A few months after baby Sierra Qhadeja was born (you can check out her birth here), the family performed the traditional Malay ritual of "cukur jambul", a Malay baby's rite of passage. 

Cukur jambul is the baby's very first haircut, done in accordance with Malay tradition. It is an important rite of passage for a Malay baby. In some families, a cukur jambul is very much an occasion for the extended family to come together, renew bonds and welcome the new baby into the clan. 

 

Many cultures around the world practise some form of tonsure ritual for newborns or babies. Some remove just a few locks; others call for baby's hair to be completely shaved. Both seem to be acceptable for the cukur jambul (also known in northern Malaysia as berendoi). The cukur jambul ceremony generally coincides with the end of the confinement period (pantang) observed by the new mother, which lasts between 40 and 44 days, or within the year after birth depending on the family's decision. [Read more]

 

All photographs taken using Canon EOS 1Ds MKII. Click on the images below to expand. No captions available.

 

[ click here for part 2 | back to documentary gallery | about "cukur jambul" ]

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In a traditional cukur jambul, the baby's hair is tonsured and then ultimately buried in the ground. The closest family members are always invited to witness the event. Everything in-between depends largely on family tradition and regional customs. The cukur jambul usually begins with a reading from the Quran or the marhaban or berzanji. The new father or mother then carries the baby to each person in attendance who will snip off a lock – usually grandparents, family or village elders, members of the marhaban or berzanji group, and religious leaders. It is customary (though not compulsory) for those who do the honors to present the baby with a little gift in cash or kind. The locks are put into either a bowl of water or a young coconut cut and shaped into a bowl. In some families, it is also customary to weigh the locks and donate its weight in gold (or the cash equivalent) to the poor and needy. Once the ceremony ends, this hair is then buried. 

 

Another important element in the cukur jambul is the dulang or ceremonial tray which holds the scissors and the young coconut (or bowl of water). Often, these are accompanied by daun kunyit (turmeric leaves), bunga rampai (fragrant bouquet which usually includes pandan leaves, jasmine and frangipani), and perhaps some honey and dates. Guests are usually then served food and drinks, at times prepared as a kenduri (or feast).

 

These days, it is common to see traditional Malay dishes such as nasi briyani, nasi minyak, kambing guling, ayam masak merah and gulai daging served alongside chocolate cakes and Western fare. And while it used to be that guests were presented with a quintessentially Malay bunga telur (a hardboiled egg enclosed within a single flower) as a party favor, these days they are sent off with sweets and cakes.

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

© Evan Hwong Photographs

Sierra's Cukur Jambul
Sierra's Cukur Jambul

Click below to be redirected to Part 2. © Evan Hwong Photographs

 

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