The Dayak ethnic group is the indigenous people of Indonesia’s Kalimantan Island. Their tradition is undoubtedly fascinating to those who wish to explore the many cultural aspects still unknown to many. One among the numerous Dayak traditional handicrafts is perahu naga (dragon boat), a popular gift or souvenir. One’s first impression is that its material is made of wood, but more careful inspection reveals that wood is only a complement since the main material is sap from the Nyatu tree, an exotic tree that only grows in Kalimantan. Pransius is one artist who has devoted himself to dragon boat handicraft over the last 15 years. He acquired his craftsmanship skills from his parents, skills that have traditionally been passed down from generation to generation.
Another shot of Dayak Dragon Boat HandicraftUsing natural sap from the Nyatu tree requires that one first boil the sap to make it softer. After dirt is removed from this natural sap, it is then clean enough to use directly, or alternatively can be colored with textile dye substance. Only then can one start to create a dragon boat according to the design. Wood is utilized only for the dragon’s basic framework. The exterior must be layered with rubber so that it can be connected to other forms. An experienced artist can make 5 small dragon boats (length 20 centimeters) per day. Pransius sells his in the range of Rp 125,000 to Rp 150,000, depending on basic materials used. He also takes customized orders from customers, and once he even had a commission for a one meter-long dragon boat with more complicated details. Maintenance is not difficult since dragon boats are waterproof. Exposure to excessive heat or direct sunlight should be avoided, since the rubber can be compromised.”