The Tale of Apai Janggut: the 7th Generation Descendant of Keling Kumang

Apai Janggut reads the book '101 Dayak Figures Volume 2,' where his profile is featured as one of the prominent individuals among the Dayak people.


Bandi Anak Ragae, that's his real name. In terms of names, he inherits the Iban tradition. Who always refers to someone as the child of whom? Ragae is the name of the father who descended from the Iban realm, Sungai Utik, Kapuas Hulu.

"Apai Janggut," the man with the white beard, is often addressed. He tends to the houses in Sungai Utik, Embaloh District, Kapuas Hulu Regency, West Kalimantan.

In West Kalimantan in general, especially in Sintang and Kapuas Hulu, almost everyone knows "Apai Janggut." He is called that because of his distinctive feature of maintaining a white beard down to his chest. According to him, this is a directive from Kumang, one of the respected ancestors of the Iban people.

Guardian and Protector of the Forest and Environment of Sungai Utik

He is a guardian of customary forests there, as well as a preserver of arts and culture. He is always requested by the Keling Kumang Group and the local community to "observe" the signs of nature. Whether a building should be erected in a certain place, when it should be built, when to hold traditional and cultural ceremonies.

To erect a pair of large statues weighing more than a quintal in Tapang Sambas, Sekadau, for example, Apai Janggut is involved. After hours of not standing up even when tied with ropes, Apai Janggut suggested pulling them up using tepus (zingiber spectabile). In an instant, both statues stood upright.

In the midst of the erosion of Dayak cultural arts due to modernization and various economic interests in the name of development, longhouses or "rumah panjai" in Iban language, traditional Dayak buildings reflecting communal life and mutual cooperation, are becoming increasingly rare.

Now, longhouses in Kalimantan can be counted on fingers. One of them is the longhouse in Sungai Utik. Located on the banks of the Embaloh River. Like in ancient times, a bulai house, a people's house, was built on the riverbank to facilitate various needs. Besides transportation, the river at that time had multiple functions, including bathing, washing, and toilet activities. However, it was designed in such a way that each function occurred naturally.

At the age of 88, Apai Janggut is still strong and robust. The remnants of his handsomeness and strength are still evident on his face and his entire body that seems immune to fragility. He is tattooed with eggplant flower motifs, which symbolize leadership in Iban tradition.

The 7th generation descendants of Keling Kumang

The 7th generation descendants of Keling Kumang tell the story of the history of the past, an Ibanik empire ruled by Keling Kumang known as "Buah Main." It is believed that the Buah Main kingdom stretched from Sekadau, Ketungau, Mungguk Bejuah, Hutan Berangan Semitau Tua, to Batak Lupar, and then to Sri Aman.

In a talk show on Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) Pro1 Sintang, Bandi revealed that the Ibanik people under Keling Kumang lived harmoniously and prosperously. This was mainly due to the exemplary behavior set by their leader. In addition, the principle of "Betungkat ke adat basa, bepegai ke pengatur pekara," which means: upholding customary law, adhering to the rule of affairs (elders), was strictly followed and implemented.

"The spirit of Keling Kumang must be preserved and respected. One of them is upholding customary law and obeying the elders," emphasized Bandi. In addition to being a householder, he is also known as an activist in the conservation of forests. Regardless of his age of over eight decades, with his long white beard, he continues to strive to preserve customs and traditions.

The struggle of Apai Jangut and the Sungai Utik

The struggle of Apai Jangut and the Sungai Utik customary community in preserving the forest is extraordinary, especially with the strong leadership of Apai and the community's commitment to protecting the forest. This is unique because indigenous communities are often divided. What often happens is that even village or traditional leaders sell land to companies due to economic needs. This is what led Yani Saloh to propose Apai Janggut as a nominee for the Equator Prize 2019.

"I nominated Sungai Utik for the Equator and Kalpataru more out of personal interest, seeing their struggle and incredible commitment to forest conservation," explained Saloh. Yani Saloh submitted The Equator Prize 2019 and later accompanied Apai Janggut to receive it in America.

The Equator Prize from the UN is a form of recognition of the Cultural Values of the Iban Dayak in Sungai Utik, pioneered by Apai Janggut. As the head of the community around Sungai Utik, the local people successfully protected the area from the threat of encroachment and industrial expansion.

The concept of sustainable forest in Sungai Utik is simple but meaningful. It is expressed in the background text that not only adorns his painting: We don't ask for more and don't want less As long as in the forest there are still game and medicine In the river, there are still fish And in the fields, rice is still abundant That is sustainability --Apai Janggut

Tacit Knowledge of Apai Janggut

In recent days, as a nation, we have been discussing the statement of the Minister of Education and Culture. According to the Minister, we are now entering the era of competence, not just degrees.

Pros and cons are echoing, going viral everywhere, especially on social media. As a newsworthy event, we perceive that statement as "incomplete," detached from context. That's the media's job, how to "spoon" out and take just a piece of words and events, to turn it into a commodity. This is what Cirrino (1971) called "media bias." So, we need to be critical and place it in context.

Perhaps what the Minister meant is, "Not only degrees are important but also competence." Only the combination of both makes someone exceptionally great. Why?

The answer lies in a diagram, which states that tacit knowledge, the school of life, contributes 95% to a person's life knowledge. The remaining 5% is explicit knowledge gained in schools and colleges.

In terms of tacit knowledge, Minister of Education and Culture, Makarim is correct. This is how Apai Janggut can be placed in a diagram. So, do not underestimate uneducated individuals. Why? Because they possess tacit knowledge, which, in terms of competence in their field, may exceed that of a scholar or even a professor who may not have a hair left on his head.

From the Latin word "tacere," its third person singular "tacit," according to the dictionary, means: silent, not speaking (Latin-Indonesian Dictionary, 847). What is meant, of course, is not silence in the literal sense, mute, or not speaking at all.

Tacit knowledge is knowledge gained not in school or college but through a series of experiences, thoughts, competencies, and commitments. Processed in such a way, through a dialectical process like science and theory, it becomes systematic and methodological knowledge and competence. Someone with tacit knowledge may have reached the level of discovering and building their theories.

In everyday life, we can find and witness figures with extraordinary tacit knowledge. Take, for example, Adam Malik (1917-1984), whom we admire as a self-taught figure. He served as a minister several times, eventually becoming the Vice President of Indonesia (1978-1983).

Also, Mochtar Lubis, a true learner with extraordinary thoughts and experiences, an outstanding Indonesian anthropologist who identified the characteristics of Indonesians and is recognized as an unparalleled finding. Included in the "god" level, these figures with tacit knowledge in Indonesia are Soedjatmoko, Ayip Rosidi, and Bob Sadino— who are they? You can explore them yourself.

That's where Apai Janggut can compete with anyone. Especially in fields such as culture, language (jako dalam), literature, purih (genealogy and history of the Iban tribe), ensera (epic stories), biodiversity, natural intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence (martial arts and warfare), inter and intra-personal intelligence, verbal and linguistic intelligence, and many more.

The Tale of Apai Janggut

Then why does this "Bujang Tuai" (unmarried man) maintain a beard? How long has it been?

"One night, I had a dream. In that dream, I met Kumang. Kumang told me to maintain this beard," he recounted, while stroking the mark of wisdom.

The Iban people in ancient times did not know epics, mythology, let alone ancient Greek philosophy. Or Latin scripture literature in ancient Rome. So, the story of Bandi's beard and his narration is truly authentic.

Apai's beard is truly impressive. The 7th generation descendant of Keling and Kumang (the Romeo and Juliet of the Dayak people) truly follows the Kumang's Testament. (Masri Sareb Putra)

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