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The Pagan Tribes of Borneo by Charles Hose and William McDougall

Part 4 out of 11

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bark are folded and lashed with rattan to form bow and stern; the
middle part is wedged open with cross-pieces which serve as benches,
and the shell is strengthened with transverse ribs and longitudinal
strips. A serviceable boat capable of carrying several men and their
baggage may be completed in the course of two hours. Such a makeshift
boat is more commonly made by Sea Dayaks.

Of all the interior tribes the Kayans are probably the best
boat-makers; but most of them make their own boats in the same way as
the Kayans. There are, however, a few of the Klemantan sub-tribes who
never attempt to make anything more than a very rough small canoe
of soft wood, and who buy from others what boats they need. This
is a curious instance of the persistent lack of the tradition of a
specialised craft among communities that might have been expected to
acquire it easily from their neighbours.

For ordinary work a rough paddle made from iron-wood is generally used;
the blade and shaft are of one piece; the flat blade, nearly two feet
in length, is widest about six inches below its junction with the
shaft, and from this point tapers slightly to its square extremity;
the shaft is about three feet in length and carries, morticed to its
upper end, a cross-piece for the grip of the upper hand.

A few paddles, especially those made for women, are very finely
shaped and finished, and have their shafts ornamented with carving
of a variety of designs, generally one band of carving immediately
above the blade and a second below the cross-piece. Some of the
Klemantans excel the Kayans in this work, producing very beautiful
women's paddles, sometimes with designs of inlaid lead (Pl. 92).


A Kayan community seldom continues to inhabit the same spot for more
than about a dozen years; though in exceptional instances houses are
continuously inhabited for thirty or even forty years. House-building
is thus a craft of great importance, and the Kayans are seldom content
to build their houses in the comparatively flimsy style adopted
by the Ibans and some of the Klemantans, and even occasionally by
Kenyahs. The main features of the structure of a Kayan long-house
have been described in Chapter IV. Here it remains only to describe
some of the more peculiar and important processes of construction.

The great piles that support the house may be floated down river
from the old house to be used in the construction of the new;
[64] they are not dug from the ground, but are felled by cutting
close to the surface of the ground. The great planks of the floor,
the main cross-beams, and the wooden shingles of the roof, are also
commonly carried from the old house to the new. If a house has been
partially destroyed by fire, no part of the materials of the old
house is used in the construction of the new; for it is felt that
in some indefinable way the use of the old material would render the
new house very liable to the same fate, as though the new house would
be infected by the materials with the ill-luck attaching to the old
house.[65] In such cases, or upon migration to a different river,
the whole of the timbers for the house have to be procured from the
jungle, and shaped, and erected; and the process of construction is
extremely laborious. But once the timber has been brought together
upon the chosen site, the building goes on rapidly, and the whole of a
house some hundreds of yards in length may be substantially completed
within a fortnight. The main supports of the structure are four rows
of massive columns of iron-wood. Holes about four feet in depth are
dug for the reception of the butt ends of these. They are disposed
in the manner indicated in the diagrams (Figs. 37, 38, 39), so that
a single row supports the front of the house, another the back, and a
double row the middle.[66] The intervals between the columns of each
row are about twenty feet, or rather more. Each pile is erected by
raising the one end until the other slips into the hole. Rattans are
tied round it a little above its middle and passed over a tall tripod
of stout poles. A number of men haul on these while others shove up
the top end with their shoulders. The pile is thus suspended with its
butt end resting so lightly on the ground that it can easily be guided
into the hole prepared for its reception. Smaller accessory piles,
to serve as additional supports, are put under the main cross beams of
the floor when these have been laid. The columns of the double row in
the middle line are about six feet taller than those of the front and
back rows. For the support of the floor a massive squared transverse
tie is morticed through each set of four columns at a height of some
fifteen to twenty feet from the ground, and secured by a pin through
each extremity. A squared roof-plate, still more massive than the floor
ties, is then laid upon the crowns of the columns of the front row,
along its whole length, and a second one upon the back row. This is
dowelled upon the columns (I.E. the top of the column is cut to form a
pin which is let into the longitudinal beam); and the beams which make
up the roof-plate are spliced, generally in such a way that the top of
a column serves as the pin of the splice. Each of these heavy beams
is generally lifted into its place by tiers of men standing on poles
lashed at different heights across the columns, their efforts being
seconded by others pulling on rattans which run from the beam over
the topmost cross-pole. The framework of the roof is then completed
by laying stout roof-ties across the crowns of the double row of
columns of the middle line, and lashing their extremities to stout
purlins (longitudinal beams for the support of the rafters in the
middle of their length), and by laying the ridge-timber upon a line
of perpendicular struts. The ridge-timber and purlins, though less
heavy than the roof-plates, consist also of stout squared timbers,
spliced to form beams continuous throughout the whole length of the
house. The rafters are laid at an angle of about forty degrees and
at intervals of eighteen inches; they are lashed to the ridge-timber
and to the purlins, and lipped on to the roof-plates, beyond which
they project about four feet to form an cave. Strong flat strips or
laths are laid along the rafters parallel to the length of the house
at intervals of about sixteen inches. On these are laid the shingles
or slats of iron-wood in regular rows, in just the way in which roof
tiles are laid in this country. Each slat is a slab about
1 x 30 x 12 inches, and is
lashed by a strip of rattan, which pierces its upper end, to one
of the laths. The floor is completed by laying longitudinal joists
of stout poles across the main floor-ties; the poles are notched to
grip the ties. Upon these joists, transversely to them, are laid a
number of flat strips which immediately support the floor planks;
these are kept in place by their own weight.

In a well-built house these planks are between thirty and forty feet
in length, or even more, two to three feet in breadth, and three to
four inches thick. They are made from tough strong timber, but usually
not from the iron-wood trees. They are moved from house to house,
and some of those in use are probably hundreds of years old. A single
tree is generally made to yield two such planks. After being felled
it is split into halves longitudinally in the following way. A deep
groove is cut along one side, and wedges of hard tough wood are driven
in with rough heavy mallets. Deep transverse grooves are then cut in
the rounded surface of each half at intervals of three or four feet;
and the intervening masses of wood are split off. In this way it is
whittled down until it is only some six inche's thick. The plank is
then trimmed down to the desired thickness by blows of the adze struck
across the direction of the grain. The two ends are generally left
untrimmed until the plank has been transported to the site of the
house and has lain there for some time. This prevents its splitting
during the journey to the house and the period of seasoning.

When the floor has been laid, it only remains to make the main
partition wall which separates the gallery from the rooms along
the whole length of the house, and the walls between the several
rooms. These walls are made only some eight or nine feet in height. The
wall of the gallery is made of vertical planks lashed to horizontal
rails whose extremities are let into the columns of the anterior
set of the double median row. The wall thus divides the house into a
narrower front part, the gallery, and a broader back part; the latter
is subdivided by the transverse walls into the series of rooms each
of which accommodates one family.

The work of construction is carried on by all the men of the house;
the women and children lend what aid they can in the way of fetching
and carrying, and in preparing rattans. The ownership of each section
is arranged beforehand; the section of the chief being generally in
the middle, and those of his near relatives on either side of it. Each
man pays special attention to the construction of his own section,
and carries out the lighter work of that part, such as laying the
shingles, with the help of his own household. If any widow is the head
of a household, her section is constructed by her male neighbours or
relatives without payment.

Before beginning the building of a new house favourable omens must
be obtained; and the Kayans would be much troubled if bad omens
were observed during the building, especially during the first few
days. At this time, therefore, children are told off to beat upon
gongs hung about the new site, and so, by scaring away the birds
and obscuring the sound of their cries, to prevent the appearance of
bad omens from their side. Bad omens combined with ill-luck, such as
death, bad dreams, or an attack by enemies during building (even if
this were successfully repelled), would lead to the desertion of a
partially built house and the choice of another site.

All the interior peoples construct their houses on principles
similar to those described above, but with considerable diversity in
detail. The greatest diversity of plan is exhibited by the houses
of Ibans. An Iban community seldom remains in the same house more
than three or four years; it is, no doubt, partly on this account
that their houses are built in a less solid style than those of most
other tribes. The timbers used are lighter; the house is not raised so
high above the ground, and the floor is usually made of split bamboo
in place of the heavy planks used by Kayans and others. The plan of
construction is less regular. The numerous slight supporting piles
pass through the floor of the gallery in all sorts of odd positions;
the only part that is kept clear of them being a narrow gangway that
runs from end to end of the house; it adjoins the private chambers,
and is about four feet in width; it is called TEMPUAN.

Some of the Klemantans make houses very inferior to those of the
Kayans in respect to size, solidity, and regularity of construction;
lashed bamboos largely replace the strongly morticed timber-work
of the better houses; but the worst houses of all are made by those
Punans who have recently adopted the agriculture and settled habits
of the other peoples.

Other Kinds of Wood-working

The building of houses and the shaping of boats are by far the
most important kinds of wood-working; but there are many small
articles of wood in the making of which much skill and ingenuity are
displayed. Among these the shields and parang-sheaths deserve special
mention. The former have been described in Chapter X.

The sword-sheath is made from two slips of hard wood, cut to fit
together exactly, leaving a space accurately shaped for the lodgment
of the sword-blade. The two slips are neatly lashed together with
rattan, and in many cases are elaborately carved with varieties of
a peculiar conventional design in relief (see vol. i., p. 240).

Dishes of iron-wood, now almost superseded by European earthenware,
were formerly in general use (Figs. 6 and 7). Their shapes are very
good; the dish is generally provided with one or two "ears" or flanges
for the grip of the hands, and these are cunningly decorated with
carved designs or inlaid pieces of shell or pottery. Some have a spout
opposite the single handle. The hollowing and general shaping of such
dishes is done with a small adze, and they are finished with the knife.

Basket-work, etc.

The weaving of baskets, mats, and caps is one of the most important
handicrafts of the Kayans. It is chiefly practised by the women,
though the men help in collecting and preparing the materials. The
material chiefly used is strips of rattan. A rattan about one-third of
an inch in diameter is split into five strips, and the inner surface
of each strip is smoothed with a knife; but the stems of several
other jungle-plants are also used.

The most important of the baskets (Pl. 43), are the following:
The large one used for carrying PADI from the farms to the house;
the small basket hung on the back by a pair of shoulderstraps, and
always carried by the men on going far from home; the fish-baskets;
large baskets provided with lids and kept in the rooms for storing
clothing and other personal valuables; the winnowing trays, and the
large rough basket used for carrying on the back water-vessels or
any other heavy objects (Fig. 41).

Of the mats (see Pl. 43), the principal are the mat worn round the
waist for sitting upon; the large mats spread for seating several
persons in the gallery or private chambers; those spread on the
floor for catching the winnowed rice, or on the platforms outside
the gallery for exposing and drying the PADI before pounding it;
the mat which every person spreads to sleep upon.

Most of these baskets and mats are made from narrow strips of rattan
varying from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch according to the size and use of
the article; the strips are closely woven with great regularity. The
commonest arrangement is for two sets of strips to cross one another
at right angles, each strip passing over and under two of the opposed
set. The basket-work so made is very pliable, tough, and durable. The
standard shapes are worked out with great precision. The Kayans are
generally content to make strong serviceable basket-ware without
ornamentation; but in a large proportion of basket-ware of this kind
made by the other peoples, strips of rattan dyed black are combined
with those of the natural pale yellow colour, and very effective
patterns are thus worked in. The dyeing of the strips is effected by
soaking them in a dye obtained by beating out in water the soft stem
and leaves of a plant known as TARUM. The dark stain is rendered still
blacker by subsequently burying the strips in the mud of the river for
some ten days, or by washing them in lime. The dyed strips are then
jet black with a fine polished surface, and the dye is quite permanent.

A form of mat-work deserving special notice is the LAMPIT, the mat
used largely for sleeping and sitting upon. It is made of stout
strips of rattan lying parallel to one another, and held together by
strings threaded through the strips at right angles to their length
at intervals of four or five inches. This mat has an extremely neat
appearance and allows itself to be neatly rolled up. The piercing of
the rattan strips at suitable intervals is facilitated by the use of
a block of wood grooved for the reception of the strip and pierced
with holes opening into the groove at the required intervals.

