Babukung Mask Festival

Babukung Traditional Mask Festival was held October 11-13, 2019 at in Nanga Bulik, the capital city of Lamandau District, Central Kalimantan. Babukung Mask Festival has been going four years now, and draws a crowd of 6,000 over the three days of the festival. Hundreds of bukungs wearing various shapes and colorful luha will be in parade during this cultural festival.

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. 

Luha is the pride of the Dayak Tomun people.  It is used to cure a grieving heart. Local storyteller told about a village chief’s family that was in deep grief at the loss of a son. In an effort to help, the villagers made masks resembling a ghost and an animal. They then lined up at the funeral ceremony wearing this Luha Mask and acting out funny animal behaviour. The grieving family started to laugh. The laughing brought the family out of their grief enough to ‘let go’ of their son, which meant he could go to his final resting place. Dayak Tomun people call this the Babukung dance and it serves another purpose, a greater moral of the story. With masks on, members carry donations for the family such us rice, pig, chicken and tuak (rice wine). The idea is so the grieving family will not notice who’s actually giving the donation.”

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.

The Luha Mask 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. 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.