|Apai Janggut and the eggplant flower tattoo on his shoulder. Picture: Mongabay.
By Rangkaya Bada
A tattoo can represent achievements, courage, or changes in someone's life.
Among the Dayak ethnic group, particularly the Iban tribe, tattoos are symbols rich in meaning. This was expressed by an elder and environmental advocate from Sungai Utik, Apai Janggut, who received the Equator Prize and Gulbenkian.
Tattoos have a philosophy associated with the respect for the cultural heritage and traditions of a specific ethnic group or community. These tattoos often reflect the identity of the group or the values considered significant by that community.
Tattoo "Bunga Terong" (Eggplant Flower) Apai Janggut. Do not use it arbitrarily, especially for tattoos.
Among the Iban ethnic group, only certain individuals tattoo their shoulders or other parts of their bodies with the image of an eggplant flower.
They are individuals who have been tested, possessing mystical powers. Proficient in both literal and metaphorical senses, they stand out for their extensive knowledge.
Apai Janggut (Bandi Anak Ragae), a prominent Iban figure from Sungai Utik, bears the eggplant flower tattoo on his shoulder. He immortalized the image of the eggplant flower on his skin.
The Dayak eggplant holds profound meaning, especially among the Iban people. The eggplant flower symbolizes specific qualities.
A person with elevated knowledge (intelligence, skills, expertise, invincibility, courage, and virtues) has the eggplant flower tattoo on their shoulder.
At present, in Sungai Utik, Kapuas Hulu, only one person bears the eggplant flower tattoo. He is Apai Janggut, whose original name is Bandi Anak Ragae
Thus is the eggplant flower tattoo on Bandi Anak Ragai's shoulder. It signifies a specific social class, especially within the cultural context of the Iban ethnic group.
Iban, like other Dayak tribes in Borneo, is rich in symbols (homo symbolicus).
If you have already engraved the eggplant flower tattoo on your body, you must adhere to customs and traditions. It is not necessary to possess mystical powers in the literal sense.
How far someone has traveled
In Lontaan (1975), a single sentence explains the eggplant flower tattoo: it indicates how far someone has traveled.
Undoubtedly, this "journey" is both literal and symbolic, signifying a person's experience, resilience in facing life's challenges, exploring the world, confronting dangers, overcoming enemies, surviving near-death experiences, and traversing islands and continents.
If you are not an elder, possessing mystical powers, and numerous "influences," do not attempt to tattoo the eggplant flower symbol on your body.
If you still choose to do so, be prepared for your knowledge to be tested.
Meaning of a tattoo
Meaning of a tattoo can vary depending on the context, culture, and individual interpretation. Generally, tattoos often carry personal or symbolic meanings for those who have them.
Once, I asked Apai, "Pai, why the eggplant?"
"There's a saying. As thin as eggplant skin. Life and death. Strength and weakness. It's just a reminder. The flower symbolizes the forthcoming fruit. We must protect it!"
Tattoos can carry spiritual or religious meanings
Tattoos can carry spiritual or religious meanings, representing beliefs, religious values, or sacred symbols.
The wise man's answers are never straightforward. It is up to us to draw conclusions.
Apai Janggut is wise. I presume he embodies the essence of all the natural intelligence specific to the Iban in West Kalimantan at this time.
If he is now recognized as an environmental warrior, it is well-deserved. The Equator Prize and Kalpataru only encapsulate every breath, every step, and every action of the bearer of the eggplant flower tattoo on his shoulder.
If you have already engraved the eggplant flower tattoo on your body, at least adhere to customs and traditions. It is not necessary to possess mystical powers in the literal sense.