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Culture (Jatti Miriek): Ilylia Iryani Binti Ibrahim

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

“Understanding each other’s languages is the key. Once you master their language, you can immerse yourself in their life and be a part of the community. Language lives longer than culture. People may forget the culture or do not practice it anymore but language proves that a particular ethnic exists like Jatti Miriek.” - Ilylia Iryani

We had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Ilylia Iryani, who is a Jatti Miriek from Miri, Sarawak. Ilylia speaks a dialect known as “Tuttot Miriek" and it is believed that this dialect is one of the oldest languages in the world. Jatti Miriek is said to be extinct, but today, they are considered as Melayu Sarawak.


The traditional Jatti Miriek food served within the community are mainly kuih or cakes, and can be found at wedding ceremonies. These include kuih tupik, bahulu, kuih rongin, kuih cap, telafaik ubih (lepat ubi), lepat pisang, and penyaram. Besides food, a lot of their culture and traditions have assimilated to traditional Malay culture, such as the attire and wedding rituals. Nonetheless, the cultural beliefs before the community converted to Islam is still alive, albeit dwindling.


She hopes the younger generation take pride in their heritage, and continue learning and preserving the cultural tradition within the community. Ilylia believes that by learning each other’s cultures, we will become a more united Malaysia.

What traditional craft is your community most known for?

Some of the crafts they make include their house, the old coconut extractor machine (which is made from wood and daun mengkuang) and bakoi (a small basket to store tunak (placenta)).


Other crafts include:

  • Sulang di’ik (small bronze item given as a wedding gift)

  • Upouk bu’ie (pinang storage container)

  • Upouk isauk ideh berudduh (container for medicated people)

  • Upouk hinnak emas (gold storage container made from soil)

  • Selapak ideh unah (old betelnut case)

  • Tekuan teh (teapot made from soil)

  • Upouk ajjuh (wooden container)

  • Pelitak summuk (pelita sumbu or axis lamp)

  • Gelleng ha'ah bai tujuk (arm bracelet and anklet made of rattan)


What is your traditional attire like? When do you usually wear them?


Ilylia and her cousin, Noor Hazwani binti Mohd Husli, Secretary of the Miriek Miri Jatti Association.

Men wear nehalauk lakaih (male attire) while women wear nehalauk lturai (female attire). According to folklore, both nehalauk are made from tree bark named ulait ajuh gitak and the sewing material is from benang daun nanas (pineapple leaves thread).


Nehalauk turai looks similar to Kebaya. Miriek women wear a black sarong with a belt called Hirrak which means perak (silver). The upper part of the attire comes with bells called berburung which is stitched at the end of the sleeves. There is also kain tajuk or Jung Sarat stitched with gold thread. This kain (cloth) is used for weddings or ceremonies. Women also wear Ayok or Selayah, a head cover which is made from sarong. There are also accessories such as a brooch called Keronsang Abel, and an anklet called Geleng Aluk Aluk. This attire is worn to the huma (paddy field) or sik jadih, with Sikong or Ra’ong to cover their head from the hot sun.


Jatti Miriek men wear a shirt which looks like Baju Melayu with leher tebuk belelang (round collar neck cutting) and seluar pelarut or seluar sumbu (pants). Men also wear a head cover called hekah uhok, tekulok, or ra’ong.


Their shoes were formerly made of deerskin and tied using roots. These shoes are used to go to the huma or hunting.


What are some of the festivals celebrated in your community?

Before converting to Islam, Jatti Miriek celebrates Mahaan Long. They will prepare dishes for the spirits at the estuary river. There is no specific time or day to celebrate Mahaan Long because it can be done by one person who has wishes such as for protection and sustenance.


Speaking of festivals, is there any traditional song, instruments, or dance that is practiced in your community?

Besides berganeng or bergendang (drumming), Miriek also has its own dance called Alai

Ilyia and her cousin, Hazwani styled the nehalauk (dress) of Jatti Miriek women. This dress features a kebaya and a black sarong. The dress is equipped with a bird (small bell) at the end of the sleeves and paddy -shaped accessories on the left and right sides of the shirt. The head covering is called Sikong.

Tatong, Alai Mullah Hadih (planting rice dance), Berzapin, and Tandek Lebuwen (similar to Joget Lambak). These dances are performed at ethnic-based parties or celebrations such as weddings and Mahaan Long.


There is a traditional instrument called Letangan Ajuh made of kayu benuang (benuang wood). It is 3 to 4 inches in diameter and cut into two pieces, each 14 to 16 inches long. It is played by placing the stick of wood on the lap. The melody of the music will be heard when this stick is tapped to the beat you are required to play. Letangan Ajuh is performed during Mahaan Long, harvesting season, weddings, Makan Muara and during traditional games (strength contests).