The most elaborately decorated and finely plaited basket-ware is made
by some of the Klemantan sub-tribes, especially the Kanowits and the
Tanjongs, and the Kalabits, who use, as well as the black dye, a red
dye (Pl. 110). The last is made by boiling the seeds of the rattan in
water and evaporating the product until it has the consistency of a
thick paste. The Punans also excel in this craft. These adepts barter
much of their handiwork in this kind with the people of communities
less skilled in it. This affords yet another illustration of the
fact that the various specialised handicrafts are traditional in
certain tribes and sub-tribes, and are practised hardly at all or
in an inferior manner only by the other tribes, who seem to find it
impossible to achieve an equal degree of mastery of these crafts.


The large flat circular hat worn by the Kayans for protection against
sun and rain is made by the women from the large leaves of a palm. It
is the only important handicraft practised by the women only. The hard
tough fluted leaves are pressed flat and dried, when the flutes form
ribs diverging from the stem. Triangular pieces of the length of the
radius of the hat (I.E. from twelve to eighteen inches) are cut and
then sewn together in a double layer; those of the upper layer radiate
from the centre; those of the under layer are disposed in the reverse
direction, so that their ribs diverge from the periphery, crossing
those of the upper layer at an acute angle. This arrangement gives
great rigidity to the whole structure. The two layers are stitched
together by threads carried round the hat in concentric circles at
intervals of about one inch. The peripheral edges are sewn to a slender
strip of rattan bent to form a circle, the two ends overlapping. The
centre is generally finished with a disc of metal or strong cloth on
the outer surface (Pl. 45). The hats hung upon the tombs are decorated
on the upper surface with bold designs painted in black and red.

Most of the other tribes make similar hats, and the Malanaus and
Land Dayaks are especially skilled in this craft. The former make
very large hats of similar shape, the upper surface being of strips
of rattan dyed red and black, and woven to form elaborate patterns.

Besides these sun-hats, the Kayans and Kenyahs and some of the
Klemantans weave with fine strips of rattan close-fitting skull-caps
and head-bands. The ends of the strips, some three or four inches in
length, are sometimes left projecting from the centre or forming a
fringe round the lower edge.

The close-fitting hemispherical war-cap is made of rattans about half
an inch thick split in halves.

The Making of the Blow-pipe

The blow-pipe or SUMPITAN is perhaps the finest product of native
Bornean craftmanship. It is made by Kayans, Kenyahs, and Punans,
and rarely by Ibans and Klemantans.

The best sumpitans are made from the hard straight-grained wood of
the JAGANG tree. Having chosen and felled the tree, often one of
large size, the craftsman splits from it long pieces about eight feet
in length. Such a piece is shaved with the adze until it is roughly
cylindrical and three to four inches in diameter (Pl. 112). The piece
may be carried home to be worked at leisure, or the boring may be
done upon the spot. A platform is erected about seven feet above the
ground; and the prepared rod is fixed vertically with the upper end
projecting through the platform, its lower end resting on the ground
(Pl. 113). Its upper end is lashed to the platform, its lower end to
a pair of stout poles lashed horizontally to trees, and its middle
to another pair of poles similarly fixed.

The next operation, the boring of the wood, is accomplished by the
aid of a straight rod of iron about nine feet long, of slightly
smaller diameter than the bore desired for the pipe, and having one
end chisel-shaped and sharpened. One man standing on the platform holds
the iron rod vertically above the end of the wood, and brings its sharp
chisel edge down upon the centre of the flat surface. Lifting the rod
with both hands he repeats his blow again and again, slightly turning
the rod at each blow. He is aided in keeping the rod truly vertical by
two or three forked sticks fixed horizontally at different levels above
the platform in such a way that the vertical rod slides up and down in
the forks, which thus serve as guides. The rod soon bites its way into
the wood. An assistant, squatting on the platform with a bark-bucket
of water beside him, ladles water into the hole after every two or
three strokes, and thus causes the chips to float out. This operation
steadily pursued for about six hours completes the boring. In boring
the lower part, the craftsman aims at producing a slight curvature
of the tube by very slightly bending the pole and lashing it in the
bent position; the pole on being released then straightens itself,
and at the same time produces the desired slight curvature of the
bore. This curvature is necessary in order to allow for the bending
of the blow-pipe, when in use, by the weight of the spearblade which
is lashed on bayonet-fashion. If the desired degree of curvature is
not produced in this way, the wooden pipe, still in the rough state
as regards its outer surface, is suspended horizontally on loops,
and weights are hung upon the muzzle end until, on sighting through
the bore, only a half circle of daylight is visible -- this being the
degree of curvature of the bore desired. The wood is then heated with
torches, and on cooling retains the curvature thus impressed on it.

It only remains to whittle down the rough surface to a smooth cylinder
slightly tapering towards the muzzle (Pl. 114), to polish the pipe
inside and out, to lash on the spear-blade to the muzzle end with
strips of rattan, and to attach a small wooden sight to the muzzle
end opposite the spear-blade. The polishing of the bore is effected by
working to and fro within it a long piece of closely fitting rattan;
that of the outer surface, by rubbing it first with the skin of a
stingray (which, although a marine fish, sometimes ascends to the
upper reaches of the rivers), and afterwards with the leaf (EMPLAS)
which is the local substitute for emery paper.

The shaft of the poisoned dart is made from the wood of the NIBONG and
wild sago palms. It is about nine inches in length and one-sixteenth
to one-eighth of an inch in diameter (Pl. 115). On to one end of this
is fitted a small tapering cylinder of tough pith, about one inch in
length, its greatest diameter at its butt end being exactly equal to
the bore of the pipe. The pith is shaved to the required diameter by
the aid of a small wooden cylinder of the standard size (Fig. 42);
this is prolonged in a pin of the same diameter as the shaft of the
dart. A piece of pith transfixed by the pin is shaved with a sharp
knife until its surface is flush with that of the wooden gauge.

The poison is prepared from the sap of the IPOH tree, ANTIARIS
TOXICARIA. The milky sap runs out when the bark is incised, and is
collected in a bamboo cup (Pl. 88). It is then heated slowly over a
fire in a trough made from the leaf stem of a palm, until it becomes
a thick paste of dark purple brown colour (Pl. 116). When the poison
is to be applied to the darts, it is worked into a thinner paste on
a palette with a spatula. A circular groove is cut round the shaft of
the dart about two inches from its tip, and the part so marked off is
rolled in the paste and then dried before a fire. For use against large
game, pig, deer, or human beings, a larger dose of poison is required
than can be carried on the tip of the shaft. A small triangular piece
of metal is affixed by splitting the tip of the shaft, thrusting in
the base of the triangular plate, and securing it with a fine thread
of rattan or fern-stem. The poison is then applied to the surface
of this metal. The metal is obtained nowadays from imported tin or
brass ware, but formerly a slip of hard wood was used, and, possibly,
in some cases stone.

The quiver for carrying the darts is a section of bamboo about four
inches in diameter and ten inches in length, fitted with a cap of the
same which fits over the shaved lip of the main piece (Fig. 44). A
wooden hook lashed to the quiver enables it to be hung from the
belt. The darts, mostly without piths, are wrapped in a squirrel skin
and thrust tip downwards into the quiver. A small gourd tied to the
quiver carries a supply of piths all ready to be placed on the darts.


The importation of earthenware and of cooking pots of brass and
iron has now almost put an end to the native manufacture of pottery;
but in former times simple earthenware vessels for boiling rice were
made by Kayans, Kenyahs, Ibans, and some of the Klemantans. Those who
made no pots boiled their rice and sago in bamboos. The earthenware
cooking pot is a simple egg-shaped vessel, one end of which is open
and surrounded by a low everted lip or collar (Fig. 8, p. 60).

The clay is kneaded with water on a board until it has the desired
consistency. The vessel is then built up on a hollowed base by
squeezing the clay between a smooth rounded stone held by one hand
within the vessel and a flat piece of wood, with which the clay is
beaten from without. The roughly shaped vessel is allowed to dry in
the sun and baked in the fire. In some cases the surface is smoothed
and glazed by rubbing resin over its surface while hot.

Pots of this one shape only are made, but of several sizes. The
commonest size holds about a quart; the largest about two gallons. A
pot of this sort is carried in a basket made of fine unsplit rattans
loosely woven in the form of interlacing rings.

The Manufacture of Bark-cloth

The native cloth, which was in universal use among the tribes of the
interior until largely supplanted in recent years by imported cloth, is
made from the bark of trees of several species (principally the KUMUT,
the IPOH, and the wild fig). The material used is the fibrous layer
beneath the outer bark. A large sheet of it is laid on a wooden block
and beaten with a heavy wooden club in order to render it soft and
pliable. A piece of the required size and shape is cut from the sheet,
and sewn across the direction of the fibres with needle and thread at
intervals of about an inch. This prevents the material splitting along
the direction of the fibres. Before European needles were introduced,
the stitching was done by piercing holes with a small awl and pushing
the thread through the hole after withdrawing the awl (>Pl. 117).

Spinning and Weaving and Dyeing of Cloth

The Kayans, Kenyahs, and most of the Klemantans weave no cloth; but the
Kayans claim, probably with truth, that they formerly wove a coarse
cloth. In recent years the Ibans, Muruts, and a few of the Klemantan
tribes have been the only weavers. It may be said, we think, without
fear of contradiction, that this is the only craft in which the Ibans
excel all the other peoples. Their methods are similar to those of the
Malays, and have probably been learnt from them. The weaving is done
only by the women, though the men make the machinery employed by them.

The fibre used by the Ibans is cotton, which is obtained from shrubs
planted and cultivated for the purpose. The seed is extracted from
the mass of fibre by squeezing the mass between a pair of rollers
arranged like a rude mangle, while the fibre is pulled away by hand
(Pl. 118). Next the thread is spun from the mass of fibre by the aid
of a simple wheel, turned by the right hand while the left hand twists
the fibres (Pl. 119). The dyeing precedes the weaving if a pattern
is to be produced. The web is stretched on a wooden frame about six
feet long and twenty inches in width, by winding a long thread round
it from end to end. The parts of the web corresponding to the parts
of the cloth that are to remain undyed and of the natural pale brown
colour of the thread are tied round with dried strips of a fibrous leaf
(LEMBA), the upper and lower set of threads being wrapped up together
in the same bundles (Pl. 120). If only one colour is to be applied,
the web is then slipped off the frame. The threads are held in their
relative positions by the wrappings, but are further secured by tying
a string tightly about the whole bundle at each end. The web thus
prepared is soaked in the dye for some two or three days, and then
dried in a shady spot. The wrappings upon the threads are waterproof
and protect the wrapped parts from the dye. When, after the dyeing,
the web is stretched upon the loom, it presents the desired pattern in
colour upon the undyed ground. The undyed weft is then woven across
the web in the usual way. And since the threads of the weft do not
appear on the surface, the dyed parts of the web present a uniformly
coloured surface (Pl. 121).

In most cloths two colours, as well as the natural colour of the
thread, appear on the surface -- the commonest colour being a warm
brick red (obtained from the bark of the SAMAK tree) and a dark purple
(obtained from the leaves of the TARUM plant). Lime and gypsum are
sometimes mixed with the watery extracts as mordaunts, but these
are probably modern refinements. When two colours are to appear,
those parts of the web which are to be of one colour (say purple)
are wrapped up during the immersion in the red dye together with
the parts that are to appear uncoloured. When this first dyeing is
completed the web is prepared for the purple dye, by uncovering the
undyed parts which are to be purple, and wrapping up in bundles the
threads which have already been dyed red. After being soaked in the
purple dye and dried, all the wrappings are removed from the web,
and the desired pattern in three colours appears upon it when it is
stretched. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the operation of
dyeing is that the woman generally wraps up the threads in the way
required to produce the pattern without any guidance, judging the
length and number of the threads to be included in each bundle purely
by memory of the design aimed at.

