Bidayuh

Architecture.


Introduction

Bidayuh architectural traditions are very distinct from the other Dayaks people of Sarawak. Our domestic architecure has more variations, our longhouse are join in irregular ways, we have a well-developed tradition of bridges and most notably the Bidayuh have a separate men's/ceremonial house called 'baruk', 'panggah' or 'balui'. Its the 'headhouse'. Skulls of enemies are hung here!!


Bidayuh Ancestral Villages.

Most of the Bidayuh villages in Bau are associated with their former ancestral village up in the mountain or hilltops. Notabaly, Bratak, Jagoi, Singai, Serembu, Krokong and Gumbang where these villages are built on steep mountainsides and hilltops. Now most of the villages have shifted to lower open valleys or slopes, riversides and roads.

The same is true for the Biatah in Padawan and Penrissen area, the Bukar and Sadong in Serian. (bukar and sadong are not name of mountains but are actually rivers.)

Bidayuh Longhouse

Traditional Bidayuh Longhouse is open and conducive for a disciplined, communal way of life where honesty, discipline and deligence is automatically imposed on all inhabitants.
Unlike the Ibans, Bidayuh Longhouse actually consists of small longhouses (a few doors) or separate individual homes placed close together and are connected together by platforms of bamboo. Thus they are not that long, straight and level. Ours can be considered split-level, as we have to follow the contour of the land/hills.
Traditional Bidayuh houses are built using timber frames (post and beams), the wall are made of bark or flattened bamboo, the floor is made of section of split bamboo or flattened bamboo and the roofing is of 'attap' (palm-leaf thatch). Another unique thing about Bidayuh architecture, is the complete absent in the use of iron nails. We use a system of joints and the building materials are held in place with the use of special ropes/rattan.

Unfortunately, you can't find anymore Bidayuh Longhouse in Bau District. There might still be one or two in Penrissen, Pedawan or Serian area.


Kpg Giam in the '60s as painted by Ricky Guing Senen.
This is a painting of a Bidayuh Longhouse. Unfortunately you don't get to see these longhouses anymore. Ricky is a programmer dealing with multi-media in a semi-government agency and in recent years is more involved in Communication, Multi- media, DTP and Public Relations activities. One of his hobbies is painting, so I have included this masterpiece of his here on my page. If anyone is interested in his paintings, he can be contacted at:-ssedc@po.jaring.my


A typical Bidayuh farm house at Kpg. Serasot in 1996. Note the komand - the raised window, and the materials used. From it, one can visualize individual dwellings long ago.

The Baruk

Our circular Baruk can be made into a model for a modern cool community hall. The Baruk structure capitalised on air convection as the principle for keeping the building cool. The other aspect is that it provide an atmosphere of equality in term of status when come to the seating arrangment.

In the old days, this is where the Bidayuh keep their enemies skulls.

'Mukah', a Bidayuh religious festival to appease the spirits of 'Tikurouk' (skulls of enemies) is held here. This is no longer practise because most Bidayuhs are now Christians.

Uses of the Baruk.

Another unique thing about Bidayuh architecture, is the complete absent in the use of iron nails. We use a system of joints and the building materials are held in place with the use of special ropes/rattan.


Bamboo Bridges

The Bidayuh has the unique ability to build impressive bridges and walkways from bamboo which are simple but well designed.


Conclusion

Most villages have moved from high, rugged and remote location to more accessible ones. Except maybe for Gumbang and Jagoi Gunong in Bau and some villages in Padawan and Penrissen. Not only have the Bidayuh moved to new locations, their design/style and materials used are all modern. (Individual, 2 story house, made of materials such as sawned framed timber, framed boards for flooring and walls, corrugated metal roofing, paint and cement).

Some old villages may still be preserving their longhouse or built one just for show (eg. Opar).

The Baruk is only found in Opar, Gumbang and Tringgus. (The skulls are still there.)

Is there a revival for the Bidayuh architectual style? The Bau Civic Center has a modern Baruk, used as a Mini Museum. The Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching, where they have the Bidayuh exihibts, includes a Baruk and part of a Bidayuh Longhouse.

Some villages are asking for government grants to build a replica of the Baruk in their village. Hopefully this development will be granted.


Page maintained by: Paul Remek
Should there be any comments, corrections or additions to the above please email me.
Date Updated : Sunday, July 20, 1997

Use of various sources is hereby acknowledged.

Back to Bidayuh Page.