Friday, August 31, 2007

Pampang 3: A Visitor's Guide to Pampang

Sunday is the most important day of the week in Pampang Culture Village. Every Sunday afternoon, after church services are finished and the midday meal is past, many of the villages' men, women, and children make their way to the longhouse to begin preparations for the afternoon show. Some of the men gather to the right of the performance area, where they will chant for the audience during intervals between dances. Some female residents arrive carrying baskets of beadwork, ornate baby carriers (bening aban) highly prized by collectors, or perhaps simply vegetables and fruit. The women offering handicrafts for sale position themselves in a row along the front left interior of the longhouse and lay their assortment of trinkets, including necklaces, key chains, and door ornaments, on cloths on the floor. Sometimes a few old men appear and set up beside them. Rather than beadwork, the men exhibit dance swords, goatskin vests, and rattan hats. Fruit and vegetable vendors keep separate from the handicraft dealers. They remove themselves to a far back corner, where they display freshly harvested produce on rattan mats.
As 2:00 P.M. nears, tourists begin to arrive from Samarinda. They debark from banged-up public minivans or, occasionally, from sedans. Others make the journey by motorcycle. Once inside the longhouse they purchase tickets-about 30 cents each-and are invited to sign a guest book. Near the ticket seller's table a conspicuous sign informs visitors, in English and in Indonesian, that for a fee of about one U.S. dollar they can have their picture taken with a "long-eared Dayak" or a "Dayak in traditional dress." Some guests stroll over to examine the wares for sale. Others quickly find a place on one of the benches that face the back wall, which forms the set. Village children in various stages of costume peek out from a dressing area where they are being assisted by older performers. A pair of musicians tune up their traditional stringed instruments, called sampe, and test for volume on an antiquated sound system hauled inside for the show. Even the village dogs manage to ascend into the longhouse to investigate. They chase their rivals around the legs of startled visitors and slink among the benches, until a kick from an annoyed dancer sends them scrambling away.
Precisely on the hour, the master-of-ceremonies-a man wearing a traditional rattan cap or a costumed young woman-takes a place at the microphone. The master of ceremonies' remarks are delivered in Indonesian. After welcoming visitors, he or she asks the minister or another respected villager to lead the audience in prayer. Then the show begins in earnest. Six to nine dances are performed each week. The majority are adapted from Kenyah tradition, but one or two are borrowed from other Dayak groups. Some dances are performed by a single individual or couple, others by a group of women, several are executed by teenage girls and boys, some involve the participation of very young children. The most popular ones, judging from audience reactions, are the punan leto or "war dance," the anyam tall or "weaving dance," and the leleng, a group dance. In the first, a pair of rivals fight over the affection of a maiden who dances atop a gong. The disappointed suitor returns with reinforcements who attack en masse, only to be vanquished once again. In the second dance, a group of girls perform an intricate choreography that involves grasping colored ribbons suspended from a carved hornbill that is attached to the ceiling. The girls braid and unbraid the ribbons to demonstrate "the unity of the Dayak Tribe." As the master of ceremonies describes it: "We Dayaks come from different tribes, with different languages. But we are really one. The different colors represent different tribes. We all live together in harmony in Pampang Culture Village." The leleng is an audience participation dance that closes the show. It is performed only after the minister has delivered a second prayer and visitors have been thanked and wished a safe journey home. In all, the show lasts about an hour.
As tourists prepare to leave, they often pause to have a picture taken of themselves standing amid the dancers. Then they gather their souvenirs and head for the vehicles that will carry them back to Samarinda. Villagers remove their headdresses and goatskin vests, vendors gather up unsold goods. Over the loudspeaker, the master-of-ceremonies announces the day's take, to be divided later among performers. These remarks are delivered in Kenyan, rather than in Indonesian, so that only villagers can understand.
Dancing into the Future
Many residents insist that culture tourism in Pampang will enable them to have more comfortable lives and offer their children a better future. In addition to their Sunday performances and sales, other opportunities for villagers to earn money are also presented by their association with the culture village. Hotels, travel agents, other private businesses and government offices sometimes book private shows. An hour-long production similar to the one just described costs Rp. 400,000 ($1.00 = approx. Rp. 7,000 at the time of research). A longer performance, including a ceremonial greeting for guests on the field in front of the longhouse, costs Rp.700,000. Troupes of dancers are available to perform at wedding receptions, and Pampang's residents were recently featured at a publicity event for a new shopping mall in Samarinda. Proceeds from the dances are divided among performers and organizers. Money made from the sale of handicrafts belongs to the artisans just as fees paid by the tourists belong to the individuals who have their picture taken. The average yearly income of a family in Pampang is about $80, and the money earned by participating in a show or selling one's craftwork is meaningful. With profits from the sale of a single beaded key chain, for example, a villager can purchase a couple of packets of local coffee powder, roundtrip transportation on a public minivan to Samarinda, or three small fish caught by the family of Buginese migrants that runs a store just outside Pampang's gate.
