The Rite of Passage for Mohd Aqif Akmal bin Asri
(Photos by @joehairie)
“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions. “– Paulo Cuelho
The Story Line of the Kenduri
curiostraveller.com is not only about food, hotels and vacation. We write things about culture as well so that our international friends will be able to have deeper understanding about the way Sabahan people upheld traditions. The Malay people in Sabah (across Malaysia as well) do have their own tradition and for this entry we will unearth the Cukur Jambul ceremony. Cukur jambul is the baby’s very first haircut, done in accordance with Malay tradition. It is an important rite of passage for a Malay baby. In some families, a cukur jambul is very much an occasion for the extended family to come together, renew bonds and welcome the new baby into the clan.
Many cultures around the world practice some form of tonsure ritual for newborns or babies. Some remove just a few locks; others call for baby’s hair to be completely shaved. Both seem to be acceptable for the cukur jambul (also known in northern Malaysia as berendoi). The cukur jambul ceremony generally coincides with the end of the confinement period (pantang) observed by the new mother, which lasts between 40 and 44 days. This ceremony normally being addressed as Kenduri Cukur Jambul. A big and lavish kenduri is not mandatory. A low-key and intimate affair with only close family members can be just as meaningful. Some new parents choose to hold no party at all.
Guests of Honor had their turns for the ritual (Images above and below)
It’s weeks away from Ramadhan Month actually when this ceremony was held so the Remimi’s decided to start the Kenduri with Tahlil ceremony or in Malay, Kenduri Arwah. Such kenduri is normally held right before the Ramadhan Month. This particular kenduri is a ceremony practiced largely by Malay Muslims in Malaysia to pray for those who passed away, usually held within days after the burial or once in a year. This ceremony is perhaps close in its meaning to memorial ceremony in English term. There will be some recital of prayers in this kenduri, praying for the well being of dearly departed. Soon after the recital ended, it’s turn for Mohd Aqif’s keduri Cukur Jambul.
Mohd Aqif’s ceremony had been held in his grandmother’s house in Kampung Ketiau, Putatan, Sabah on May 21, 2016. The Remimi’s had invited the entire kampung to the kenduri, where they served up traditional and delectable foods. In a traditional cukur jambul, the baby’s hair is tonsured and then ultimately buried in the ground. The closest family members are always invited to witness the event. Usually, prayers are recited or sung (also known as marhaban or berzanji). Everything in-between depends largely on family tradition and regional customs. The cukur jambul usually begins with a reading from the Quran or the marhaban or berzanji.
The new father or mother then carries the baby to each person who will snip off a lock – usually grandparents, family or village elders, members of the marhaban or berzanji group, and religious leaders. It is customary (though not compulsory) for those who do the honors to present the baby with a little gift in cash or kind. The locks are put into either a bowl of water or a young coconut cut and shaped into a bowl. In some families, it is also customary to weigh the locks and donate its weight in gold (or the cash equivalent) to the poor and needy. Once the ceremony ends, this hair is then buried.
Another important element in the cukur jambul is the dulang or ceremonial tray which holds the scissors and the young coconut (or bowl of water). Often, these are accompanied by daun kunyit (turmeric leaves) and bunga rampai (fragrant bouquet which usually includes pandan leaves, jasmine and frangipani).
Guests are usually then served food and drinks. These days, it is common to see traditional Malay dishes such as nasi briyani, nasi minyak, kambing guling, ayam masak merah and gulai daging served alongside chocolate cakes and Western fare. And while it used to be that guests were presented with a quintessentially Malay bunga telur (a hardboiled egg enclosed within a single flower) as a party favor.
Behind the scene
Let’s have a look at how things were done accordingly before the ceremony start. The Remimi’s family members gathered and helped each other in preparing the dishes, layout of the ceremony hall and so on. They started since early morning that day, preparing raw materials for cooking as well as packing the gifts meant for the guests.
Introducing The Remimi’s and guests of honor
Buffet Line Up
“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”- W.Somerset Maugham
“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.”-Lemony Snicket