Melanau Tall House
Sarawak is home to the well-known and renowned longhouse style of architecture. Since there are so many diverse ethnic groups in Sarawak, their longhouse designs and construction methods also vary. In this article, we will be looking into and sharing information about the Melanau tall house in Sarawak.
Unfortunately, these traditional houses are no longer present within the boundaries of the Melanau districts, with some having been abandoned. Tall houses built by the Melanau people once existed in Mukah, Dalat, Sarikei, Kanowit, Balingian, Paloh, and Sebuyau, among other sites. Currently, there is a Melanau tall house model in Sarawak Cultural Village, a living museum, which contains all the elements present in the original tall house.
A longhouse is essentially a community with its own unique social structure, which includes the system of families and kinship where specific customs are observed. The Melanau tall houses were not separated into rooms but elevated above the ground to provide defense against invading forces. The Melanau tall house may accommodate up to 50 families and is sometimes built 40 feet above the ground. The building materials were chosen for their durability and water resistance. Every resource, including the belian tree trunks (Borneon ironwood), nibong tree trunks, and sago tree trunks, is easily accessible from the environment.
There were distinct areas in a Melanau tall house for the various groups according to their social standing. For example, because it is risky in the event of enemy raids, the nyat group or aristocracy would not reside at the end of the house, which is close to the stairs.
An interesting fact about stairs is that every rung on every staircase in the home needs to be odd as they believe that an odd number of steps could offer blessings, good fortune, and benefits to its occupants, including prosperity and good health.
Interested to know more about the Melanau tall house? Go visit the model at Sarawak Cultural Village to experience and learn more about it!
(Interior of Melanau tall house – Image taken from flyklia.com)
(Melanau Tall House – Image taken from pinterest.com)
Bahauddin, A., & Mustika Syaheeda Awg Musadat, D. (2018). The Traditional Architecture of the Melanau Tall Longhouse, Mukah, Sarawak. SHS Web Of Conferences, 45, 01002. https://doi.org/10.1051/shsconf/20184501002
Bahauddin, A., & Mustika Syaheeda Awg Musadat, D. (2017). The Melanau Cultural Influence in the Melanau Tall Longhouse Space Planning of Sarawak Political Buildings as Symbol of Political Culture. International Transaction Journal Of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies, 8(4). https://tuengr.com/V08/275.pdf.
Chandra, S. (2021). Melanaus used to live in longhouses. New Sarawak Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.newsarawaktribune.com.my/melanaus-used-to-live-in-longhouses/.