Museum hosts Miring Antu Pala to appease spirits of 23 human skulls

KUCHING, Oct 30: A ‘miring’ ceremony was conducted this morning to appease the spirits of the 23 century-old skulls which have been kept in the historical old Sarawak Museum Building.

The ritual was carried out to pave the way for the skulls to be transferred to a nearby location for safekeeping to facilitate a RM38 million renovation on the building which hosts the Ethology Museum.

The ‘miring’ known as ‘Miring Antu Pala’ was performed to honour the ‘patara’ (gods), the spirits and the ancestors so that peace between the human world and the spiritual realm may be maintained during and after the moving of the skulls.

Lanting performs the ‘miring’ in the Old Sarawak Museum Building to appease the spirits of the skulls before they are moved to another location to give way to a RM38 million renovation of the building.

The ritual was organised by Majlis Adat Istiadat. It was conducted by a ‘Lemambang’ or ritual expert, whose job is to maintain balance between the Iban community and the spiritual world.

The ritual was carried out in the Model Longhouse within the old Sarawak Museum Building by Lemambang Lanting Ikar and his assistants including Thomas Tegong Laka and Wilson Inden Belayong.

According to Director of Sarawak Museum Department Ipoi Datan, the ritual needed to be carried out to fulfil ancient Iban traditions.

“These are Iban skulls, so we need to perform an Iban Miring to appease the spirits.

“It was also to fulfil the ‘adat’ of the old Iban tradition where the ceremony must be conducted before the skulls may be touched and transferred to another place,” he said to the media after the ceremony.

He said these skulls came from different places across Sarawak and have been kept by the museum since the time of Rajah James Brooke.

“These skulls cannot be moved yet even after the ritual. The food offerings have to left for three days, before the skulls may be moved to a new place.”

The ritual culminated in the slaughtering of a pig which was served as an offering to the spirits and gods.

On the related issue of renovation works, Ipoi said the works were expected to be completed after two years.

The interior of the Old Sarawak Museum Building which was officially opened to the public in 1891.

“By end of 2019 or early 2020, we expect the Old Museum Building to re-open to the public. However, the place showcasing these skulls may not be here (old Museum Building) as we may move them to the new museum complex across the road,” he said.

In a press conference on Sept 21, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg told a media conference that the Sarawak Museum will be closed to give way to renovation.

He said the closure was intended to facilitate the renovation of the building which was founded in 1888 and opened in 1891.

The renovation project which costs RM38 million will see the original structure of the building kept due to its historical value. — DayakDaily