Controversy arises in Singkawang Regarding the Hornbill Monument

The Hornbill Monument: a symbol of the Dayak in the city of Singkawang. Source: YNN's FB.

Enggang, ruai, kenyalang—not just bird names to the Dayak people, but deeply-rooted symbols in their cultural identity.

Singkawang is situated in the northern part of the province. It is approximately 145 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan.

To reach Singkawang from Pontianak, you can travel by various means of transportation, including car, bus, or motorcycle.

The journey typically takes around 3 to 4 hours by road, depending on traffic conditions and the mode of transportation chosen.

With a global population of around 8.5 million individuals, the Dayak ethnic group comprises 7 main clusters (stammenras) and 405 subgroups. 

Among these diverse communities, the hornbill holds a special place as a symbol of unity and strength.

Hornbill: a symbol of loftiness and beauty

In his work, Sellato refers to the hornbill as a "hornbill," emphasizing its significance across various languages and cultures.

Except for the Lundayeh and Lun Bawang groups, the Dayak community as a whole regards the hornbill as a creature that is clean, intelligent, agile, strong, possessing sharp instincts, capable of soaring high, and possessing broad wisdom. This bird reflects the qualities they strive to possess and cherish.

The reverence for the hornbill is reflected in monuments and statues dedicated to it throughout Borneo.

In Pontianak, for instance, such acknowledgments can be found in Dayak traditional houses and even in the cathedral, highlighting its spiritual and cultural significance. Similarly, Singkawang also boasts monuments dedicated to the hornbill.

Controversy arises

However, controversy arises in Singkawang regarding the hornbill monument. Some argue that the monument deviates from religious values, sparking criticism and condemnation.

The controversy, criticisms, and rejections surrounding the hornbill monument in Singkawang are indeed surprising, given that Singkawang is known and praised as one of the "Cities of Tolerance" in Indonesia. This raises the question: how does tolerance occur if understanding cultural symbols is directed towards specific ethnic beliefs, causing discomfort to others?

Based on data obtained from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) of Singkawang City in 2021, the percentage of ethnic populations in Singkawang is as follows: Chinese ethnicity 40.38%, Malay ethnicity 36.72%, Dayak ethnicity 7.26%, and others 15.64%.

Tolerance should encompass not only acceptance of diverse ethnic

Tolerance should encompass not only acceptance of diverse ethnic and cultural practices but also respect for differing interpretations and expressions of cultural symbols. It's crucial for communities to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding to navigate such complexities and uphold the principles of tolerance effectively.

Amidst this dispute, there lies a deeper question: What is the true meaning of the hornbill for the Dayak people?

It's a complex interplay between cultural symbolism, spiritual beliefs, and individual interpretation. (X-5)

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