The only striking peculiarity of the loom is its extreme
simplicity. The upper ends of the web are looped over a stout bar which
is fixed to a pair of uprights about a yard above the floor. The lower
ends of the web are looped over a stout rod, to the ends of which a
loop of cord is tied. The woman sits on the ground, (see Pl. 121) with
this loop around her waist, and thus stretches the web and maintains
the necessary tension of it. The manipulation of the shuttle and of the
threads of the web is accomplished without other mechanical aids than
the rods to which the one set of webthreads is tied by short threads.


Decorative Art

All the tribes of Borneo practise a number of decorative arts. Some
of the Klemantans, notably the Malanaus, excel all other tribes,
in that they attain a high level of achievement in a great variety
of such arts; but each tribe and sub-tribe preserves the tradition
of some one or two decorative arts in which they are especially
skilled. Thus some of the Klemantan tribes specially excel in the
finer kinds of wood-carving (E.G. the decoration of paddles); the
Kayans in tatuing and in chasing designs on steel; the Kenyahs in the
painting of shields and in the production of large designs carved
in low relief on wood and used for adorning houses and tombs; both
Kayans and Kenyahs excel in the carving of sword-handles in deer's
horn; the Barawans and Sebops in beadwork; the Kalabits and Ibans in
tracing designs on the surface of bamboo; Punans in the decorative
mat-work; Kanowits and Tanjongs in basket-work.

Wood-carving is the most generally practised and on the whole the
most important of the decorative arts. Much of it is done on very hard
wood; and the principal tools are the sword, the small knife carried
in the sword-sheath, and adzes and axes of various sizes. The blade
of the knife is some three inches in length, resembling in general
shape the blade of the sword; it is wider in proportion, but has the
same peculiar convexity of the one side and concavity of the other
in transverse section. The shaft is sunk into the end of a rod of
hard wood and secured with gutta and fine rattan lashing. The handle
of hard wood is about a foot in length, half an inch in diameter,
and slightly bowed in the plane of the blade, the convexity being
in the direction of the cutting edge of the blade. The butt end of
the handle is cunningly carved in the shape of a crocodile's head, or
prolonged in a piece of carved deer's horn. The blade of the knife is
held between the thumb and finger of the right hand, the cutting edge
directed forwards, and the long handle is gripped between the forearm
and the lower ribs; the weight of the body can thus be brought to the
assistance of the arm in cutting hard material. With this knife most
of the finer carving is done, the adze and sword being used chiefly
for rough shaping.

The adze consists of a flat blade of steel in the shape of a highly
acute-angled triangle (Pl. 111). The slightly convex base is the
cutting edge. The upper half of the triangle (which may or may not be
marked by a shoulder) is buried in the lashings by which it is attached
to the wooden haft. The haft is a small bough of tough, springy wood,
cut from a tree, together with a small block of the wood of the stem;
the latter is shaved down until it forms an oblong block continuous
with the haft and at an angle to it of 70[degree] -- 80[degree]. The
upper half of the metal blade is laid upon the distal surface of
this block and lashed firmly to it with fine strips of rattan. A
piece of skin is often placed between the metal and the lashings;
this facilitates the removal of the blade, and enables the craftsman
to alter the angle between the cutting edge and the haft. Commonly
the blade is laid in the plane of the haft, and the implement is then
what we should call a small axe; on turning the blade through go',
it is converted to a small adze; and not infrequently the blade is
turned through a smaller angle, so that its plane forms an acute
angle with that of the haft.

Carved woodwork is commonly painted with black and red paint, prepared
respectively from soot and iron oxide mixed with sugar-cane juice
or with lime; the moist pigment is applied with the finger on larger
surfaces, and the finer lines and edges are marked out with the aid
of a chisel-edged stick of wood.


Old beads are much valued and sought after by all the tribes except
Ibans, especially by the Kayans. There are few families of the upper
class that do not possess a certain number of them.

Many varieties are well known, and some of the Kayan women are very
expert in recognising the genuine old specimens, and in distinguishing
these varieties from one another and from modern imitations.

Formerly these old beads were one of the principal forms of currency,
and they still constitute an important part of the wealth of many

Most of these valuable old beads are of foreign manufacture, though a
few made from shell and agate are of the country. The old foreign-made
beads were probably imported by Arab and Chinese traders at various
dates. Some of them are probably of Chinese manufacture, others
probably came from the near East and even from Venice. Some are of
glass curiously marked and coloured, others of stone inlaid with bits
of different colours, others of some hard substance whose composition
defies description. Certain rare kinds are especially valued and
can hardly be bought at any price; they are reckoned to be worth at
least 100 dollars apiece. The most valuable of all is known as the
LUKUT SEKALA; the ownership of each such bead is as accurately known
throughout a large district as the ownership of the masterpieces of
ancient art in our own country. The wife of a rich chief may possess
old beads to the value of thousands of pounds, and will wear a large
part of them on any occasion of display (Pl. 130). These old beads are
worn threaded together to form necklaces and girdles, being arranged
with some reference to harmony of size and colour and to value, the
most valuable being placed in the middle where they will be shown to
best advantage. A single rare bead is sometimes worn on the wrist.

A woman who possesses a good stock of such beads will seldom be seen
without some of them on her person. She will occasionally exchange
a few for other varieties, and is generally eager to add to her
collection; she may occasionally make a present of one or two to some
highly esteemed friend or relative, and will generally assign them,
but without handing them over, to various female relatives before
her death.

Besides these valuable old beads there are in use among all the tribes
many small glass beads of modern European manufacture. These are
threaded to form a variety of designs, generally in two colours,
the combination of black and yellow being the most commonly
preferred. These strips of beadwork are put to many decorative uses:
they are applied to the women's head-bands, to the centre of the
sun-hat, to sword sheaths, to cigarette boxes, to the war-coat at the
nape of the neck, and, by some Klemantans, to the jackets of the women.

The designs worked in this way are but few, and most of them are
common to all the tribes. The thread used is prepared by rolling on
the thigh fibres drawn from the leaf of the pine-apple; it is very
strong and durable. The design to be reproduced is drawn or carved in
low relief on a board. A thread is fixed across the end of the board
and others are tied to it at short intervals; on these the beads are
threaded, neighbouring threads being tied together at short intervals;
and the colours of the beads are selected according to the demands
of the pattern over which they are worked.

Besides these designs on the flat, tassels, girdles, necklaces,
ear-rings, and cigarette rings are also made of these beads. The
modern imported beads used for these purposes are sometimes improved
by being ground flat on the two surfaces that adjoin their neighbours;
this is done by fixing a number of them into the cut end of a piece
of sugar-cane and rubbing this against a smooth stone. This treatment
of the beads gives to the articles made of them a very neat and highly
finished appearance.

Bamboo Decorations

The working of designs on the surface of pieces of bamboo is
done very simply, but none the less effectively. Among the bamboo
articles generally decorated in the way to be described are the native
drinking-cup, the tobacco-box, and tubes for carrying flint and steel
and all sorts of odds and ends.

The pattern to be produced is outlined with the point of the knife
upon the surface of the bamboo, the artist working from memory of the
desired pattern and adapting it to the proportions of the surface to
be covered. The Iban works more freely than others, working out the
pattern and modifying it to meet the exigencies of his material,
section by section, as he goes along. Others plan out the design
for the whole surface before working out any part in detail. It is
probable that in no case does a man sit down and produce a new pattern;
but the freer mode of working of the Iban leads him on to greater
modifications of the traditional designs; and it is probably partly
for this reason that a much larger variety of designs is applied in
this way by them than by the other tribes, among whom they are very
limited in number. But the greater variety of designs worked by the
Ibans is due also to the readiness with which he copies and adopts
as his own the patterns used by other tribes. The Kayans and Kenyahs
use almost exclusively varieties of the dog pattern and of the hook
and circle (see Fig. 47).

The design outlined by the point of the knife is made to stand out
boldly from the ground by darkening the latter. This is achieved in
two ways: (1) the ground is covered with parallel close-set scratches,
not running continuously throughout the larger areas of the ground,
but grouped in sets of parallel lines some few millimetres in length,
the various sets meeting at angles of all degrees; (2) the hard
surface of the bamboo is wholly scraped away from the ground areas
to a depth of about half a millimetre. In either case the black or
red paint is then smeared over the whole surface with the finger, and
when it has become dried the surface is rubbed with a piece of cloth
(Kayan), or scraped lightly with a knife (Iban). The pigment is thus
removed from the intact parts and remains adherent to the lines and
areas from which the hard surface layer has been removed. The design
is thus left in very low relief, and is of the natural colour of the
bamboo upon a black or dark-red ground, or on a ground merely darkened
by the parallel scratches (Pls. 126, 127).


Lashing with strips of rattan and with coarse fibres from the leaf-stem
of some of the palms and ferns is applied to a great variety of
purposes, and largely takes the place of our nailing and screwing
and riveting. It is carried out extremely neatly and commonly has a
decorative effect. This effect is in some cases enhanced by combining
blackened threads with those of the natural pale yellow colour;
and the finer varieties of this work deserve to be classed with the
decorative arts. The finest lashing-work is done by the Kalabits,
who cover small bamboo boxes with a layer of close-set lashing,
producing pleasing geometrical designs by the combination of yellow
and black threads. The surface of the bamboo to which the lashing is
applied is generally scraped away to a depth of about one-sixteenth of
an inch; it is thus rendered less slippery than the natural surface,
and is therefore gripped more firmly by the lashing, and the surface
of the lashing is brought flush with the unlashed natural surface. The
effect is not only a highly ornamental appearance, but also a greatly
increased durability of the box, the natural tendency of the bamboo
to split longitudinally being very effectively counteracted.

Similar fine decorative lashing is used by all the tribes for binding
together the two halves of the sword sheath, and for binding the haft
of knife or sword where it grips the metal blade, though brass wire
is sometimes used for this purpose.

Closely allied to this lashing is the production of decorative
knots. A considerable variety of knots are in common use; they are
always well tied and practically effective, but some are elaborated
for decorative purposes to form rosettes, especially by Kayans in
making their sword sheaths.


We have stated above that the carved woodwork is often painted with
black, red, and white pigments. It must be added that wooden surfaces
are often painted on the flat, especially shields, the outer surfaces
of walls of PADI huts, and tombs, also grave hats and the gunwales of
boats, and decorative planks in the inner walls of the long gallery
of the house. The Kenyahs and some of the Klemantans, especially
the Skapans and Barawans, are most skilled in, and make most use of,
this form of decoration; but it is probably practised in some degree
by all the peoples.

The three pigments mentioned above -- black, red, and white, made
respectively from soot, iron oxide, and lime -- are, so far as we
know, the only native varieties; but at the present day these are
sometimes supplemented with indigo and yellow pigments obtained from
the bazaars. The pigment is generally laid on free-hand with the
finger-tip, a few guiding points only being put in.

It may be mentioned here that individuals of all the tribes will
occasionally amuse themselves by making rude drawings with charcoal
on the plank wall of the gallery. The drawings usually depict human
and animal figures, and scenes from the life of the people, and they
generally illustrate the particular form of occupation in which the
household is employed at the time, E.G. scenes from the PADI fields,
a group of people weeding, the return of a war-party, the collection
of honey, the capture of a large fish. These drawings are invariably
very crude; their nature is sufficiently indicated by Pl. 128. There
seem to be no noteworthy differences in this respect between the
different peoples.

The Punans, having no houses and therefore no walls on which to
draw pictures, have little opportunity to indulge any such tendency;
but we have seen rude hunting scenes depicted by them on the walls
of shallow caves; the technique consisted in scratching away the
soft rotted surface of the limestone rock to produce outlines of the
figures depicted.

The Malanaus, who live in the large limestone caves during the time
of harvesting the edible nests of the swift, sometimes make rude
drawings with charcoal on the walls of the cave.

The weaving of decorative designs on cloth is almost confined to the
Sea Dayaks. Some account of the designs will be given below.


Shells (chiefly nassas and the flat bases of cone-shells) are sometimes
applied by the Iban women to decorate their woven coats, by Kalabits
(in concentric circles on their sunhats), and more rarely by other
tribes in the decoration of baskets (Fig. 48). Fig. 49 represents
a garment decorated in this fashion by Iban women, and worn by them
when dancing with the heads of enemies in their hands.

