OooHAH! Nama berita?" What's the news? You are swept into the joyous atmosphere of the Iban Longhouse - drums and gongs, Pua weaving, Kuih Jala, Tuak (rice wine), hanging skulls carrying tales of days gone by.
The Iban race, once known as “Sea Dayaks”, built their longhouses to last 15 to 20 years, or, until the farm land in the surrounding area was exhausted. Then they packed up their goods and chattels and moved inland, upriver, along the coast, wherever fresh farm lands looked promising. About one-third of all Sarawakians are Iban; while some of them live in towns or individual houses, a large number still prefer longhouses.
A traditional longhouse is built of axe-hewn timber, tied with creeper fibre, roofed with leaf thatch. It is nearly always built by the bank of a navigable river, and the visitor approaches it from the boat jetty. He climbs up a notched log that serves as a staircase and finds himself on the open verandah face to face with a scene of community and domestic activity.
Several doorways lead from the outer to the inner verandah under the roof. This is the village street of the longhouse; the individual family rooms or “doors” front the common walkway. A casual visitor is invited to sit down on a mat here for a chat with the longhouse elder; family members enter through their relatives' doors and make themselves at home.