Total population 510,000
Regions with significant populations Sarawak coastal region
Language Melanau & Malay
Religion Islam & Christianity

The Melanau are a people who live on the island of Borneo, primarily in Sarawak, Malaysia, but also in Kalimantan, Indonesia. They are among the earliest settlers of Sarawak, and speak a Northwest Malayo-Polynesian language (see Melanau language).



The Melanau were in the 19th Century, settled in scattered communities along the main tributaries of the Rajang River in Central Sarawak. Melanau or problematic Kajang [1] speaking tribes such as the Sekapan, the Rajang, the Tanjung and the Kanowits gradually moved and assimilated into Dayak migrations settling in the Rajang. The Punan [2] (or Punan Bah) today are closely linked to the last riverine dwelling Melanau communities previously inhabiting the middle and upper Rejang tributaries. The Kajang language is kept relatively alive by the isolated Sekapan communities Kapit division of Sarawak.

The Melanau are considered among the earliest settlers in Sarawak. The name Melanau was not used by the Melanau to refer to themselves until recently. They call themselves a-likou meaning 'people of the river'. Legend has it that the name Melanau was given by one of the Sultans of Brunei to the inhabitants of the coastal swamp flats and riverbanks of central Sarawak.[citation needed]

Eda Green, writing in 1909, referred to "...the Milanaus, whose girls are as fair as any Europeans and the belles of Borneo."[1]


Grouping-wise,the Melanaus can be classified into the followings;-1) Melanau Mukah,2) Melanau Dalat,3) Melanau Oya, 4)Melanau Matu-Daro,5) Melanau Belawai-Rajang,6) Melanau Ba'ie (Bintulu),7) Melanau Balingian and 8) Melanau Miri;the largest being the Matu-Daro group. Each group has its own characteristic dialect but they all share the same cultural and lingual background (Exception would be the Melanau Bintulu dialect which can hardly be understood by the rest. Many linguists feel that it hardly fits into the Melanau language grouping). The Melanau languages have been divided in the following eleven dilects: 1)Mukah, 2)Balingian, 3)Oya, 4)Dalat, 5)Matu-Daro, 6)Rajang, 7)Kanowit, 8)Sibu, 9)Bintulu, 10)Seru and 11)Tanjong.[2]

Another Melanau group worth mentioning and inclusion is the Melanau Igan. They live in kampungs by Igan River (example : Kampung Skrang, Kampung Tengah, Kampung Hilir.) that borders the Mukah - (Matu-Daro) district. The main language is Melanau.However some speak local Malay dilect. This group of Melanau is probably all Muslims. They mainly adopt the Malay culture eventhough some of the Melanau cultures are still being maintained.It's believed that this group was originally Malays who settled in the area. However, mixed intermarriages with the Melanaus over generations produced new generations who considered themselves Melanaus.

Similar to the Igan Melanaus ancestral beginnings, many Melanaus who had migrated to different areas in Sarawak experienced the same transformation. A group of Matu Melanaus settled in Bintawa area in Kuching after World War 2. However their offsprings, eventhough mostly Melanaus by blood, normally donot speak the language. They are considered as Malays. However as a point of interest, the new secondary school built in Bintawa Kuching in 2007 is named SMK Matu Baru. Many areas in Kuching notably Petra Jaya, Lundu and Santubong do have a significant Melanau population. Miri the oil town, Bintulu the gas town, Sibu the riverine town are also places where there is a significant Melanau population. However the 'Bin' which mean "son of" and 'Binti', meaning "daughter of" factors in all their names (be they are Muslim, Christian or "Likou") had probably confused the census workers (read the following paragraph). One of the reasons the Muslim Melanau 'migrated' to become Malay is that during the registration of birth of the new borns, they will automatically being assumed as Malay if the parents don't inform the Birth&Death Registertion officer of their racial preferance .

Culture & economy

The Melanau were traditionally fishermen as well as padi and sago farmers. Some were skilled boat builders. They used to live in tall stilted and long houses, but nowadays, they live in a Malaysian kampung-style houses (individual & separated houses). Because of religious similarity, the majority of Melanaus live socially and culturally like the rest of the Malays in Malaysia.