Besides that, there are also other musical instruments such as Dummek, Gung, Tawak and Letangan Tambeh.

Are there any traditional games you played when you were young?

We played a lot of games in the community. Among children, rumak unek (gasing or spinning top) and terajudik (layang-layang or kite) are very popular.


For older kids (and even adults), they play:

  • Berkasip (finger fight)

  • Huleng Bukoh (Arm wrestling)

  • Seratat Tirai Tubeh (similar to tug of war but pulling tuba roots instead of rope)

  • Seresom (hide-and-seek)

  • Rumak Bur (haunted house).

How are weddings organised in your community?


The dress is also decorated with woven gold thread on the sides of the shirt and sarong fabric. This dress is often worn while attending a wedding or during a crowd.

Similar to Malay tradition, representatives from the bride and groom’s family will discuss the gifts that will be sent to the bride. If the promise to marry is broken, the fate of the gifts depends on who is at fault. If the groom is at fault, the bride gets to keep all the gifts, but if the bride is at fault, they can still keep the gifts if the groom is okay with it.


The wedding process itself is laborious and can be broken down as follows:

  • Tuttot Ngabah (Merisik). The groom’s family will visit the bride’s family to find out whether the bride is single or has already been proposed to by someone. Upon discussion, they will set the wedding day.

  • Hatat Tanek (bertunang or engagement). The groom’s family or entourage will bring gifts such as selapak, talam tebageh, tawag, and gung, supok, etc. The engagement of the ritual involves mekak munong (buka mulut), tanek tunang (tanda tunang or a sign of engagement, usually cincin belah rotan (rattan ring)), su’an (mas kahwin or dowry) su’an tinah, (berian ibu or mother’s gift), su’an anak lakeh (berian anak lelaki or groom's gift), lupak bannul (langkah bendul) and sarey bekanak (cerai saudara).

  • Aloh Gatung Kelamuk (pemasangan pelamin or installing the bridal aisle). It is usually held on Friday after Friday prayers, starting with Doa Selamat (prayer for safety) at the bride’s house.

  • Aloh Nikah (Majlis Pernikahan or nikah ceremony): It is the same like Muslim wedding involving jurunikah (officiator) and witnesses from both bride and groom’s side.

  • Belulut: Both brides will wear Nahalok after the Aloh Nikah.

  • Bersaning (Bersanding or wedding ceremony). The groom will have a bridal procession (diarak) on their way to the bride’s house on the next day. Upon arrival, the groom and his entourage will be greeted with a kutau performance and musical accompaniment by Letangan Ajuh. The groom will be subjected to the Baleh ritual. The tikar mengkuang (mat) was inverted by the groom’s entourage to mark the beginning of the ritual. The groom will give a sum of money to the representative of the bride’s family and take the betel nut from Selapak. The Hurik Haah ceremony will be performed for the groom by a representative of the bride’s family. The groom then approaches the bride who will be sitting on the pelamin (wedding aisle) and lifts a songket cloth that covers the bride’s face. As both bride and groom are on the pelamin, the zikir will be sung while the Tepung Tawar ceremony begins. Three gunshot into the air or a Tawag hit by a close relative indicates there is a wedding in the village.

The groom will dress in clothing similar to Baju melayu and long Kebaya for the bride. The groom will use Dastar Songket or Songkok Tinggi adorned with silver or gold accessories as head wear. An Ares (keris) is inserted at the waist with a capal (sandals) at the foot. While the bride wears a headdress known as Tajuk and gold or silver accessories on her wrists and feet. After Bersaning, the bride and groom will be brought by the parents in a Sarik Nagek ceremony. This ceremony is done by going around the stairs of the house 3 or 7 times. There are variations where they will circle the bride’s house 3 or 7 times. This symbolises that even in dispute, they will still return to the house.

  • Mulek Teloh/ Tujuk Aloh (visit to in-laws' house). This takes place 3 days after the couple stays at the bride’s house. The couple will exchange chicken and blood from nine other chickens for the Danarek ceremony. Both of them will sit on stone or Terat Latek/ Parang Panjang. The groom’s mother will bring a hen while the bride’s mother will bring a rooster. Both of the chicken feathers will be placed at the throat of the newly married couple as a blessing for many offspring and so on. Then, they will throw away Ancak to avoid bad spirits. It is believed that bad spirits will follow the Ancak which has been washed away into the river. After that, they will end Danarek with Majlis Doa Selamat dan Tolak Bala (prayer for safety and driving away bad omen).


Speaking of festivals, is there any traditional song, instruments, or dance that is practiced in your community?


