare have two motifs, a primary and a secondary.
The main motifs — which are put in the center of the hats’ upper surface — depict symbols of divinities, myths and plants.
Meanwhile, the secondary motifs, which are located around the primary ones, depict Ngaju’s environmental elements and material culture.
“For example, there is a symbol of a mountain in a vertical pattern as the primary motif with the symbol of chicken’s bowels in the horizontal pattern as the secondary motif. The main motif in the vertical pattern depicts the relation to the Almighty, while the secondary motif portrays the relation to the world,” said Junita.
“The use of chicken bowels as a symbol is simply because it is regarded as the tastiest dish [for the Dayak Ngaju people].”
The hats are also decorated with human or animal hair and buttons. The hats sizes vary from 42-45 centimeters, to 52-55 centimeters and 62-64 centimeters in diameter, with a height of 12-17 centimeters.
Most of the motifs and patterns used in the large hats include liau haguti, or the symbol of souls helping each other getting rid of fleas which is an important pattern symbolizing the integration of the soul into the ancestral community; matan andau, a representation of the sun — the emblem of the supreme divinity; and tinggang, a representation of the hornbill, a sacred bird related to prosperity on earth.
Others are tambarirang or a representation of an immortal being with human origins, which acts as the guardian spirit of the deceased; and putak hanyut or a representation of a river’s foam, as created from the intense flowing of the river — a simile associating the foam with prosperity.
The wearing of ceremonial hats is believed to close the skull’s fontanel, which is considered as the door to the soul and the vital force of human beings.
By closing the fontanel, the ceremonial large hats protect its spiritual principles from evil forces during the interaction with the celestial world.
Junita said that every man and woman of the Dayak Ngaju people was allowed to make sapuyung ladang hats since the hats carried no spiritual symbols. The hats are made of pandanus vegetal fibers and they have no decoration at all.
But sapuyung dare and sapuyung meto are exclusively made by women and girls of the Dayak Ngaju.
Girls of the Dayak Ngaju start to learn hat weaving at the age of 13. After helping their parents in the field, they usually sit around their grandmothers, mothers or aunts at night to learn the weaving techniques and patterns.
The men’s main duty, she added, was building infrastructure including houses and collecting wood from the forest.
“Those girls learn the weaving just by observing and through trial-and-error. If they make a mistake, their grandmothers will spot it but won’t tell them which one is the mistake,” said Junita, who is of Dayak Ngaju descent.
“In the Dayak Ngaju community, women are the symbol of sacredness because in their belief, the principal divinity sent his 180 assistants to the world in the form of women. Only women of master-weaver descent can weave the hats.”
— Photos courtesy of Museo delle Culture Lugano and Junita Arneld