The Decorative Designs

The Kayans make use in their decorative art of a large number of
conventional designs. The principal applications of these designs are
in tatu, beadwork, the production of panels of wood for the adornment
of houses, tombs, boats, and PADI barns, the decoration of bamboo
boxes, and the painting of hats, and the carving of highly ornate doors
to the rooms. All these applications involve the covering of flat or
curved surfaces with patterns either in low relief only or without
relief; and many of the designs are applied in all these different
ways, and all of them together form a natural group. Besides these
surface designs, a considerable variety of designs is used in giving
decorative form to solid objects such as the handles of swords and
paddles, the ends of main roof-beams in the houses, posts used in
various rites and in the construction of tombs, the figure-heads
of war-boats. These, with the exception of those used in carving
the sword handles, which are highly peculiar, form another group of
relatives. The designs chased upon the blades of the swords constitute
a fourth natural group distinct from the other two groups. A fifth
small group of designs is carved in the form of fretwork. We propose
to say a few words about the designs of each of these five groups.

(1) The designs of the first group are the most numerous and
most widely applied. A large proportion of them obviously are
conventionalised derivatives from animal forms. Of these animal forms
the human figure, the dog, and the prawn have been the originals
of the largest number of patterns; the macaque monkey and the large
lizard (VARANUS) are also traceable. Some designs vaguely suggest a
derivation from some animal form, but cannot confidently be assigned
to any one origin.

A few seemed to be derived from vegetable forms; while some few,
for example the hookpattern, seem to be derived from no animal or
vegetable form. The hook-pattern seems to be symbolical of conjunction
and acquisition in various spheres.

Of all the designs the derivatives from or variants of the dog are the
most numerous and the most frequently applied. The name dog-pattern
(KALANG ASU) is given to a very large number; and of these some
obviously reproduce the form of the dog, while the derivation of
the others from the same original can generally be made clear by
the inspection of a number of intermediate forms, although some of
them retain but very slight indications of the form or features of
the dog. The unmistakable dog-patterns are illustrated by one of the
panels shown in Pl. 124; and in Pls. 134 ET SEQ. we reproduce a number
of dog-patterns of more or less conventionalised characters. It will
be noticed that the eye is the most constant feature about which
the rest of the pattern is commonly centred; but that the eye also
disappears from some of the most conventionalised. It seems probable
that, although the name KALANG ASU continues to be commonly used to
denote all this group of allies, many of those who use the term, and
even of those who carve or work the patterns, are not explicitly aware
in doing so that the name and the patterns refer to the dog, or are
in any way connected with it; that is to say, both the words and the
pattern have ceased to suggest to their minds the meaning of the word
dog, and mean to them simply the pattern appropriate to certain uses.

We have questioned men who have been accustomed to apply the
dog-pattern as to the significance of the parts of the pattern, and
have led them to recognise that the parts of the dog, eye, teeth,
jaws, and so on, are represented; and this recognition has commonly
been accompanied by expressions of enlightenment, as of one making
an interesting discovery.[67] This ignorance of the origin of the
pattern is naturally true only of the more conventionalised examples,
whether of the dog or other natural forms. Probably a few who have
specially interested themselves in the designs have traced out their
connections pretty fully, but this is certainly quite exceptional. Most
of the craftsmen simply copy the current forms, introducing perhaps
now and then an additional scroll, or some other slight modification.

Some men are well known as experts in the production of designs,
and such a man can produce a wonderful variety, all or most being
well-known conventions. Their mode of working frequently implies
that the artist is working to a pattern, mentally fixed and clearly
visualised, rather than working out any new design. For he will
work first on one part of the surface, then on another, producing
disconnected fragments of the pattern, and uniting them later. Although
the women use these patterns in beadwork and in tatuing, they rely
in the main on the men for the patterns which they copy; these
being drawn on wood or cloth for beadwork, or carved in low relief
for tatuing. A Kayan expert may carry in mind a great variety of
designs. One such expert produced for our benefit, during a ten days'
halt of an expedition, forty-one patterns, drawn with pencil on paper;
most of these are of considerable complexity and elaboration.

(2) The designs carved in the solid or in high relief are for
the most part conventionalised copies of human and animal forms;
but the conventionalising is not carried so far as in those of the
first class, so that the carving generally constitutes an unmistakable
representation of the original. The posts set up as altars to the gods
are generally carved in the human form, and the degree of elaboration
varies widely from the rudest possible indication of the head and limbs
to a complete representation of all the parts. But in no case (with
the possible exception of some of the figures carved by Malanaus)
is the human form reproduced with any high degree of accuracy or
artistic merit (Figs. 50 -- 53)

The animal forms are used chiefly as the figureheads of war-boats and
at the ends of the main roof-beams of the houses; and some of these
are executed with a degree of artistry that must win our admiration,
especially when we reflect that the timber used is generally one of
the harder kinds (but not iron-wood) such as the mirabo (AFZELIA
PALEMBANICA), and that the only tools used are the axe, sword,
and knife. The animals most frequently represented are the dog,
crocodile, monkey, hornbill, and bear (Pls. 122, 125, Figs. 45,
46, 54 -- 57). Carved dogs, comparatively little conventionalised,
are sometimes used as the supports of low platforms upon which the
chiefs may sit on ceremonious occasions.

(3) The handles of the swords, generally of deer's antlers, but
sometimes of wood, exhibit a group of highly peculiar closely allied
designs. All these seem to be derived from the human form, although in
many cases this can only be traced in the light of forms intermediate
between the less and the more highly conventionalised (Pls. 129,
184). In examples in which the human form is most obvious, it has
the following position and character: -- The butt end of the blade
is sunk in a piece (about six inches in length) of the main shaft
of the antler at its distal or upper end. This piece constitutes
the grip of the handle or hilt. The proximal or lowest point of the
antler projecting at an angle of some 70[degree] from the grip is cut
down to a length of some four inches, forming a spur standing in the
plane of the blade and towards its cutting edge. The grip is lashed
with fine strips of rattan. The spur and the thick end in which the
spur and the grip unite are elaborately carved. If the sword is held
horizontally, its point directed forwards and its cutting edge upwards,
the butt end is presented with the spur vertically before the face
of the observer. It will then be seen that the surface turned to
the observer presents the principal features of the human figure,
standing with arms akimbo face to face with the observer. The key
to the puzzle Is the double row of teeth. Above this are the two
eyes. Below the level of the mouth the elbows project laterally, and
a little below these and nearer the middle line are the two hands;
and below these again the two legs stand out, carved not merely in
relief, but in the solid, and bent a little at the knee. The feet
are indicated below and more laterally. From the crown of the head
projects a ring of short hair made up of tufts white, black, and red
in colour. Another short tuft projects from the region of the navel
(? pubis), and a pair of tufts project laterally a little below the
level of the mouth. The extremity of the main shaft of the antler
projects a little beyond the feet of the human figure, and is carved in
a form which is clearly an animal derivative -- probably from the dog
or possibly the crocodile. From its open jaws projects a long tuft of
hair, and a pair of short tufts project laterally from the region of
its ears. The whole of the carved part of the hilt thus represents a
man standing upon the head of a dog (or crocodile). The interpretation
of the whole is much obscured by the fact that the parts of the human
figure named above are separated from one another by areas which are
covered with a continuous scroll design in low relief, and by the
fact that all the lateral parts of the carved area bear, scattered
irregularly in relief, reduplications of the various features of the
human figure, E.G. of the hands, elbows, knees, and even of the teeth,
as well as many pairs of interlocking hooks. These last, which recur
in other decorative designs, and which (as was said above) seem to
symbolise the taking of heads, form an important and constant feature
of the whole scheme of decoration. In the more elaborate examples
they are carved out of the solid; and usually one hole (or more)
about 5 mm. in diameter perforates the thickest part of the hilt,
and contains in the middle plane a pair of these interlocking hooks.

In the most elaborate examples of these carved sword hilts all obvious
trace of the human figure is lost in a profusion of detail, which,
however, is of the same general character as that of the examples
described above, and seems to consist of the various features of
the human and animal pattern combined in wild profusion with regard
only to decorative effect, and not at all to the reproduction of the
parent forms.

With the decorative designs of the hilt of the sword must be classed
those of its sheath. The sheath consists of two slips of TAPANG wood
firmly lashed together with finely plaited rattan strips, both strips
being hollowed so that they fit closely to the blade. It is provided
with a plaited cord, which buckles about the waist. The inner piece
of the sheath is smooth inside and out. The outer surface of the
outer piece is often elaborately decorated. The decoration consists
in the main of designs carved in relief; and these are composed of
the same elements as the design upon the sword hilt, namely, hooks,
single and interlocking, elbows, teeth, etc., all woven about with
a scroll design of relieved lines.

(4) The designs reproduced in fretwork are in the main adaptations
of some of those used in decorating surfaces, especially of the dog
pattern; but they are always conventionalised in a high degree (see
Pl. 130). The hook pattern is frequently introduced to fill up odd
corners. The human form is seldom or never traceable in work of this
kind. Fretwork is chiefly used to adorn the tombs of chiefs.

(5) The designs chased on the surfaces of the blades of swords and
knives and spear-heads form a distinctive group. They are flowing
scroll patterns containing many spiral and S-shaped curves in which
no animal or plant forms can be certainly traced, though suggestions
of the KALANG ASU may be found. The lack of affinity between these
patterns and those applied to other surfaces suggests that they may
have been taken over from some other people together with the craft
of the smith; but possibly the distinctive character is due only to
the exigencies of the material. Some of the designs painted on hats
and shields exhibit perhaps some affinity with these. This work is
almost confined to the Kayans.

It is worthy of remark that the art work of the Kayans is in the
main of a public character; for example, the decorative carving about
the house is done by voluntary and co-operative effort in the public
gallery and hardly at all in the private rooms; and ornamented hats
and shields are hung in the gallery rather than in the private rooms;
again, the war-boats, which are the common property of the household,
are decorated more elaborately than those which are private property.

All these forms of art work are the products of distinctly amateur
effort; that is to say that, although certain individuals attain
special skill and reputation in particular forms of art, they do
not make their living by the practice of them, but rather, like
every one else, rely in the main upon the cultivation of PADI for
the family support; they will exchange services of this kind, and
definite payments are sometimes agreed upon, but a large amount of
such work is done for one another without any material reward.

The Kenyahs, Klemantans, and Ibans

The Kenyahs make use of all, or most, of the patterns found among
the Kayans, and there is little or nothing that distinguishes the
decorative art of the one tribe from that of the other. They use
the patterns based on the monkey rather more than the Kayans; and a
decoration commonly found in their houses is a frieze running along
the top of the main partition wall of the house, bearing in low
relief an animal design, painted in red and black, which is called
BALI SUNGEI (I.E. water-spirit) or Naga. The latter name is known
to all the tribes, and is probably of foreign origin; and it seems
possible that the design and this name are derived from the dragon
forms so commonly used in Chinese decorative art.

The various Klemantan tribes make use of many decorative designs very
similar to those of the Kayans. Different animal forms predominant
among the different tribes, E.G. among the LONG POKUNS the form of the
gibbon and of the sacred ape (SEMINOPITHECUS HOSEI) are chiefly used
in house decoration. Among the Sebops and Barawans the human figure
predominates; the Malanaus make especially elaborate crocodile images
in solid wood. The tombs of some of the Klemantans are very massive
and elaborately decorated. The Tanjongs and Kanowits and Kalabits,
who excel in basket-work, introduce a variety of patterns in black,
red, and white. The majority of these are simple geometrical designs
which arise naturally out of the nature of the material; of more
elaborate designs specially common are the hook-pattern (Fig. 58),
the pigeon's eye (Fig. 59), and the caterpillar (Fig. 60).

In wealth of decorative designs the Ibans surpass all the other
tribes. These designs are displayed most abundantly in the decoration
of bamboo surfaces and in the dyeing of cloths. The designs on bamboo
surfaces are largely foliate scrolls, especially the yam-leaf, but
also occasionally animal derivatives.