It is one of the rare ethnic groups in Malaysia which hardly grows or increases in its population. This is because the Muslim Melanaus that have migrated to bigger towns in Sarawak have "automatically" become Malays especially during the National Census Operation as their names (and many times the language the elders use with their children at homes) are inseparable from the Sarawak local Malays. This has helped the Malay population of Sarawak to have significantly increased in the census.

All the Melanaus have a 'Bin' (son of) and 'Binti' (daughter of) in their names similar to the Malays[3] and it is also likely that the Christian Melanaus too were designated as Malays in the census.

The current population statistics showed the Melanaus at about 96,000. However amongst the Bumiputeras or ethnic groups in Sarawak, Malaysia, the Melanaus has the highest population growth the last 5 years. The continuous 'cross-breeding' through inter-marriages between the Melanaus and other races in Malaysia has also caused the mysterious disappearance of the Melanau identity. Data from some private research estimated that the actual Melanau population (in Malaysia and outside Malaysia) is much higher.

Being migrants in the early days, Melanaus are found almost everywhere in Sarawak. Sadly, though their children know their roots,many of them cannot speak or even understand their Melanau languge.Intentionally or unintentionally, many of them registered themselves as other races, mostly as Malays. In some cases,their parents, both Melanaus, prefer to speak to their children using Malay or English. This language trend is mainly found in the towns and cities in Sarawak. There has been little efforts done to preserve the Melanau dialects and to teach the current Melanau generation continuous usage of their own dialects.

The gradual disappearance of the Melanau cultures and dialects is further aggravated by the absence of qualified Melanau staff members handling the documentation on the Melanaus cultures and history in the 'Majlis Adat Istiadat' department in Sarawak. This department is involved in the preservation and documentation of the cultures and histories of the various ethnic groups in Sarawak. The Melanaus are slowly being emulsified into other cultures. The Melanau Kaul festival will only serve as a reminder of the Melanau Pagan ritual.


While originally animists, the majority of the Melanaus are now Muslim, although some of them, especially among the Melanau Mukah, Rajang and Dalat are Christian. Nonetheless, many still celebrate traditional rites such as the annual Kaul Festival. Despite their different beliefs and religions, the Melanaus, like the rest of East Malaysians (Sabah and Sarawak) are very tolerant of each other and they rightly feel proud of their tolerance. We would still come across a Melanau family with different child family members embracing Christianity and Islam while their parents still have strong animist belief.

Melanau Calendar

The Melanau have their own calendar which begins in March. The New Year is celebrated during the Kaul Festival.

