The loss of cultural traits or practices. Accelerated during periods of acculturation and modernization. Various causing factors – modernization, irrelevant to today’s way of life, influence of religious faith, no enculturation. Not necessarily progressive or regressive.
The Kayan are noted for their elaborate tribal designs which is employed in their tattoos (tedek). The Kayan tribe are the source of most tattoo designs which spread to other tribes such as the Iban and Kenyah. Owes its popularity to its wood-block stamp technique. Tribe members would carve patterns into blocks of wood and then transfer it onto the skin. Adopted by the surrounding tribes – Iban.
Tattoos once have a large significance in Kayan life, especially the women. No men are to be tattooist – all tattooist are women. Tattooing is a must for a Kayan woman. Believed that the designs acted as torches after death, leading her through the darkness of the afterlife to the longhouse of her dead ancestors, allowing her to bathe in the Hungei Julan (Julan River – legendary paradise). Showing status of a woman too – less tattoo, lower status. Men tattoos – showing prowess, masculinity.
A lot of taboo ruling over the process, be it the TATTOOIST and the CLIENT. One complete tattooing takes around 4 years! Believe that a tutelary spirit governs over the tattoos – Bua Kalung. Tattooed ones will get protected by the good defender spirits (tingan). Tattooist office is usually hereditary. There are payments for tattooing – tawak, malat aru or malat bekek, money, cattle.
If children of tattooist is of young age, tattooist must stop doing tattoos as drawing blood attracts evil spirits. No tattooing during rice- seeding, unburied death – disrupting ritual harmony. No bloody food. Bad dreams, bloodletting – suspension of tattooing. Too expensive – tattooist will die.
Tattoos are done using all natural ingredients and apparatus.
Tattooist uses thorn prickers (Ulang or Ulang Brang), tukun which are collected in a wooden case bungan. Pigment: a mixture of soot from dammar burning, bottom of cooking pot, sugar cane juice, water kept in Uit Ulang (wooden container). The printing block is called kelingei @ mirror. Motifs are many – ikang, hudo aso’ (dog), song irang (bamboo shoots), kalung kelunan (human prints) and tingan aso’(protective spirits), tushun tuva’ (tuba roots), silong lejau (tiger faces)
MODERNIZATION. More and more Kayans are migrating to the outside world, therefore bringing the elaborate tattoo will be strange. More Kayans are adopting modern lifestyle – doesn’t believe in its significance anymore – irrelevant. More inclined towards newer tattoos. New generations are not interested.
MISSIONIZATION Since the arrival of Christianity, a majority of Kayans renounces their old ways. Same goes to old traditions e.g. headhunting and tattoo. Also no more beliefs in animism – believe in one true God only, as animism is against the religion.