Ever wonder about the pretty and intricate costumes worn by Iban women during special occasions and festivals? In general, the traditional outfit that they wear is called "Ngepan" and is usually worn during Gawai festival, rituals and dances. There are different types of the Ngepan Indu depending on the residential area or river near to the Iban community such as Ngepan Saribas, Ngepan Batang Ai, Ngepan Skrang, Ngepan Ensuga and Ngepan Batang Rajang. Each has its own special characteristics and differences. This is due to the huge distance between different groups of Ibans which leads to the development of their own signature style of the Ngepan Indu.
The Ngepan can be seen in all its glory during Pekit Kumang which is a beauty pageant held during Gawai festival. During the pageant, the completeness of the Ngepan is one of the judging criteria of the competition and the winner will be crowned Kumang.
There are a few pieces worn together to complete the traditional costume. For example, sugu tinggi is worn on the head, marek empang on the shoulder and kain kebat which is a traditionally woven skirt. There are a number of pieces of jewellery worn as well like the lampit (belt), rawai (corset), tumpa pirak (bangles), gerunchung (anklets), buah pauh (purse), selampai (sash), mulung (fine chain) and selingkang (coin corset with dangling coins). All of the pieces of jewellery are made with silver except for selampai (sash). There will be differences in the design and style of the accessories worn depending on the type of Ngepan.
These costumes are intricately made and time-consuming so there is an immense effort and time put into making them, not to mention the skills and craftsmanship. Take the marek empang as an example, making it can take months as they are handmade from colourful and small beads.
If you have the opportunity to participate in a Gawai festival or see Iban women wearing the Ngepan, do take some time to appreciate the beautiful outfit and effort put into making the traditional costume.
(Women wearing Ngepan-Image taken from iloveborneo.my, Credit: Photographer Rumah Panjai)
(Woman wearing Ngepan Batang Ai-Image taken from explore.airasia.com)
Wahed, Wan Juliana Emeih & Pitil, Patricia. (2018). Perception of Kebat Design Motifs of Ngepan Clothing - Traditional Iban Costume.
Vanuaranu, A. (2021). 5 Styles of Ngepan Indu, the Traditional Costume for Iban Women. Explore.airasia.com. Retrieved from https://explore.airasia.com/assets/blt9a6cec56613497c0/5-styles-of-ngepan-indu-the-traditional-costume-for-iban-women.
The Female Iban Attire (Ngepan Indu Iban). Dayakwithgoldenhair.wordpress.com. (2015). Retrieved from https://dayakwithgoldenhair.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/the-female-iban-attire-ngepan-indu-iban/.
Kiyai, G., & Anak Tugang, N. (2021). THE STUDY OF MATERIAL CULTURE OF THE IBAN COMMUNITY IN SARAWAK: NGEPAN. International Journal Of Applied And Creative Arts, 4(1), 80-97. https://doi.org/10.33736/ijaca.4204.2021