The designs dyed upon the cloths (Fig. 61) are largely animal
derivatives; but the artists themselves seldom are aware of the
derivation, even when the pattern bears the name of its animal origin;
and as to the names of all, except the most obvious animal derivatives,
even experts will differ. The frog, the young bird, the human form,
and the lizard are the originals most frequently claimed. Parts of
the animal, such as the head or eye, are commonly repeated in serial
fashion detached from the rest of its form. And in many cases it is,
of course, impossible to identify the parts of the pattern, although
it may show a general affinity with unmistakable animal patterns. One
such pattern very commonly used in dyeing is named after AGI BULAN,
the large shrew (GYMNURA); but we have not been able to trace the
slightest resemblance to the animal in any of the various examples
we have seen (Pls. 131, 132).

We are inclined to suppose that the Ibans have copied many of their
cloth-patterns from the Malays together with the crafts of dyeing and
weaving. For their technique is similar to that of the Malays all over
the peninsula, and the same is true of some of their designs. Only
in this way, we think, can we account for their possession of these
crafts, which are practised by but very few of the other inland
peoples. The fact that plant derivatives predominate greatly over
animals in their designs, whereas the reverse is true of almost all
other tribes, bears out this supposition, for the Malays are forbidden
by their religion to represent animal forms, and make use largely of
plant forms.


Tatuing is extensively practised among the tribes of Borneo. A great
variety of patterns are used, and they are applied to many different
parts of the body. A paper embodying most of the facts hitherto
ascertained has been published by one of us (C. H.) in conjunction
with Mr. R. Shelford, formerly curator of the Sarawak Museum, who has
paid special attention to the subject; we therefore reproduce here
the greater part of the substance of that paper,[68] with some slight
modifications, and we desire to express our thanks to Mr. Shelford[69]
for his kind permission to make use of the paper in this way.

The great diversity of tribes in Borneo involves, in a study of their
tatu and tatuing methods, a good deal of research and much travel,
if first-hand information on the subject is to be obtained. Between
us we have covered a considerable area in Borneo and have closely
crossquestioned members of nearly every tribe inhabiting Sarawak
on their tatu, but we cannot claim to have exhausted the subject by
any means; there are tribes in the interior of Dutch Borneo and in
British North Borneo whom we have not visited, and concerning whom
our knowledge is of the scantiest.

The practice of tatu is so widely spread throughout Borneo that it
seems simpler to give a list of the tribes that do not tatu, than of
those who do. We can divide such a list into two sections: the first
including those tribes that originally did not tatu, though nowadays
many individuals are met with whose bodies are decorated with designs
copied from neighbouring tribes; the second including the tribes
(mostly Klemantan) that have given up the practice of tatu owing to
contact with Mohammedan and other influences.


1. Punan.
2. Maloh.
3. Land Dyak.


4. Malanau.
5. Miri.
6. Dali.
7. Narom.
8. Sigalang (down-river tribes of Ukit stock).
9. Siduan
10. Tutong.
11. Balait.
12. Bekiau (traces of a former practice of tatu occasionally
13. Bisaya.
14. Kadayans.

The patterns once employed by the tribes included in the second
section of this list, most of which have adopted Malay dress and to
some extent Malay customs, are lost beyond recall. The Land Dayaks
display absolute ignorance of tatu, and aver that they never indulged
in the practice. Maloh and Punan men ornamented with Kayan tatu designs
we have often encountered; but they have no designs of their own,
and attach no special significance to their borrowed designs.[70]

We may note here that the ornamentation of the body by means of raised
scars and keloids is not known in Borneo. Both men and women of several
tribes will test their bravery and indifference to pain by setting
fire to a row of small pieces of tinder placed along the forearm, and
the scars caused by these burns are often permanent, but should not be
mistaken for decorative designs. Carl Bock (2, Pl. 16)[71] figures some
Punan women with rows of keloids on the forearms, but states (p. 71)
that these are due to a form of vaccination practised by these people.

The Kayans are, with one or two exceptions, the most tatued race in
Borneo, and perhaps the best tatued from an artistic point of view;
the designs used in the tatu of the men have been widely imitated,
and much ceremonial is connected with the tatu of the women, an account
of which we give below. Generally speaking, the true Klemantan designs
are quite simple, and it is noteworthy that although the Kenyah tribes
most nearly akin to Kayans have borrowed the Kayan tatu patterns, the
majority of Kenyah and Klemantan tribes employ quite simple designs,
whilst the primitive Kenyahs of the Batang Kayan river hardly tatu at
all. A remarkable exception to the general simplicity of the Klemantan
patterns is furnished by the Ukits, Bakatan, and Biadjau, who tatu very
extensively in the most complex designs; the Long Utan, an extinct
tribe, probably of Klemantan stock, also used highly decorative and
complex designs. Since so many tribes owe much of their knowledge
of tatu and the majority of their designs to the Kayans, it will be
well to commence with an account of the art of tatu as practised by
these people.

Kayan Tatu.

Dr. Nieuwenhuis [9, p. 450] agrees with us in stating that amongst
these people the men tatu chiefly for ornament, and that no special
significance is attached to the majority of designs employed; nor is
there any particular ceremonial or tabu connected with the process
of tatuing the male sex. There is no fixed time of life at which
a man can be tatued, but in most cases the practice is begun early
in boyhood. Nieuwenhuis [9, p. 456] remarks that the chiefs of the
Mendalam Kayans scarcely tatu at all.

Amongst the Sarawak Kayans, if a man has taken the head of an enemy
he can have the backs of his hands and fingers covered with tatu
(Pl. 141, Fig. 1), but, if he has only had a share in the slaughter,
one finger only, and that generally the thumb, can be tatued. On the
Mendalam river, the Kayan braves are tatued on the left thumb only,
not on the carpals and backs of the fingers, and the thigh pattern
is also reserved for head-taking heroes [9, p. 456]. Of the origin
of tatu the Kayans relate the following story: -- Long ago when the
plumage of birds was dull and sober, the coucal (CENTROPUS SINENSIS)
and the argus pheasant (ARGUSIANUS GRAYI) agreed to tatu each other;
the coucal began on the pheasant first, and succeeded admirably,
as the plumage of the pheasant bears witness at the present day; the
pheasant then tried his hand on the coucal, but being a stupid bird
he was soon in difficulties; fearing that he would fail miserably to
complete the task, he told the coucal to sit in a bowl of SAMAK tan,
and then poured the black dye over him, and flew off, remarking that
the country was full of enemies and he could not stop; that is why
the coucal to this day has a black head and neck with a tan-coloured
body. Nieuwenhuis [9, p. 456] relates substantially the same story,
the crow (CORONE MACRORHYNDYUS), however, being substituted for the
coucal and the incident of the bowl of SAMAK tan omitted.

Among Kayans isolated designs are found on the following parts of the
bodies of the men: -- The outside of the wrist, the flexor surface of
the forearm, high up on the outside of the thigh, on the breasts and
on the points of the shoulders, and, as already stated, in the case
of warriors on the backs of the hands and fingers. But not all the
men are tatued on all these parts of the body. The design tatued on
the wrist (Pl. 139, Figs. 8 -- 10) is termed LUKUT, the name of an
antique bead much valued by Kayans; the significance of this design
is of some interest. When a man is ill, it is supposed that his
soul has escaped from his body; and when he recovers it is supposed
that his soul has returned to him; to prevent its departure on some
future occasion the man will "tie it in" by fastening round his wrist
a piece of string on which is threaded a LUKUT[72] or antique bead,
some magic apparently being considered to reside in the bead. However,
the string can get broken and the bead lost, wherefore it seems safer
to tatu a representation of the bead on the part of the wrist which
it would cover if actually worn. It is of interest also to note that
the LUKUT, from having been a charm to prevent the second escape of
the soul, has come to be regarded as a charm to ward off all disease;
and the same applies to its tatued representation.

A design just below the biceps of a Punan tatued in the Kayan manner
is shown on Pl. 142, Fig. 10, and we were informed by the Punan that
this also was a LUKUT, an excellent example of the indifference paid
to the significance of design by people with whom such design is
not indigenous.

On the forearm and thigh the UDOH ASU or dog pattern is tatued,
and four typical examples are shown on Pl. 136, Figs. 1, 2, 5,
6. Nieuwenhuis has figured a series of these designs [9, Pl. 82][73]
showing a transition from a very elongate animal form to a rosette
form; we have occasionally met with the former amongst Sarawak Kayans,
but it is a common thigh design amongst the Mendalam Kayans; the
forms numbered B and C are unusual in Sarawak. Of the four examples
given in Pl. 136 -- and it may be noted that these met with the high
approval of expert tatu artists -- Figs. 1, 2, and 5 may be considered
as intermediate between Nieuwenhuis' very elongate example F and
the truncated form E which is supposed to represent the head only
of a dog. Fig. 2 is characteristic of the Uma Balubo Kayans, and is
remarkable in that teeth are shown in both jaws; whilst, both in this
example and in Fig. 5, the eye is represented as a disc, in Figs. 1
and 6 the eye is assuming a rosette-like appearance, which rosette,
as Nieuwenhuis' series shows, is destined in some cases to increase
in size until it swallows up the rest of the design. Fig. 6 may be
compared with Nieuwenhuis, Fig. E, as it evidently represents little
more than the head of a dog. Although a single figure of the dog is
the most usual form of tatu, we have met with an example of a double
figure; it is shown in Fig. 7; it will be observed that one of the
dogs is reversed and the tails of the two figures interlock. Fig. 8
represents a dog with pups, TUANG NGANAK; A is supposed to be the
young one.

The dog design figures very prominently in Kayan art, and the fact
that the dog is regarded by these people and also by the Kenyahs
with a certain degree of veneration may account for its general
representation. The design has been copied by a whole host of tribes,
with degradation and change of name (Fig. 62).

On the deltoid region of the shoulders and on the breast, a rosette or
a star design is found (text, Figs. 63 and 64). As already stated, it
seems in the highest degree probable that the rosette is derived from
the eye in the dog pattern, and it is consequently of some interest
to find that the name now given to the rosette pattern is that of the
fruit of a plant which was introduced into Borneo certainly within the
last fifty or sixty years. The plant is PLUKENETIA CORNICULATA, one of
the Euphorbiaceae, and it is cultivated as a vegetable; its Kayan name
is JALAUT. We have here a good example of the gradual degradation of
a design leading to a loss of its original significance and even of
its name, another name, which originated probably from some fancied
resemblance between pattern and object, being applied at a subsequent
date. IPA OLIM, I.E., open fruit of a species of MANGIFERA, is another
name occasionally applied to the rosette pattern, but JALAUT is in
more general use (cf. Pl. 140, Fig. 4, Pl. 141, Fig. 7, and Pl. 142,
Fig. 9).

On Pl. 141, Fig. 1, is shown a hand tatued in the Kayan manner; the
figures on the phalanges are known as TEGULUN,[74] representations
of human figures or as SILONG, faces, and they are evidently
anthropomorphic derivatives. The triangles on the carpal knuckles
are termed SONG IRANG, shoots of bamboo, and the zigzag lines are
IKOR, lines.

Kayan women are tatued in complicated serial[75] designs over the whole
forearm, the backs of the hands, over the whole of the thighs and
to below the knees, and on the metatarsal surfaces of the feet. The
tatuing of a Kayan girl is a serious operation, not only because of
the considerable amount of pain caused, but also on account of the
elaborate ceremonial attached to this form of body ornamentation. The
process is a long one, lasting sometimes as much as four years,
since only a small piece can be done at a sitting, and several long
intervals elapse between the various stages of the work. A girl when
about ten years old will probably have had her fingers and the upper
part of her feet tatued, and about a year later her forearms should
have been completed; the thighs are partially tatued during the
next year, and in the third or fourth year from the commencement,
I.E. about puberty, the whole operation should have been accomplished.

A woman endeavours to have her tatu finished before she becomes
pregnant, as it is considered immodest to be tatued after she has
become a mother. If a woman has a severe illness after any portion of
her body has been tatued, the work is not continued for some little
time; moreover, according to Nieuwenhuis (9, p. 453), a woman cannot
be tatued during seed time nor if a dead person is lying unburied in
the house, since it is LALI to let blood at such times; bad dreams,
such as a dream of floods, foretelling much blood-letting, will
also interrupt the work. A tatued woman may not eat the flesh of
the monitor lizard (VARANUS) or of the scaly manis (MANIS JAVANICA),
and her husband also is included in the tabu until the pair have a
male and a female child. If they have a daughter only they may not
eat the flesh of the monitor until their child has been tatued; if
they have a son only they cannot eat the monitor until they become
grandparents. Should a girl have brothers, but no sisters, some of
her tatu lines must not be joined together, but if she has brothers
and sisters, or sisters only, all the lines can be joined.

