Researcher’s book gives insight on Bornean cultural, religious diversity

Nur Shazreena Ali
Elena shows her books to reporters.

KOTA SAMARAHAN:  “Of Temple and Tatung Tradition in SIngkawang” book by Dr Elena Chaiwill definitely gives insight on the diversity of culture and religion in Borneo Island.

Enthusiastic in cultural discourse, her observation on social changes for over ten years has tuned Elena’s unique voice amidst xenophobic and insular outgrowth today.
The book illustrates Elena’s journey investigating the spirit mediums of the temples in Singkawang, where the devoted deities utilises  “Tatung”  as the medium and agent of communication between people and the deities.

One of the gifts to Elena by the tatung is the guardian charm to be tacked on the doors.

According to Elena when speaking to New Sarawak Tribune at Unimas today, she pointed out in Singkawan, the temples with Chinese deities and those with Dayak deities have close rapport with one another.

“In fact, the Chinese and the Dayak tatung visit and pray each other’s deities. It is very unique,” she told.

She shared her few significant moments during the celebration of Sin Ming San, deity’s birthday celebration.

“I witness how tatung performed the act of self-mortification such as walk on the blade or nailed-laden on chair.

“There was one time when a tatung was unfortunately unable to walk on the nailed chair, and penetrated the tatung’s feet,” she said.

The charm stones that were given by the tatung.

“They will shake the chair, showing their invulnerable power, which will not hurt them. Accompanied by the beats of gongs, drums and cymbals and the crowd cheers for deity”.

Elena also expressed that this showed that every society had its own distinctive culture according to its geographical boundary.

“We are living in a very diverse world. For instance, Chinese in Sarawak honour different deities with others which would influence how the rituals will be performed.

“But the real point is to have mutual respect despite of the differences,” she added.

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