In Baram area, the Penan community can be categorized into 2 big groups – Penan Silat and Penan Selungo. The Penan Silat are originally from Silat river, some of them are still residing there and some had migrated to the lower area of Baram river and settled at Long Lewe (formerly known as Long Beku), Long Keluan and Long San. The Penan Selungo are located at highland areas such as Ba’ Abang, Long Sait, Long Kerong, Ba’ Data Bila, Long Beruang, Long Lamai and Ba’ Lai (to name a few).
In terms of lifestyle, both groups leading semi-nomadic, some permanently settled but one can differentiate them from their dialects. The Penan Selungo dialects are much ‘softer’ in terms of oral communication as compared to the Penan Silat dialect but both understood each other even when they speak in their own dialect.
Anyway, it’s not something new to me. It’s common here in Sarawak.
It started when Roger (one of our Penan porter) showed me a ‘berakak’. ‘Berakak’ is what it is known to Penan Silat group, whereas it is known as ‘atip na’o’ among the Penan Selungo.
‘Berakak’ literally mean fork and it is made from wood. Other than the Penan tribe, the Melanau and Bruneian uses the ‘berakak’ that is made of bamboo. It is normally used when eating starchy sago flour – ‘apo’ in Penan language or ‘lemantak’ in Melanau language and it is known as ‘na’o’ or ‘linut’/'ambuyat’ among the Melanau/Bruneian once cooked. So, a ‘berakak’ is commonly used during a ‘na’o’ meal. As a matter of fact, among the Penan community, it is a must to have ‘na’o’ in every meal. Just like some of us, find a meal wouldn’t be complete when there is no rice served.
You can check out my post on ‘White Mucus’ and ‘Instant Starchy Paste’ to find out on how a ‘na’o’ meal is made and get better understanding on why a ‘berakak’ is used for such meal.
Now, back to Roger. ;p
I requested him to show me the making of a ‘berakak’ and he was more than happy to do so. I took some photos and Peter (my research team mate) gets the fork making process filmed.
‘Pit’ is another type of wooden fork used by the Penan Silat. It look like a flat clipper. ‘Pit’ is known as ‘jalan ngetip patok sin’ among the Penan Selungo and Pilat (another Penan porter) was glad to share with me on the process of making it.
For the record, those forks are now part of the artifact collected throughout the research project.
ps-Penan Silat is good in blacksmithing and they produce working ‘parang’ for the Kenyah and Kayan communities in Baram. Penan Selungo are very knowledgeable in etho-botany.