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As mentioned earlier in the blog, the Bunga Terung is a deviation of the Mata Aso. Here we will look at the components individually.

bunga terung

The Bunga Terung motif, drawn by Sonny Jumpo.

‘Bunga’ is a Malay word for flower, and ‘Terung’ is Malay for brinjal, or eggplant. Do note that the Iban language contains many words adopted from the Malay language.

eggplant flower

The eggplant flower. Photograph © Juan Buitrago

The frog life cycle is significant to the Iban because of the connotation it has with the coming of age of a young man. This is represented by the coil, or ‘Tali Nyawa’.

According to the diagram, on the 70th day from the frog’s existence as an egg, the tadpole would have begun sprout the beginnings of hind legs. This is drawn in comparison to the Iban custom of a young men going into the jungle alone for the first time to fulfill a certain task, most often, the hunt for the first kill. The phrase for this in Iban is ‘Berjalai’, which means to walk. As the tadpole shows readiness to begin life on land, so is young man who is ready to walk into the world as a grown man. Before the young man embarks on his journey, he will receive two Bunga Terung, one on each shoulder. The Bunga Terung should never be worn as a single design. It must be in a pair to balance and to protect both sides of the body. It should also be noted that it is around this stage of a tadpole’s life cycle that the fully developed and pronounced intestinal coils can be seen through a transparent belly. ‘Tali Nyawa’ directly refers to the coil, and translates as ‘Rope of Life’.


Photograph © Cindy @ http://dipperanch.blogspot.com/


Photograph © Lydia Fucsko

tadpole specimen

Side, top and bottom view of a preserved tadpole specimen. Picture from the Municipality of Caldas, Novas, Goias, Brazil.