Day 111: Nanga Sumpa
Before we can play together (and I've heard that the Iban love to party), we have to observe the ritual start of the feast and just as I am down to deciding which pair of trousers would show the blood least the arrival is announced of James Masing, the first Iban ever to become a government minister in a country run politically by Muslims and economically by the Chinese.
Everyone is delighted to see him, none more so than myself. He looks much more like a real guest of honour, anyway, having with him local politicians and a police escort. He also brings his daughter Karen and wife Marcia, who wears an 'I Love Kathmandu' T-shirt. Masing is a smallish, powerfully built man with the hunch of a boxer and dark, wary, almost Latin-American looks. He wears a baseball hat and greets everyone with apparently genuine personal interest.
After climbing steps dug into the butterscotch-coloured clay of the river bank he is met by female dancers in silver-bell head-dresses, silver-beaded skirts and glittering tasselled shoulder pieces beneath which can be glimpsed heavy-duty brassieres. Drums and ceremonial gongs are played as the sacrificial pig is brought out, legs trussed, hanging upside down from a pole. As it's laid on the ground, it rolls its eyes as though it now knows what's going to happen and just wants to get it over with.
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