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The BOS Foundation works in support of not only orangutans, but also the indigenous communities that inhabit and neighbour the forests of Kalimantan. One of these tribes, the Wehea Dayak, has a rich culture seeped in traditions and rituals that we are proud to support. We recently had the honour of assisting in the organisation of their rice harvest ceremony.

The BOS Foundation, through its Orangutan Habitat Rehabilitation (RHO) program and in collaboration with Save the Orangutan (StO), an international partner organisation that receives financial support from CISU (Civilsamfund I Udvikling/Civil Society in Development), participated in a rice harvest ritual earlier this year at Dea Beq village in East Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan.

Rice planting in East Kalimantan is completed annually around the months of August and September, with the harvest occurring the following February. The rice harvest ritual serves as a way to express gratitude to the Rice Goddess for her gift to farmers, following their hard work in the rice fields.

For people of the Wehea Dayak tribe, rice holds great spiritual significance: Not only is it their staple food, but it also represents the ‘core aspect of life’ which passed down from generation to generation. “Rice is our source of life and, for us, planting rice is as important as taking care of our own children. We really look up to the Rice Goddess, Long Diang Yung,” said Diana Lehong, a Wehea Dayak resident.

The rice harvest ritual is carried out collectively by all members of the community, with the entire process taking up to three weeks. A number of tools are needed for rice harvesting, including the ani-ani or kepan, a rice cutter made of iron; bangung, a sort of basket; anjat, a woven bag made of rattan rope; hessian sacks; and a makeshift hut made from screwpine leaves. The hut is used to store the rice before it is brought home and it is also the place where the rice is threshed from the stalks. It stands in the paddy field, where a representative leads recitations and prayers to the Goddess of Rice, asking for her blessing of the harvest.

The harvesting process involves the participation of male and female residents, both with different tasks. “Women thresh and winnow the rice, while men carry it into the huts,” explained Magdalena, a staff member from Dea Beq’s Village Consultative Body[AK1] .

This rice is stored and consumed by the residents, with some reserved to be used for traditional events and rituals, of which rice is frequently an important part. As with all rituals, some unique customs are undertaken in preparation for the event, such as the practice of picking only one stalk of rice, to start each day of harvest for four consecutive days. Food and drink are not permitted into the harvest area before doing so, lest it bring bad fortune. The food and drink that are permitted into the area after the opening custom are limited in variety and can differ from one family to another.

To date, the Wehea Dayak traditional rice harvest ceremony has provided a strong cultural foundation and helped support food security in the community. The BOS Foundation is delighted to support this tradition so that the next generation of Wehea Dayak will inherit the rich culture of their ancestors.

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