Tatu amongst Kayan women is universal; they believe that the designs
act as torches in the next world, and that without these to light
them they would remain for ever in total darkness; one woman told
Dr. Nieuwenhuis that after death she would be recognised by the
impregnation of her bones with the tatu pigment. The operation of
tatuing amongst Kayans is performed by women, never by men, and
it is always the women who are the experts on the significance and
quality of tatu designs, though the men actually carve the designs
on the tatu blocks. Nieuwenhuis states (9, p. 452) that the office of
tatuer is to a certain extent hereditary, and that the artists, like
smiths and carvers, are under the protection of a tutelary spirit,
who must be propitiated with sacrifices before each operation. As
long as the children of the artist are of tender age she is debarred
from the practice of her profession. The greater the number of
sacrifices offered, or in other words, the greater the experience of
the artist, the higher is the fee demanded. She is also debarred from
eating certain food. It is supposed that if an artist disregards the
prohibitions imposed upon her profession, the designs that she tatus
will not appear clearly, and she herself may sicken and die.

The tools used by a tatu artist are simple,[76] consisting of two
or three prickers, ULANG or ULANG BRANG, and an iron striker, TUKUN
or PEPAK, which are kept in a wooden case, BUNGAN. The pricker is a
wooden rod with a short pointed head projecting at right angles at one
end; to the point of the head is attached a lump of resin in which
are embedded three or four short steel needles, their points alone
projecting from the resinous mass (Fig. 68). The striker is merely a
short iron rod, half of which is covered with a string lashing. The
pigment is a mixture of soot, water, and sugar-cane juice, and it is
kept in a double shallow cup of wood, UIT ULANG; it is supposed that
the best soot is obtained from the bottom of a metal cooking-pot,
but that derived from burning resin or dammar is also used. The tatu
designs are carved in high relief on blocks of wood, KELINGE[77]
(Fig. 62), which are smeared with the ink and then pressed on the
part to be tatued, leaving an impression of the designs. As will be
seen later, the designs tatued on women are in longitudinal rows or
transverse bands, and the divisions between the rows or bands are
marked by one or more zigzag lines termed IKOR.

The subject who is to be tatued lies on the floor, the artist and
an assistant squatting on either side of her; the artist first dips
a piece of fibre from the sugar-palm (ARENGA SACCHARIFERA) into the
pigment and, pressing this on to the limb to be tatued, plots out the
arrangement of the rows or bands of the design; along these straight
lines the artist tatus the IKOR, then taking a tatu block carved with
the required design, she smears it with pigment and presses it on to
the limb between two lines. The tatuer or her assistant stretches with
her feet the skin of the part to be tatued, and, dipping a pricker
into the pigment, taps its handle with the striker, driving the
needle points into the skin at each tap. The operation is painful,
and the subject can rarely restrain her cries of anguish; but the
artist is quite unmoved by such demonstrations of woe, and proceeds
methodically with her task. As no antiseptic precautions are taken, a
newly tatued part often ulcerates, much to the detriment of the tatu;
but taking all things into consideration, it is wonderful how seldom
one meets with a tatu pattern spoilt by scar tissues.

It is against custom to draw the blood of a friend (PESU DAHA), and
therefore, when first blood is drawn in tatuing, it is customary to
give a small present to the artist. The present takes the form of
four antique beads, or of some other object worth about one dollar;
it is termed LASAT MATA, for it is supposed that if it were omitted
the artist would go blind, and some misfortune would happen to the
parents and relations of the girl undergoing the operation of tatu.

When the half of one IKOR has been completed the tattier stops and
asks for SELIVIT; this is a present of a few beads, well-to-do people
paying eight yellow beads of the variety known as LAVANG, valued at
one dollar apiece, whilst poor people give two beads. It is supposed
that if SELIVIT was not paid the artist would be worried by the dogs
and fowls that always roam about a Kayan house, so that the work
would not be satisfactorily done; however, to make assurance doubly
sure, a curtain is hung round the operator and her subject to keep
off unwelcome intruders. After SELIVIT has been paid a cigarette is
smoked, and then work recommences in earnest, there being no further
interruptions for the rest of the day except for the purpose of taking
food. The food of the artist must be cooked and brought to her,
as she must not stop to do other work than tatuing, and her tools
are only laid aside for a few minutes while she consumes a hurried
meal. Fowls or a pig are killed for the artist by the parents of
the girl who is being tatued. The fees paid to the artist are more
or less fixed; for the forearms a gong, worth from eight to twenty
dollars, according to the workmanship required; for the thighs a large
TAWAK, worth as much as sixty dollars if the very best workmanship is
demanded, from six to twenty dollars if only inferior workmanship is
required.[78] For tatuing the fingers the operator receives a MALAT
or short sword. Nieuwenhuis (8, p. 236) states that it is supposed
that the artist will die within a year if her charges are excessive;
but we have not met with this belief amongst the Kayans of the Rejang
and Baram rivers.

The knee-cap is the last part to be tatued, and before this is touched
the artist must be paid; as this part of the design is the keystone,
as it were, of the whole, the required fee is always forthcoming. A
narrow strip down the back of the thigh is always left untatued;
it is supposed that mortification of the legs would ensue if this
strip was not left open.

The time at which to begin tatuing a girl is about the ninth day after
new moon, this lunar phase being known as BUTIT HALAP, the belly of the
HALAP fish (BARBUS BRAMOIDES); as the skin of the girl being tatued
quickly becomes very tender, it is often necessary to stop work for
a few days, but it is a matter of indifference at what lunar phase
work recommences, so long as it was originally begun at BUTIT HALAP.

A Kayan chief of the Mendalam river informed Dr. Nieuwenhuis [9,
p. 4551 that in his youth only the wives and daughters of chiefs were
permitted the thigh tatu, women of lower rank had to be content with
tatu of the lower part of the shin and of the ankles and feet. The
designs were in the form of quadrangular blotches divided by narrow
untatued lines, and were known as TEDAK DANAU, lake tatu. The
quadrangles were twelve in number, divided from each other by four
longitudinal and two transverse untatued lines, 6 millimetres broad,
two of the longitudinal lines running down each side of the front of
the leg, and two down each side of the calf, approximately equidistant;
the forearm was tatued in the same style. This manner of tatu is
obsolete now, but Dr. Nieuwenhuis was fortunate in finding one very
old woman so tatued.

Nowadays the class restrictions as regards tatu are not so closely
observed, but it is always possible to distinguish between the
designs of a chiefs daughter, an ordinary free-woman, and a slave,
by the number of lines composing the figures of the designs, -- the
fewer these lines, the lower being the rank of the woman. Moreover,
the designs of the lower-class women are not nearly so complex as
those of the higher class, and they are generally tatued free-hand.

A very typical design for the forearm of a woman of high rank is shown
on Pl. 140, Fig. 3; it is taken from a Kayan of the Uma Pliau sub-tribe
dwelling on the Baram river, and may be compared with the somewhat
similar designs of the Mendalam river Kayans figured by Nieuwenhuis
[9, Pl. 85], one of which is a design for a chiefs daughter, the
other for a slave. The zigzag lines bounding the pattern on both
surfaces of the forearm are the IKOR, and these, as already stated,
are marked out with a piece of fibre dipped in the tatu ink before the
rest of the pattern is impressed by a wood-block or KLINGE. Taking
the flexor surface of the forearm first, the units of the designs
are: three bands of concentric circles (AAA) termed BELILING BULAN
or full moons; a triangle (B) each, limb formed by several parallel
lines, DULANG HAROK, the bows of a boat; spirals (CC) ULU TINGGANG,
the head of the hornbill. On the supinator surface BELILING BULAN
and ULU TINGGANG occur again, but instead of DULANG HAROK, there are
two other elements, a bold transverse zigzag known as DAUN WI (D),
rattan leaves, and at the proximal end of the pattern an interlacing
design, TUSHUN TUVA (E), bundles of tuba root (DERRIS ELLIPTICA). The
fingers are very simply tatued with a zigzag on the carpal knuckles
and transverse lines across the joints; the thumb is decorated in
a slightly different way. In Dr. Nieuwenhuis' designs cited above,
we find much the same elements; in one of them the BELILING BULAN are
more numerous and more closely set together, so that the concentric
circles of one set have run into those of the next adjoining; the
TUSHUN TUVA pattern is termed POESOENG, evidently the same as TUSHUN;
the spirals are much degraded in one example and are called KROWIT,
or hooks, whilst in the more elaborate example they are known as MANOK
WAK, or eyes of the SCOPS owl; the PEDJAKO PATTERN is an addition,
but the meaning of the word is not known; the pattern on the fingers
is much more complex than in the Uma Pliau example, and is perhaps
a degraded hornbill design.

Nieuwenhuis [8, Pl. XXIV.] figures the hand of a low-class woman
tatued with triangular and quadrangular blotches, and with some rude
designs that appear to have been worked in free-hand.

On Pl. 140, Fig. 1, is shown the design on the forearm of a high-class
woman of the Uma Lekan Kayans of the Batang Kayan river, Dutch Borneo;
in our opinion these elegant designs are quite in the front rank of
the tatu designs of the world. In spite of the elaboration, it is quite
possible to distinguish in these the same elements as in the Uma Pliau
but the DULANG HAROK is absent, and the SILONG or face pattern appears.

Nieuwenhuis [9, Pl. 93, b] figures the arm-tatu (supinator surface
only) of a Kayan woman of the Blu-u river, a tributary of the Upper
Mahakkam; the main design is evidently a hornbill derivative, the
knuckles are tatued with quadrangular and rectangular blotches. The
hornbill plays an important part in the decorative art of the Long
Glat, a Klemantan tribe of the Mahakkam river, and we suspect that,
if these Blu-u Kayans are of true Kayan stock, they have borrowed
the hornbill design from their neighbours.

With regard to the thigh patterns, it is usual to find the back of
the thigh occupied with two strips of an intersecting line design,
or some modification thereof; the simplest form is shown on Pl. 138,
Fig. 1; it is known as IDA TELO, the three-line pattern, and is used
by slaves; a more elaborate example from the Rejang river is shown in
Fig. 3, and is used both by slaves and free-women. Pl. 138, Fig. 2,
and Pl. 139, Fig. 6, are termed IDA PAT, the four-line pattern, and
are for free-women, not for slaves. The latter figure is a combination
of IDA PAT and IDA TELO. The wives and daughters of chiefs would
employ similar designs with the addition of another line, when they
are termed IDA LIMA, the five-line pattern, or else a design, known
as IDA TUANG, the underside pattern, two examples of which are given
on Pl. 139, Figs. 1 and 2. If these two latter designs are compared
with the hornbill design of the Long Glat, a figure of which, taken
from Nieuwenhuis [9, Pl. 86] is given (Pl. 139, Fig. 3) a certain
similarity in the MOTIF of the designs can be recognised. It must
be remembered that the Long Glat design is tatued in rows down the
front and sides of the thigh, whilst these Kayan designs have been
modified to form more or less of a sinuous line design for the back
of the thigh; or, in other words, the hornbill elements in the Long
Glat design, though they are serially repeated, are quite separate
and distinct one from the other, whilst in the Kayan designs the
hornbill elements are fused and modified to produce the sinuous
line pattern that in one form or another is generally employed for
the decoration of the back of the thigh. In this connection Pl. 139,
Fig. 5, is instructive; it is taken from a tatu block which, together
with those from which Figs. 1 and 2 are taken, was collected many
years ago by Mr. Brooke Low, amongst the Kayans of the Upper Rejang;
it also appears to be a doc, derivative, and no doubt was used for the
tatu of the front of a woman's thigh,[79] being serially repeated in
three or four rows as with the Long Glat. Yet it was unknown as a tatu
design to some Kayans of the Baram river to whom it was shown recently;
they informed us that the name of the design was TUANG BUVONG ASU,
pattern of dog without tail, and they stated that a somewhat similar
design was engraved by them on sword blades. Pl. 139, Fig. 4, is
taken from a tatu-block of uncertain origin, and the same name was
also applied to this by the Baram Kayans, though with some hesitation
and uncertainty; the hornbill MOTIF is here quite obvious.