Besides berganneng or bergendang (drumming), Miriek also has its own dance called Alai Tatong, Alai Mullah Hadih (rice planting dance), Berzapin, and Tandek Lebuwen (similar to Joget Lambak). These dances are performed at ethnic-based parties or celebrations such as weddings and Mahaan Long.


There is a traditional instrument called Letangan Ajuh made of kayu benuang (benuang wood). It is 3 to 4 inches in diameter and cut into two pieces, each 14 to 16 inches long. It is played by placing the stick of wood on the lap. The melody of the music will be heard when this stick is tapped to the beat you are required to play. Letangan Ajuh is performed during Mahaan Long, harvesting season, weddings, Makan Muara and during traditional games (strength contests).


Besides that, there are also other musical instruments such as Dummek, Gung, Tawak and Letangan Tambeh.



Are there any traditional games you played when you were young?


We played a lot of games in the community. Among children, rumak unek (gasing or spinning top) and terajudik (layang-layang or kite) are very popular.


For older kids (and even adults), they play:

  • Berkasip (finger fight)

  • Huleng Bukoh (Arm wrestling)

  • Seratat Tirai Tubeh (similar to tug of war but pulling tuba roots instead of rope)

  • Seresom (hide-and-seek)

  • Rumak Bur (haunted house).


How are weddings organised in your community?


Similar to Malay tradition, representatives from the bride and groom’s family will discuss the gifts that will be sent to the bride. If the promise to marry is broken, the fate of the gifts depends on who is at fault. If the groom is at fault, the bride gets to keep all the gifts, but if the bride is at fault, they can still keep the gifts if the groom is okay with it.


The wedding process itself is laborious and can be broken down as follows:

  • Tuttot Ngabah (Merisik). The groom’s family will visit the bride’s family to find out whether the bride is single or has already been proposed to by someone. Upon discussion, they will set the wedding day.

  • Hatat Tanek (bertunang or engagement). The groom’s family or entourage will bring gifts such as selapak, talam tebageh, tawag, and gung, supok, etc. The engagement of the ritual involves mekak munong (buka mulut), tanek tunang (tanda tunang or a sign of engagement, usually cincin belah rotan (rattan ring)), su’an (mas kahwin or dowry) su’an tinah, (berian ibu or mother’s gift), su’an anak lakeh (berian anak lelaki or groom's gift), lupak bannul (langkah bendul) and sarey bekanak (cerai saudara).

  • Aloh Gatung Kelamuk (pemasangan pelamin or installing the bridal aisle). It is usually held on Friday after Friday prayers, starting with Doa Selamat (prayer for safety) at the bride’s house.

  • Aloh Nikah (Majlis Pernikahan or nikah ceremony): It is the same like Muslim wedding involving jurunikah (officiator) and witnesses from both bride and groom’s side.

  • Belulut: Both brides will wear Nahalok after the Aloh Nikah.

  • Bersaning (Bersanding or wedding ceremony). The groom will have a bridal procession (diarak) on their way to the bride’s house on the next day. Upon arrival, the groom and his entourage will be greeted with a kutau performance and musical accompaniment by Letangan Ajuh. The groom will be subjected to the Baleh ritual. The tikar mengkuang (mat) was inverted by the groom’s entourage to mark the beginning of the ritual. The groom will give a sum of money to the representative of the bride’s family and take the betel nut from Selapak. The Hurik Haah ceremony will be performed for the groom by a representative of the bride’s family. The groom then approaches the bride who will be sitting on the pelamin (wedding aisle) and lifts a songket cloth that covers the bride’s face. As both bride and groom are on the pelamin, the zikir will be sung while the Tepung Tawar ceremony begins. Three gunshot into the air or a Tawag hit by a close relative indicates there is a wedding in the village.

The groom will dress in clothing similar to Baju melayu and long Kebaya for the bride. The groom will use Dastar Songket or Songkok Tinggi adorned with silver or gold accessories as head wear. An Ares (keris) is inserted at the waist with a capal (sandals) at the foot. While the bride wears a headdress known as Tajuk and gold or silver accessories on her wrists and feet. After Bersaning, the bride and groom will be brought by the parents in a Sarik Nagek ceremony. This ceremony is done by going around the stairs of the house 3 or 7 times. There are variations where they will circle the bride’s house 3 or 7 times. This symbolises that even in dispute, they will still return to the house.

  • Mulek Teloh/ Tujuk Aloh (visit to in-laws' house). This takes place 3 days after the couple stays at the bride’s house. The couple will exchange chicken and blood from nine other chickens for the Danarek ceremony. Both of them will sit on stone or Terat Latek/ Parang Panjang. The groom’s mother will bring a hen while the bride’s mother will bring a rooster. Both of the chicken feathers will be placed at the throat of the newly married couple as a blessing for many offspring and so on. Then,