For Cocos Malays, as in many others cultures, rituals commonly take the form of meals. Usually, these take place at the host's house. Dozens of guests are invited. Women prepare the food during the day and then men pray and eat before sunset prayers. These kind of meals are sometimes called "kenduri" or "selametan". I've been told that they used also to be called "kondangan". In this blog, I provide a little more detail on a typical ritual meal.
Nulung (helping out)
The first stage is the helping out or nulung. Female guests provide, individually, cash in an envelope (selawet) and, together, the labour (preparing the food). Whether these guests are invited or expected, and the extent to which this is implicit or explicit, is unclear to me. Food preparation takes them from the morning till about 4pm. At some point in the day, usually earlier, some of the male guests will drop off cartons of drink bottles and cans (water, soft drinks etc.)
|Eating some of the food prepared.|
It was also very touching to have Mak Azaha go to each of the grandmothers and mothers who had been helping nulung for this final kenduri the 1000 days. She had a bowl full of slawet money and personally spoke to each one almost in a hugging fashion to say “thank you so much for being there” and the grandmothers like Nek Azrin nodded and said a comforting word. It seemed like they were exchanging a tear or two with Mak Azaha, which they then wiped away on their tudung (veils). After the women had their lunch they also said their goodbyes to Mak Azaha and her mother Nek Azaha; more tears and heartfelt expressions accompanied this. One grandmother comforted Nek Azaha (whose husband passed away) with the observation she still has her daughter and she also has 4 grandchildren. I wish I had said something heartfelt I think I was lost for words and only said terima kasih; I really regret I couldn’t think of anything more to say.
Ngaji (praying and chanting)
|The men inside have just finished praying and |
chanting and are getting their take-away bags
Jemput Makan (eating together)
|Waiting to start eating|
|Female guests' turn to eat|
During rituals, our actions often have an explicit meaning. Drinking champagne by yourself from a bottle is different from drinking to a toast.
So what does a ritual meal on Home Island mean? In a simple sense it is to 'mark' or 'signify' an event. Go any deeper than this and it gets complicated and controversial, so I'll have to revisit this topic in subsequent blogs. But, if I've piqued your interest, why not look at a short piece I wrote on ritual meals in Java.
In this blog I have used photographs from the ritual meal (kenduri) put on by Matt Macrae and his wife Wak Maureen for their 100 day kenduri of Wak Maureen's father. The fieldnotes excerpt by Monika comes from a kenduri held by Pak and Mak Azaha. Thank you so much to these wonderful hosts and all those involved for allowing Monika and me to take part!