We have stated that an interlacing line design is generally employed
for the back of the thigh; we figure, however, a remarkable exception
from the Baloi river (Pl. 140, Fig. 5); this is known as KALONG KOWIT,
hook pattern; A is a representation of an antique bead, BALALAT
LUKUT, B is known as KOWIT, hooks. Between the two strips of line
design at the back of the thigh runs a narrow line of untatued skin,
the supposed object of which has been described above. The front and
sides of the thigh in highclass women will be covered with three or
more strips of pattern such as are shown on Pl. 138, Figs. 4 and 5;
BULAN can again be recognised; the ULU TINGGANG in this example are
less conventionalised than in the spirals of the forearm pattern,
and a spiral form of TUSHUN TUVA IS shown in addition to the angular
form. The other example exhibits IDA LIMA, TUSHUN TUVA JALAUT, KOWIT
(the interlocking spirals) and ULU TINGGANG. All these strips of
pattern are separated by the IKOR. The knee-cap is the last part
of the leg to be tatued, and the design covering it is called the
KALONG NANG, the important pattern, good examples of which are shown
in Figs. 70, 71; Fig. 72 represents the design on the front and sides
of the thigh of an Uma Semuka Kayan of the slave class, which also
is termed TUSHUN TUVA.

The admirable Uma Lekan patterns (Pl. 140, Fig. 2) represent on the
back of the thigh (AA) BELILING BULAN, on the front and sides (BB)
SILONG, faces or SILONG LEJAU, tigers' faces; the latter is evidently
an anthropomorph; the knee-cap design is particularly worthy of
notice.[80] Nieuwenhuis [9, Pl. 83, and 8, Pl. XXVII.] figures the
thigh tatu of a Mendalam woman of the PANJIN or free-woman class; the
back of the thigh is occupied by two strips of the four line pattern,
here termed KETONG PAT, and a somewhat crude anthropomorphic design,
known as KOHONG KELUNAN, human head, covers the front and sides of
the thigh (text Fig. 69); the centre of the knee-cap is occupied
by a very similar anthropomorph, known however as NANG KLINGE, the
important design, and extending in a semicircle round the upper part
of it is a design made up of intersecting zigzags and known as KALANG
NGIPA, the snake design; below the knee-cap is a transverse band of
hour-glass shaped figures termed PEDJAKO. Nieuwenhuis also figures
[9, Pl. 841 the thigh pattern of a chiefs daughter from the same
river; this only differs from the preceding example in the greater
elaboration of the KOHONG KELUNAN; the back of the thigh is covered
by a form of the IDA PAT pattern not by the IDA LIMA pattern. Some
of the tatu-blocks employed by the Mendalam Kayan women are figured
in the same works [9, Pl. 82, and 8, Pl. XXVIII.].

A comparison of the figures here given lends strong support to
the supposition that the tuba-root pattern is merely a degraded
anthropomorph. Fig. 69 is a recognisable anthropomorph such as is
tatued in rows on the thigh, and some such name as TEGULUN, SILONG,
or KOHONG is applied to it. Fig. 70 is a knee-cap design, evidently
anthropomorphic in nature, but termed NANG KLINGE, the important
design, since it is the last part of all to be tatued. Fig.71 is
termed TUSHUN TUVA, but a distinct face is visible in the centre
of the pattern; the general similarity between this last design and
the examples of TUSHUN TUVA shown in the designs on Pl. 138, Figs. 4
and 5, is quite obvious; the lower of the two TUSHUN TUVA designs in
Fig. 5, Pl. 138, is Cornposed of angular lines, thus reverting to the
angularity of the lines in text, Fig. 69; at E, Fig. 3, Pl. 140, the
lines are partly angular, partly curved, and the bilateral symmetry
is entirely lost; finally, in Fig. 72, the relationship of the TUSHUN
TUVA design to an anthropomorph is entirely lost.

A typical form of tatu on the foot of a low-class woman is shown on
Pl. 138, Fig. 6; a chiefs daughter would have some modification of
the principal element of the thigh design tatued on this part.

Kenyah Tatu.

The culture of the Sarawak Kenyahs is closely allied to that of the
Kayans, and their tatu may be considered separately from that of the
Kenyah-Klemantan tribes whose tatu is much more original in design.

The men of such Kenyah tribes as the Lepu Jalan, Lepu Tau, Lepu Apong,
etc., if tatued at all, are tatued in the Kayan manner, that is, with
some form of dog design on the forearms and thighs, and with rosettes
or stars on the shoulders and breasts. The dog design is usually known
as USANG ORANG, the prawn pattern; the teeth of the dog are held to
represent the notched border of the prominent rostrum characteristic
of the prawns of the genus PALAEMAN, that occur so plentifully in
the fresh-water streams of Borneo. An extreme modification of the dog
design to form a prawn is shown in Pl. 137, Fig. 9; Pl. 136, Fig. 4,
is a dog design, and is so termed. Pl. 136, Fig. 10, is known as
TOYU, a crab; A is the mouth, BA; B the claw, KATIP; C the back,
LIKUT; D the tail, IKONG. Pl. 136, Fig. 9, is termed LIPAN KATIP,
jaws of the centipede. All these are tatued on the flexor surface
of the forearm or on the outside of the thigh.[81] An example of a
star design termed USONG DIAN, durian pattern, is shown in Pl. 141,
Fig. 7. The women of these tribes tatu in the same way, and employ
the same designs as the Kayans, except that they never tatu on the
thighs. Amongst the Baram Kenyahs there appears to be very little
ceremonial connected with the process of tatuing.

Kenyah-Klemantan[82] Tatu.

Amongst this rather heterogeneous assemblage of tribes considerable
diversity of tatu design is found. The men are seldom tatued, but
when they are it is in the Kayan manner. The Peng or Pnihing of the
Koti basin have an elaborate system of male tatu, but it seems to be
dying out; the only examples that we have met are shown on Pl. 141,
Figs. 2 and 3. These represent the arms of Peng men; unfortunately we
have no information as to the significance of the designs. The only
other Peng design that we are acquainted with is a large disc tatued
on the calf of the leg. Dr. Nieuwenhuis states that Peng women are
tatued with isolated dog designs on the arms and legs like the men
of Kayan tribes [9, p. 461].

The Kenyah women of the Baram district exhibit a very primitive
style of tatu on the arms and hands (Pl. 141, Fig. 4); a broad band
encircles the middle of the forearm, and a narrow band an inch or so
distant of this also surrounds the arm; from this narrow band there run
over the metacarpals to the base of the fingers eight narrow lines,
the outermost on the radial side bifurcating; the design is known as
BETIK ALLE or line tatu. No other part of the body is tatued.

Nieuwenhuis figures [9, Pl. 95] a somewhat similar design employed
by the Lepu Tau women of the Batang Kayan; but in this case, instead
of eight longitudinal lines stopping short at the knuckles, there
are five broad bands running to the finger nails, interrupted at the
knuckles by a 2 cm.-broad strip of untatued skin. Moreover, with these
people the front and sides of the thigh and the shin are tatued with
primitive-looking designs made up of series of short transverse lines,
curved lines, and broad bands; the names of the designs are not given;
these designs are said to be characteristic of the slave-class, the
higher-class women copying the more elaborate designs of the Uma Lekan.

Amongst the Batang Kayan Kenyahs tatuing cannot be executed in the
communal house, but only in a hut built for the purpose. The males of
the family, to which the girl undergoing the operation belongs, must
dress in bark-cloth, and are confined to the house until the tatu is
completed; should any of the male members be travelling in other parts
of the island tatu cannot be commenced until they return. Amongst the
Uma Tow (or Lepu Tau) the daughter of a chief must be tatued before
any of the other females of the house; should the chiefs daughter
(or daughters) die before she has been tatued, all the other women
of the house are debarred from this embellishment (Nieuwenhuis [9,
pp. 453, 454]).

Nieuwenhuis, in his great work on Borneo, which we have cited so
often, gives a good account of the tatu of the Long Glat. According
to this authority, girls when only eight years old have the backs of
the fingers tatued, at the commencement of menstruation the tatu of
the fingers is completed, and in the course of the following year
the tatu is carried over the backs of the hand to the wrist; the
feet are tatued synchronously with the hands. At the age of eighteen
to twenty the front of the thigh is tatued, and later on in life the
back of the thigh; unlike the Kayans it is not necessary that the tatu
of the thighs should be finished before child-bearing. A Long Glat
woman on each day that she is tatued must kill a black fowl as food
for the artist. They believe that after death the completely tatued
women will be allowed to bathe in the mythical river Telang Julan,
and that consequently they will be able to pick up the pearls that
are found in its bed; incompletely tatued women can only stand on
the river bank, whilst the untatued will not be allowed to approach
its shores at all. This belief appears to be universal amongst the
Kenyah-Klemantan of the Upper Mahakam and Batang Kayan. On Pl. 86 of
Nieuwenhuis' book [9] is figured the thigh tatu of a Long Glat woman;
the front of the thigh is occupied with two rows of the hornbill MOTIF
to which reference has already been made. The sides of the thigh are
tatued with a beautiful design of circles and scrolls termed KERIP
KWE, flight feathers of the Argus pheasant, and on the back of the
thigh is a scroll design borrowed from the decoration of a grave
and known as KALANG SONG SEPIT.[83] The knee is left untatued. Some
other examples of the KERIP KWE design are given on Pl. 90, and of
the SONG SEPIT on Pl. 91; some of the SONG SEPIT designs recall the
KALANG KOWIT designs of the Baloi Kayans. Instead of a hornbill MOTIF,
a dog's head MOTIF is sometimes tatued on the thigh, an example of
which is figured on Pl. 87, Fig. A; it appears to be a composition
of four heads, and in appearance is not unlike SILONG LEJAU of the
Uma Lekan, figured by us. In the Long Glat thigh-tatu the bands of
pattern are not separated by lines of IKOR, as with the Kayans. Round
the ankles the Long Glat tatu sixteen lines, 3 mm. broad, known as
TEDAK AKING; the foot is tatued much after the manner shown in our
Fig. 6, Pl. 143. The supinator surface of the forearm and the backs
of the hands are also tatued, but the design does not extend so far up
the arm as with the Kayans [9, Pl. 92]; the forearm design is made up
of a hornbill MOTIF, but that shown in Fig. A of the plate is termed
BETIK KULE, leopard pattern, and is supposed to be a representation
of the spots on the leopard's skin; it is stated to be taken from a
Long Tepai tatu-block; the knuckles are tatued with a double row of
wedges, the finger joints with quadrangles.

The Uma Luhat seem to have borrowed their tatu and designs very largely
if not entirely from the Long Glat; with them the back of the thigh
is tatued before the front, which is exceptional. Half of the knee
is tatued. Their designs are modifications of the hornbill and dog's
head designs of the Long Glat. Nieuwenhuis figures several examples
[9, Pl. 87, Fig. B, Plate 88, Pl. 89, Pl. 93, Fig. A, Pl. 94], which
should be consulted, as they are of the greatest interest.

The Long Wai seem to tatu in much the same way as the Uma Luhat [2,
Pl., p. 189 and 7, p. 91].

Tatu of Muruts and Klemantans.

A number of tribes have adopted more or less the tatu of the
Kayans. Thus the men of the following Sarawak tribes, Sibops, Lirongs,
Tanjongs, Long Kiputs, Barawans, and Kanowits, are often, though not
universally, tatued like Kayans. The shoulder pattern of the Barawans
is distinctive, in that the rosette nearly always bears a scroll
attached to it, a relic of the dog MOTIF, from which the design is
derived (Pl. 138, Fig. 6). E. B. Haddon [4, Fig. 17] figures another
form of the dog MOTIF, which is tatued on the thigh or forearm, and
Ling Roth [7, p. 86] figures three rosette designs for the breast;
we figure two modifications of the dog design on Pl. 137, Figs. 7 and
8. The women of these tribes very rarely tatu; we have seen a Tanjong
woman with a circle of star-shaped figures round her wrist and one
on the thumb. The Tring women of Dutch Borneo are tatued on the hands
and thighs like Kayans; Carl Bock [2, Pl., p. 187] gives some figures
of them. In our opinion all of these tribes owe their tatu entirely
to foreign influences; for we have failed to find a single example
of an original design; the practice is by no means universal, and
great catholicity of taste is shown by those who do tatu. The men,
moreover, do not tatu as a sign of bravery in battle or adventure,
but merely from a desire to copy the more warlike Kayan.

