The Iban people trace their origins to the Kapuas Lake region of Kalimantan. They are one branch of the Dayak tribe of Borneo. In the past, the Ibans are known as a warrior tribe, having fought members of other tribes aggressively and even practicing head hunting over the years. Today, the Iban people reside mainly in Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei Darussalam. They inhabit longhouses that are known as ‘rumah panjang’.


The origin of the name ‘Iban’ is rather unknown. Early scholars regarded it as originally a Kayan term, ‘hivan’, that means ‘wanderer’. Other Iban, of Sarawak’s First and Second Divisions, used the name ‘Dayak’, and even until today consider ‘Iban’ a borrowed term. The participation of a few Iban in alliances with Malays for coastal piracy in the nineteenth century led to their being called ‘Sea Dayaks’.

Iban Longhouse in Sarawak, in the Heart of Borneo

Iban Longhouse in Sarawak, in the Heart of Borneo

Iban women are superb weavers using the backstrap loom while most men are skilled in the use of the piston bellows. In addition to weaving blankets and other cloths, women weave mats and baskets, sometimes to be sold for a living. The Iban culture can be observed during the annual Gawai Dayak festival that celebrates a bountiful harvest. The Gawai Dayak is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of June every year.