June 4, 2011

Special Natural Adhesive from the Insect Malau

The white coloured malau leaves behind a gift for the Ibans and the Bidayuhs in the jungle. Older generations go about the jungles looking for a hardened matter left by the Malau after they have feasted on the tree barks. It is not exactly easy to find these precious "resin".


This is the unprocessed bit of hardened secretion left by the Malaus



Smaller pieces scraped from a tree in the jungle.


This is a tubular piece of processed (cleaned too) of malau. The shape is due to melting of the malau resin in a bamboo canister by my sister in law who is an expert in looking for malau. This piece (which she calls "baka tai/like shit")can last for a long long time and will not "expire". So there is no used by date for this product.

One of the uses of malau is to fix the parang or duku handle on to the sharp blade. The malau is so permanent that the Ibans and Bidayuhs in the longhouse do not often have trouble caused by lose handles!!


This is my sister-in-law's small parang used for cutting grass or slashing in the farm. The notebook indicates the slender form of the parang.

Besides using the malau as a strong adhesive the "resin" is useful as a kind of aromatherapy. My great grandmother was famous for farming alone in the Medamit farm and would be able to stay for weeks in her little langkau without fear because she was accompanied by the aromatic power of the malau.

When young children cry a lot at night the malau is burnt for several hours to chase away the evil spiritis which are disturbing the children.

The malau can also be melted and added to some oil to make a special kind of perfume. However this practice has been discontinued because commercial perfumes have flooded the market and pushed the malau off the home shelves about thirty years ago!!

However it remains a very significant household adhesive which is beyond compare.

I hope to collect some specimens for some detailed study and I do hope that people would start becoming interested in this very ancient jungle product again.

10 comments:

sintaicharles said...

Thanks for the precious information.

"My great grandmother was famous for farming alone in the Medamit farm and would be able to stay for weeks in her little langkau without fear because she was accompanied by the aromatic power of the malau."

I gather from what you wrote that Malau is a good snake repellent. Do I make the right guess.It must have been able to confuse a snake's chemosensory systems.

Anonymous said...

hi Sarawakiana,how about Damar ? i ever use Damar or kemenyan to fix my golok handle. so far,!st i come across or knew about Malau in your post( still same old sakai,i am....hehehe)

- Ah Ngao

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Charles...I do enjoy learning all about these things from our environment. It is interesting to note how we can confuse a snake's chemosensory systems!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao..damar is a tree resin...many people have forgotten about it already. Malau is available in Kuching I heard. Only kampong people know about it. And if you are Sakai...you would know it too...not the other way round. hehehehehe

Anonymous said...

Is the resin a secretion by insects???? Please enlighten me.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous
Resin is a fluid which is found in certain trees in Tropical jungles and in Malaysia in particular. When trees are hurt a fluid would seep out. Upon drying this fluid becomes resin.
Up till now I do believe that scientists have not really make conclusive studies as to why trees have special resins which are so valued in Asia. And why some trees don't have resin too. I suppose God is a might creator!!

Ann said...

in NZ, they used to dig kauri gum.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I think many of the indigenous people know where some of the best natural products can be found.

Anonymous said...

Kauri gum is also found in Sarawak. ts scientific name is Agathis. You have a different species in NZ. whitish to yellowish Damar produced by Agathis is burned to produce light in longhouses before the advent of electricity. Sadly most bindang trees have now been logged for its beautiful yoellow wood good for indoor furniture and panelling. Most comes from the UluBaram.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...thanks for the added info...It is new to me that Damar was used to light longhouses before kerosene and candles!!

To me damar was more used in the making of boats etc...thanks. I am sad that bindang trees have almost died out!! The Baram continues to be "exploited" with no sustaining programme at all.

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