The development of tourism in Pampang also increases the possibility the government will provide other forms of assistance. As previously noted, from time to time local offices of the Ministry of Tourism embark on projects intended to enhance Pampang's attractiveness. In 1996, for example, that office paid for several new buildings to be erected on the main village path, including a branch office, another small building that could be used as a museum, and a guest house for the governor should he visit. However, with no funds set aside for upkeep, the buildings soon began to fall into disrepair. Today they are on temporary loan to the school principal as housing.
In early 1999, Pampang's longhouse underwent more renovations, also with tourism department funds. The formerly plain back wall is now overlaid with dramatic carvings painted in vibrant colors. It is a work at once fanciful and aristocratic. The focal point is a commanding representation of a powerfully built man in a loincloth standing atop a large Chinese vase. Rhinoceros hornbills, an important symbol of Kenyah people, are depicted above his head, and tigers stand watch at his feet. The head carver on the project explained that: "The jar represents a porcelain vase, the kind our ancestors prized. The strength of the Kenyah people is collected in that jar. All our good ideas, our courage, are mixed inside. A customary law chief stands guard at the top. He makes wise decisions for the Kenyah." The carver mentioned that he had actually had the head traditional law chief of the Kenyah in mind while he carved, and intended to represent that individual specifically, because he has been so active in developing Pampang for tourism.
But beyond these longhouse carvings-and a new tiled outhouse-there is little evidence of improvements to Pampang's physical circumstances. A telephone line has yet to reach the village, so it is difficult to make arrangements for special dance performances. There is no water supply except the small river that flows behind the village. Like settlers in the 1970s, Pampang's residents today continue to make their way to the river to bathe and haul out buckets of drinking water. Although electricity has reached Pampang, there are no lights along the road out of the village. And, by early 2000, that road had once again fallen into a terrible state. It became so bad, in fact, that even the tourism office staff members assigned to visit on Sundays to count the number of tourists no longer attended. A local newspaper described Pampang's plight in an editorial, entitled "Disarrayed Tourism Venues in Samarinda" (Kaltim Post 2000), and claimed that Pampang "wasn't fit to be visited." Yet according to representatives of the municipal tourism office, now responsible for "improving" Pampang, development there is only now getting underway. Blueprints and plans have been drawn up for a cultural complex that will include an auditorium and museum, golf course, artificial lake with paddle boats, and a palm-tree-lined "Pampang Boulevard" to replace the rutted road. The office hopes to construct the complex with help from the World Bank.
It is clear that Pampang's residents require government support to improve village infrastructure much beyond its present circumstances. By making the village more accommodating to tourists, they hope to improve their own standard of living. As the data presented here indicates, however, assistance continues to be sporadic. Disappointed expectations on the part of some villagers have already led to resentment concerning whether they should be expected to shoulder the burden of operating the culture village. The extent of the municipal tourism office's role in the management of Pampang also remains unclear, leaving open the potential for misunderstanding, or worse. For example, the introduction of wages for work related to tourism may lead to disputes over the disbursement of project monies. As noted earlier, Kenyah society is organized hierarchically and decisions regarding the public good are usually made by members of a village's aristocratic strata (Conley 1976). However, during the most recent renovation of the longhouse, some carvers became upset over the lack of clarity on the part of some leaders regarding whether, when, and how much they would eventually be paid. One threatened to tear down his carvings if a thorough accounting was not forthcoming.
An expanding tourist sector may change economic and social relations among villagers in other ways, also. While the majority of Pampang's families reside in simple wooden plank housing, some are building large stone or ironwood homes with money earned by relatives who work in professional or managerial positions in Samarinda or elsewhere. These homes will certainly be the most attractive accommodations for overnight paying guests, should the demand arise. The issue of who should instruct Pampang's youngest dancers is also contentious. As one senior dancer pointed out to me, an authority on "authentic" Kenyah dance might be unable to choreograph new dances nor be willing to vary the show in ways that would maintain tourists' interest and make them want to visit again. Finally, efforts to encourage Pampang's villagers to devote more time to handicraft production may yield diminishing returns. Beadwork souvenirs are widely and cheaply available in Samarinda, where they are produced by cottage crafters from a variety of ethnicities. And non-Dayak carvers have already set up shops just beyond Pampang's gate, producing pieces patterned after the native style.

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