Babukung Mask Festival, Tanjung Puting, Borneo

Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan is a long way from anywhere, and it hosts the fascinating babukung Mask Festival every year.

Bukung is someone who is wearing a mask, called luha in Dayak Tomun language, worn during Tiwah Ceremony. The ritual is a symbol of joy and togetherness where bukung dancers will dance to distinctive beats and sounds made using bamboo sticks as a means of comforting the grieving family. Promoting this cultural richness, Babukung Festival is now held annually in October in Nanga Bulik, the capital city of Lamandau District. Hundreds of bukungs wearing various shapes and colorful luha will be in parade during this cultural festival.

Babukung Mask Festival has been going Five years now, and draws a crowd of 6,000 over the three days of the festival. There are eight districts in Lamandau and every year the districts go in for a lottery. Depending on the luck of the draw, each community is assigned a specific mask. They then have to get to work carving the masks, making the costumes and learning a dance to perform at the festival. There are 15 different categories of mask used: bird, dragon, crocodile, bat, hornbill, peacock, dog, devil, butterfly and the white face mask called sadap, which represents a Dutchman with a long nose.

The Luha Mask, for an example,  is an integral part of the Dayak Tomun funeral ceremony. The mask itself is carved by master craftsmen from pulai, a tropical timber. Only natural dyes obtained from materials found in the forest are used to decorate the mask. The red colour is from the kesumba fruit, and the black is from charcoal. The pure white colour is from chalk.

These masks are linked with Dayak animist beliefs and some masks hold magical powers. Some are an embodiment of the ancestral spirits, some enable communication with ancestors, and some ward off evil spirits from a home, a person or crops. Ceremonial masks have specific functions, such as capturing souls at funerals. In the old days, masks also were used to intimidate enemies.

Over the three days of the festival you will see some beautiful traditional dancing. What you will see on display there at the festival is a true celebration of who they are as Dayak people.

Babukung Traditional Mask Festival was held July 17-19, 2018 at Hinang Golloa Stadium, Nanga Bulik, Lamandau Regency, Central Kalimantan.  It is an annual event.

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