AMONG THE LONG-GLATS - IS FEAR OF EXPOSURE TO THE SUN JUSTIFIED? - CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LONG-GLATS - GOOD-BYE TO THE MAHAKAM
In the latter part of July we went to the near-by kampong, Long Tujo ("a small animal with many legs"), situated at the mouth of another small tributary to the Mahakam. Here live Long-Glats who are located below the other Bahau peoples of the river and are found as far as Batokelau, between the upper and lower rapids. Though Long Iram is rather distant - five days' travel down-stream, and, if the river is high, perhaps two months may be consumed in returning - still its influence was evidenced by the several umbrellas I saw, all black, an adaptation from the high-class Malays and an unusual sight in these parts. The kapala of this large kampong resembled a Malay raja, in that he always carried an umbrella when he walked and looked pale because the sun was not allowed to shine upon him. Two days later, when I photographed the ladies performing dances, they had at least five of these fashionable contrivances.
It may be stated that natives of the Dutch Indies are generally afraid of the sun. Well-to-do Malays carry umbrellas as a protection against it. In Batavia I read in the newspapers that the Sultan of Priok, when visiting an aviation camp, was so overcome by the heat that he had to be carried away, regaining consciousness on arriving at his quarters. However, the attack may have been induced to some extent by general lack of exercise and the indolent life that characterises his compatriots who occupy high positions.
Even some of the pagan tribes protect their heads, as the Katingans, the Duhoi, and others, who make beautiful sunshades, which also serve in case of rain, and this was not learned from the Malays. In the Bornean tribes that I visited, until the child is old enough to walk, the sun is not allowed to shine upon it even for a moment. The blacks of Australia, on the other hand, who are in a state of absolute nudeness, pay no attention to the sun, though in common with most natives of hot countries they usually prefer to follow the example of the animals and remain quiet in the middle of the day.
An umbrella of the usual type, Chinese or Japanese, is very useful for travel in Borneo. At times it proves of excellent service in the prahu in case of sudden showers, and it is invaluable for protecting the camera when photographing. But as a matter of comfort and convenience it is my custom to have my head uncovered except in rainy or cold weather. The sun is a great friend and health-giver, and notwithstanding well-meant warnings and an inborn fear first to be overcome, during my journeys in Borneo I carried my hat in my pocket. When travelling in a prahu, I do not care for a prolonged exposure to the sun, but often I photographed for three or four hours continuously - really hard work - in the blazing light of the equatorial sun, without experiencing any disagreeable effect. In the spring of 1910 I travelled in this way for three months, mostly on horseback, through the Sonora Desert, and felt stronger for it. It is my opinion that overfatigue, excess in eating, or alcohol are the causes of sunstroke. I have met only one man who, like myself, discards cover for the head - Doctor N. Annandale, of the Indian Museum in Calcutta. Although in our present state of knowledge I agree with him that it is unwise to advise others to do likewise in the tropics, I emphatically recommend less fear of the sun in temperate regions, always on the supposition that one leads a healthy and sane life.
The Long-Glats came from Apo Kayan, and established themselves first on the River Glit, a tributary from the south to the River Ugga, which again is an affluent to the River Boh, the outlet from Apo Kayan to the Mahakam. Since that time the people have called themselves Long-Glit, which is their correct name, but as they have already become known as Long-Glat, through the Dutch, I shall use that designation.
In the kapala's house I saw a superb plank, four metres long, raised lengthwise against the wall; one side of it was taken up with fine carvings on a large scale, representing three pairs of dogs. This I fortunately obtained. The kapala's father was an Oma-Suling, but his grandmother, a Long-Glat, had taught him some kremi or kesa, the Malay words for folklore (in Long-Glat, lawong), and I collected from him two rather interesting tales, which are included with other folklore stories at the end of this book. In one of them (No. 18) the airplane is foreshadowed, and by one that could fly for a month, at that. Needless to state, an airplane had never been heard of in those parts.
The people were inquisitive but more distant than the other tribes I had visited, a quality which is often a saving grace. They were very willing to be photographed, and among my subjects were three women of the nobility, called rajas, who had many coins sewn on their skirts in a way that looked quite well. One wore a head ornament such as I had not seen before, an elaborate affair lying over the hair, which was worn loose and hanging down the back. One man trembled noticeably when before the camera, without spoiling the photograph, however, though it was a side-view.
Of the women who helped me with the interpretations of designs, one had a marked Mongolian fold of the eye, though her eyes could scarcely be said to be placed obliquely. As far as my observations go, the Mongolian fold is very slight with the natives of Borneo, or not present at all, and the obliquity of the eyes is seldom striking. The Long-Glats do not tatu much, many not at all, but generally they have on the left upper arm a picture of the nagah in its usual representation with the disproportionately large dog's mouth. Wild cattle are not eaten here. The great hornbill, as well as the red and white hawk, may be killed, but are not eaten.