18/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Typical Ede long house

The long houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but also the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede people are kept. The preservation of those houses in the villages of the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.

Ảnh: Lê Cương
The long house of Ede people.

Ảnh: Thịnh Phát
The front veranda is also the place for talks and relaxation..

Ảnh: Minh Quốc
Elder Amara Hrin blowing the dinh nam musical instrument.

Ảnh: Kim Sơn
The elephant (in Don Hamlet, Central Highlands) can pick up tourists right from the long house’s front veranda..

Ảnh: Kim Sơn
In the aisle of the long house.

Ảnh: Lê Cương
The back veranda reserved for family members only.
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The long houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but also the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede people are kept. The preservation of those houses in the villages of the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.

Long, long ago, Dak Lak was inhabited by the Ede Kpa locals. About 50 such houses formed a commune along Ea Tam Spring under the management of tribe chief Ama Thuot. In the early years of the 20th century, the powerful commune became the heart of the vast Central Highlands, and derived its name of Buon Ma Thuot from the chief. It isnbsp;nbsp; common practice of the Ede people to have up to four generations living in a same large house called the sang. These houses made of wood and bamboo and sitting on stilts are long enough for dozens of people to live in. The dwellers in the houses seldom build new houses to replace the old ones but, instead, they would rather make the existing houses longer for living space for new members. And this is why those houses are often called the long houses by locals.

The matriarchal Ede families often consist of three groups of people: female of maternal families, male of maternal families and male not of maternal families. Women of the oldest group would be the family heads. Upon their death, the power comes to the hand of their last daughters. In case their last daughters are too young to manage the families, their eldest sisters will shoulder the responsibility and hand it back to their destined sisters when they grow up.

The long houses are always divided into three parts: verandas, visitors' corners and bedrooms. There are two verandas attached to each house: front (dring gah) and back (dring ok). The dring gah is often large, used to sundry the families' harvest, prepare the rice for meals in the morning and rest in the afternoon. The dring ok is often smaller and provides space for the bathroom and kitchen. There are often two sets of stairs leading up to the dring gah while there is only one to the dring ok reserved for family members only. Dring gah is connected to the most important space, the visitors' corner (called gah) that occupies from one-third to half of the total space. This is the place to welcome visitors and for the common activities of the large family. It is also where visitors can have a look at valuable and holy objects of the Ede people like drums, gongs, liquor jars, antlers, etc. Next to the visitors' corners are bedrooms (ok) for branch families along the aisle that leads to the back veranda. The long houses are places where community activities are often organized.

Village elder Amara Hrin, happy from both the story on the long houses and the local liquor, stopped talking and reached for the dinh nam, a musical instrument made from six bamboo pieces connected to the shell of a dried gourd. The low-tone music continued for a while before it attracted youngster Y son who joined his maternal grandfather with a flute. Listening to the music, inhaling the smoke from the barbecue and sipping local jar liquor together with locals, visitors would find themselves in "Dam Di out for hunting," an epic episode by Y Dup. Part of it says: "Dam Di's house boasts stairs wide enough for four people to walk side by side at the same time. At the end of the stairs, a pair of glossy wooden breasts provides a support for both down-going and up-going people. The stairs are so steep that whether going up or down, the walkers touch their chests to the rungs of the stairs. The floor of Dam Di's house is made from long wooden planks and covered with shiny bamboo. At the end of the floor there is a drum that stands as high as the beams. A large heap of howdah is seen at the end of the floor, under which packs of salt, dried fish and smoked meat are hung. Shoulder-to-shoulder, people are busily preparing foods and drinks. Shelves are filled with gongs. In front of the house, long strings of the jaws of hunted deer and boar are hung..."

Only with those words from the epic could a visitor understand that the long houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but also the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede people are kept. Through the political, economic and social upheavals as well as the vigorous cultural exchanges among the residential communities, the new generations of the Ede people have changed their way of life in the direction of separating from their large families and the matriarchy is fading away. As a result, the number of the long houses is shrinking. However, the preservation of those houses in the villages of the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.

Story: Thinh Phatnbsp;nbsp;

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