Notable Melanau people

  • Pangeran Matusin
Mukah Governor during Sultanate Brunei
  • Orang Kaya Selair
Leader of Matu district before and during reign of Brooke Dynasty
  • Orang Kaya Srigunim
Women who become a leader of Jemoreng district during reign of Brooke Dynasty, killed during pregnancy by her rival
  • Sawing
One of the Sharif Masahor army leader during attack on Kanowit Fort 1859, who killed Henry Steel & Charles Fox
  • Salakai
Sawing close friend who fought together during attack on Kanowit Fort 1859.
  • Mohamad Taufan Mohamad Yassin
Social Activist and editor of &
The fourth and current longest serving Chief Minister of Sarawak, father of Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, a politician & Mahmud Bekir Taib, corporate figure.
The third Chief Minister of Sarawak, who preceded the current Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and the Fourth TYT (Governor) of Sarawak.
  • Ahmad Zaidi Adruce Muhammad Nor
The fifth TYT of Sarawak.
The sixth and current TYT of Sarawak.
Former Minister in The Prime Minister Department (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration).
  • Leo Michael Toyad (aka Datuk Sri Dr. Mohammad Leo Toyad)
Ex-Federal Minister(Foreign Affairs).Chairman, Sarawak Conventions Bureau.
  • Wahab Dollah (aka Datuk Wahab Dollah)
Member of Parliament.
the son of Abdul Taib Mahmud. A Corporate figure who also Kota Samarahan Parliamentary Member.
  • Datin Hjh Fatimah Abdullah@Ting Sai Ming.
DUN Assemblywoman and Minister of Welfare, Woman & Family Affair in the Sarawak state cabinet.Married to a well-known educationist. Deputy Chairman Women Organisation Sarawak.
  • Datuk Hj Hamden Hj Ahmad
former DUN Assemblyman and Former Assistant Minister of Youth and Tourism.Corporate figure (Oil-palm plantation)
  • Abu Seman Jahwie
DUN Assemblyman. Former Deputy Superintendent Customs. Secretary Party PBB Sarawak.
  • Hang Tuah Merawin
Resident, Kapit Division.
  • Hj Sarudu Hoklai
Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Planning(Sarawak). Former Resident, Mukah, Kota Samarahan and Kapit(Sarawak).
  • Akit Sebli
Former Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism Sarawak.
  • Datuk Hj Adi Badiozaman Tuah.
Well-known educationist. Former Education Director (Examinations)Malaysia. Director (Education) for Yayasan Islam Sarawak.
  • Dr Haji Mohamad Topek Taufek Nahrawi
Businessman, Developer & Contractor, Former Deputy Chairman of SEDC, Academic
  • Yusuf Hadi (aka Prof Datu Dr. Yusuf Hadi)
Academician UNIMAS.
  • Sulaiman Hanapi (aka Prof. Dr. Sulaiman Hanapi)
Academician UNIMAS.
  • Rashid Abdullah (aka Datuk Prof. Dr Rashid Abdullah)
Academician UNIMAS.
  • Len Talip Salleh (aka Datu Len Salleh)
Forestry Expert; member of state legislative council (ADUN); Deputy Minister.
  • Aloysius Dris (aka Datuk Aloysius Dris)
Director, Sarawak Tourism Board.
  • Edmund Kurui.
Former Assistant Curator Sarawak Muzium.
  • Hamid Sepawi (aka Datuk Hamid Sepawi)
Corporate Leader. CEO of Naim Cendera Group, well known property & housing developer and public listed company)
  • Hasmi Hasnan (aka Datuk Hasmi Hasnan)
Corporate Leader. Managing Director of Naim Group
  • Len Bubat
Melanau Song Composer/Producer (First Melanau Original Song Album 2002).
  • Sahari Ubu
Staff Sergeant Royal Corps of Signal British Army 1962 Staff No 23895416.
Penghulu Kampung Nangka, Sibu.
  • Rohani Abdullah (aka Prof Dr. Rohani Abdullah @ Josephine Yaman)
Academician UPM.
  • Tuan Haji Mohamad Atei Abang Medaan
Mayor (Datuk Bandar) of Kuching North (Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara (DBKU))
  • Datuk Dr Yusof Hanifah
Former Mayor of Kuching North (Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara (DBKU))
  • Mohd Hafiz Mohd Suip (Hafiz)
Singer and winner of Akademi Fantasia, Season 7
  • Rapaee Kawi (a.k.a Apai or Mashor) (1958–2009)
Ex-Commando, Sarawak most senior national press photographer and the first Sarawakian to scale Mount Everest.(Sarawak Book of Amazing Facts And Records) On May 21, 2009, he died suddenly while undergoing a medical checkup at the Jalan Masjid Polyclinic in Kuching.
  • Associate Professor Dr Haji Abdul Mutalip Abdullah
The former Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences UNIMAS
  • Sharifah Zarina.
A singer most notable for her hit, "Langit Ke-7"
  • Dr. Junaidi bin Hj. Diki
Pakar Perubatan Kesihatan Awam/ Timbalan Pengarah Perubatan HUS, Kuching.


  1. ^ Eda Green (1909). "Borneo: The Land of River and Palm". Project Canterbury. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  2. ^ Melanau Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version
  3. ^

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См. также в других словарях:

  • melanau — mel·a·nau …   English syllables

  • melanau — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Melanau–Bintulu languages — Melanau–Bintulu Melanau–Kajang Geographic distribution: Borneo Linguistic classification: Austronesian Malayo Polynesian North Bornean …   Wikipedia

  • Melanau language — Melanau Spoken in Malaysia, Brunei Region Sarawak and neighboring Brunei Native speakers 113 280  ({{{speakersdate}}}) Language family Austronesian …   Wikipedia

  • Melanau calendar — Contents 1 Melanau Universe[1] 2 Structure of the Calendar 3 The Name of the Months 4 The Meaning of each Month[2] …   Wikipedia

  • Central Melanau — ISO 639 3 Code : mel ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Daro-Matu Melanau — ISO 639 3 Code : dro ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Kanowit-Tanjong Melanau — ISO 639 3 Code : kxn ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Sibu Melanau — ISO 639 3 Code : sdx ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Sarawak — For the river, see Sarawak River. Sarawak   State   Land of The Hornbills …   Wikipedia

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