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Full Circle

Day 111: Nanga Sumpa

Michael Palin - Full CircleHe hasn't much time for the past. He thinks that most things are better today. 'Today generation is good. We not only meet Iban but also meet white people. Meet white people and we eat together, play together, we talk together. There's no more fighting. That's good.'

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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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 111
  • Country/sea: Malaysia
  • Place: Nanga Sumpa
  • Book page no: 161

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