To kick off the project we were honoured to participate in a Salamatan, a traditional Dayak welcoming ceremony. The ceremony was conducted according to local Dayak indigenous law. This was not only a privilege but an important protocol demonstrating respect for the ways of the area.
The artists, project team, YPK staff and friends spent the whole day preparing the art studio at Yayasan Permakultur Kalimantan. We swept, tidied, mopped and scrubbed. We hung lanterns and coloured lights around the perimetre, cut down coconuts, picked peanuts and borrowed colorful carpets. Helpful volunteers cut palm fronds and created a gorgeous facade, as well as building a threshold at the the entrance to the property.
As night fell leaders from the neighbouring villages met us in full regalia. The ceremony was conducted by the Damang, the regional Dayak chief and head of Dayak custom. They played music and performed a ceremonial martial arts routine, cutting the threshold, blessing us with water and rice and welcoming us into the space. The Damang reiterated that each part of the ceremony was of functional importance, announcing our arrival to local spirits and shrouding us with protection. We had also prepared a pyramid of yellow rice which was cut and offered to the village head as the final formality.
The night rolled on with festivities. Over sixty people from the area attended so there was a huge buzz with children and adults alike jamming with musical instruments, traditional circle dancing, impromptu puppetry and monologues. It was an amazing experience.