We shall now treat of those tribes that have a distinctive and original
tatu, but it is well to bear in mind, that amongst many of these people
also the Kayan designs are coming into vogue more and more, ousting the
old designs. No tatu-blocks are employed for the indigenous patterns,
all the work being done free-hand.

(A) UMA LONG. -- The Uma Long women of the Batang Kayan exhibit
the most primitive form of tatu known in Borneo. It differs from
every other form in that the tatued surface of the skin is not
covered uniformly with the ink, but the design, such as it is, is
merely stippled into the skin, producing an appearance of close-set
irregular dots. Two aspects of the forearm of an Uma Long woman are
shown on Pl. 142, Fig. 5. No other part of the body is tatued, and
the practice is confined to the female sex.

(B) DUSUN. -- The men only tatu. The design is simple, consisting
of a band, two inches broad, curving from each shoulder and meeting
its fellow on the abdomen, thence each band diverges to the hip and
there ends; from the shoulder each band runs down the upper arm on
its exterior aspect; the flexor surface of the forearm is decorated
with short transverse stripes, and, according to one authority, each
stripe marks an enemy slain [7, p. 90]. This form of tatu is found
chiefly amongst the Idaan group of Dusuns; according to Whitehead
[11, p. 106] the Dusuns living on the slopes of Mount Kina Balu tatu
no more than the parallel transverse stripes on the forearm, but in
this case no reference is made to the significance of the stripes as
a head-tally. The Dusun women apparently do not tatu.

(C) MURUT. -- The Muruts of the Trusan river, North Sarawak, tatu
very little; the men occasionally have a small scroll design just
above the knee-cap and a simple circle on the breast; the women have
fine lines tatued from the knuckles to the elbows [7, p. 93]. The
Muruts of British North Borneo appear to be more generally tatued;
the men are tatued like Dusuns, though, according to Hatton, they
have three parallel stripes running from the shoulders to the wrists
and no transverse lines on the forearm.[84] Whitehead [11, p. 76]
figures a Murut woman of the Lawas river tatued on the arms from the
biceps to the knuckles with numerous fine longitudinal lines; a band
of zigzag design encircles the arm just above the commencement of the
longitudinal lines. The design on a man of the same tribe is given
on page 73 [11], it resembles "a three-legged dog with a crocodile's
head, one leg being turned over the back as if the animal was going to
scratch its ear." The part of the body on which the design was tatued,
is not specified and the sketch is rather inadequate, so that it is
impossible to tell for certain whether the design was tatued in outline
only or whether the outline was filled in uniformly; our impression is
that the outline only was tatued on this individual, and that it was
employed either as an experiment or from idle amusement. Zoomorphs
are conspicuous by their absence from all forms of decorative art
amongst the Lawas Muruts, and the particular zoomorph noted here
gives every evidence of an unpractised hand.

St. John states [7, p. 92] that the Muruts of the Adang river,
a tributary of the Limbang, are tatued about the arms and legs,
but he gives no details.

(D) KALABIT. -- This tribe, dwelling in the watershed of the Limbang
and Baram rivers, is closely akin to Muruts, but its tatu is very
different. The men tatu but rarely, and then with stripes down the
arms. The women, however, are decorated with most striking geometrical
designs, shown on Pl. 142, Figs. 1 -- 4. On the forearm are tatued
eight bold zigzag bands, one-eighth of an inch broad, which do not
completely encircle the arm, but stop short of joining at points
on the ulnar side of the middle line on the flexor surface. The
series of lines is known as BETIK TISU, the hand pattern. In some
cases two short transverse lines, called TIPALANG, cross-lines,
spring from the most distal zigzag at the point where it touches the
back of the wrist on the radial side; in other cases these lines are
tatued across the middle of the back of the wrist and two lozenges
are tatued on the metacarpals; these are known as TEPARAT (Pl. 142,
Fig. 1). The legs are tatued on the back of the thigh, on the shin,
and sometimes on the knee-cap. The designs can best be explained by
a reference to Pl. 142, Figs. 2 -- 4; the part of the design marked
A is termed BETIK BUAH, fruit pattern; B, betik lawa, trunk pattern;
and C, BETIK LULUD, shin pattern. In Fig. 4, A and C are as before;
D is BETIK KARAWIN; E, UJAT BATU, hill-tops; F, BETIK KALANG (Fig. 3).

Kalabit women are tatued when they are sixteen years old, whether
they are married or unmarried, and the operation does not extend
over a number of years as with the Long Glat and Kayans, nor is any
elaborate ceremonial connected with the process.

(E) LONG UTAN. -- An extinct Klemantan tribe, once dwelling on the
Tinjar river, an affluent of the Baram. We owe our knowledge of their
tatu to an aged Klemantan, who was well acquainted with the tribe
before their disappearance; at our behest he carved on some wooden
models of arms and legs the tatu designs of these people, but he
was unable to supply any information of the names or significance
of the designs. The men of the tribe apparently were not tatued,
and the designs reproduced on Pl. 141, Figs. 5, 6, are those of the
women. The essential features of the designs are spirals and portions
of intersecting circles; the intersecting circles are frequently to
be met with in the decorative art of Kenyahs, E.G. on the back of
sword-handles, round the top of posts, on carved bamboos, etc., and
in these cases the design is supposed to be a representation of the
open fruit of a species of mango, MANGIFERA SP. It is not improbable
that the design had the same significance amongst the Long Utan,
for we have met with one or two representations of the same fruit
amongst other Klemantan tribes.

(F) BIAJAU. -- The Dutch author C. den Hamer [5, p. 451] includes under
this heading the tribes living in the districts watered by the rivers
Murung, Kahayan, Katingan, and Mentaja of South-west Borneo. Under this
very elastic heading he would include the Ot-Danum, Siang, and Ulu
Ajar of Nieuwenhuis, but we treat of these in the next section. The
ethnology of the Barito, Kahayan, and Katingan river-basins sadly
needs further investigation; nothing of importance has been published
on this region since the appearance of Schwaner's book on Borneo more
than fifty years ago. We know really very little of the distribution or
constitution of the tribes dwelling in these districts, and Schwaner's
account of their tatu is very meagre. Such as it is, it is given here,
NOTES [7, pp. cxci. cxciv.]: The men of Pulu Petak, the right-hand
lower branch of the Barito or Banjermasin river, tatu the upper part
of the body, the arms and calves of legs, with elegant interlacing
designs and scrolls. The people of the Murung river are said to be most
beautifully tatued, both men and women; this river is really the upper
part of the Barito, and according to Hamer is inhabited by the Biajau
(VIDE POSTEA), who appear to be distinct from the Ngaju of Schwaner,
inhabiting the lower courses of the Barito and Kapuas rivers. The men
of the lower left-hand branch of the Barito and of the midcourse of
that river are often not tatued at all, but such tatu as was extant
in 1850 was highly significant according to Schwaner's account; thus,
a figure composed of two spiral lines interlacing each other and with
stars at the extremities tatued on the shoulder signified that the
man had taken several heads; two lines meeting each other at an acute
angle behind the finger nails signified dexterity in wood-carving;
a star on the temple was a sign of happiness in love. We have no
reason to consider this information inaccurate, but we do consider it
lamentable that more details concerning the most interesting forms
of tatu in Borneo were not obtained, for it is only too probable
that such information cannot be acquired now. The women of this
tribe do not tatu. In the upper Teweh river, an upper tributary of
the Barito the men are tatued a good deal, especially on parts of
the face, such as the forehead, the cheeks, the upper lip. The only
figures that Schwaner gives are reproduced by Ling Roth [7, p. 931,
they represent two Ngajus; the tatu designs are drawn on too small a
scale to be of much interest, and in any case we have no information
concerning them. The two figures of 'Tatued Dyaks' (? Kayans) (after
Professor Veth), on p. 95 of the above-cited work cannot be referred
to any tribe known to us.

Hamer in his paper [5] gives a detailed account of Biajau tatu, but,
unfortunately, without any illustrations; as abstracts of the paper
have already been given by Ling Roth [7, pp. 93, 94] and by Hein [6,
pp. 143 -- 147], we will pass on to the next section.

(G) OT-DANUM, ULU AJAR, AND SIANG (Kapuas river, tributaries). --
Concerning these tribes Nieuwenhuis says but little [9, p. 452],
merely noting that the men are first tatued with discs on the
calf and in the hollow of the knee and later over the arms, torso,
and throat, whilst the women tatu the hands, knees, and shins. Two
colours, red and blue, are used, and the designs are tatued free-hand,
the instrument employed being a piece of copper or brass about four
inches long and half an inch broad, with one end bent down at a right
angle and sharpened to a point. Sometimes thread is wound round the
end of the instrument just above the point, to regulate the depth
of its penetration. Two specimens in the Leyden Museum are figured
by Ling Roth [7, p. 85]. Hamer [5] says that the Ot-Danum women are
tatued down the shin to the tarsus with two parallel lines, joined
by numerous cross-lines, a modification of the Uma Tow design for the
same part of the limb. On the thigh is tatued a design termed SOEWROE,
said to resemble a neck ornament. A disc tatued on the calf of the
leg is termed BOENTOER, and from it to the heel runs a barbed line
called IKOEH BAJAN, tail of the monitor lizard; curiously enough,
though this is the general name of the design, it is on the right leg
also termed BARAREK, on the left DANDOE TJATJAH. Warriors are tatued
on the elbowjoint with a DANDOE TJATJAH and a cross called SARAPANG

A Maloh who had lived for many years amongst these people gave us
the following information about their tatu: -- There is with these
people a great difference between the tatu of the high-class and
that of the low-class individuals: amongst the former the designs are
both extensive and complicated, too complicated for our informant to
describe with any degree of accuracy, but they seem to be much the
same as those described by Hamer. The low-class people have to be
content with simpler designs; the men are tatued on the breast and
stomach with two curved lines ending in curls, and on the outside
of each arm with two lines also ending in curls (Pl. 142, Fig. 6);
on the outside of the thigh a rather remarkable design, shown on
Pl. 142, Fig. 7, is tatued; it is termed LINSAT, the flying squirrel,
PTEROMYS NITIDUS, and on the back of the calf is tatued a disc termed
KALANG BABOI, the wild pig pattern. The women are tatued as described
by Hamer down the front of the shin with two parallel lines connected
by transverse cross-bars; according to our informant the design was
supposed to represent a flat fish, such as a sole. (Pl. 142, Fig. 8.)

Of these people, as of so many others, the melancholy tale of
disappearance of tatu amongst the present generation and replacement
of indigenous by Kayan designs was told, and it seems only too likely
that within the next decade or two none will be left to illustrate
a once flourishing and beautiful art.

Schwaner can add nothing to the facts that we have collected, except
the statement that "the BILIANS (priestesses) have brought the art
of tatuing to the present degree of perfection through learning the
description of the pretty tatued bodies of the [mythical] Sangsangs."

(H) KAHAYAN. -- Our figure (Pl. 141, Fig. 3), and Pl. 81 of
Dr. Nieuwenhuis' book [9], is the extent of our knowledge of the tatu
of the inhabitants of the Kahayan river. The latter illustration
shows a man tatued with a characteristic check pattern over the
torso, stomach, and arms, but there is no reference to the plate
in the text. Our figure is copied from a drawing by Dr. H. Hiller,
of Philadelphia.

(I) BAKATAN AND UKIT. -- As Nieuwenhuis has pointed out [9, p. 451],
the tatu of these tribes is distinctive, inasmuch as most of the
designs are left in the natural colour of the skin against a background
of tatu; that is to say in the phraseology of the photographer,
whilst the tatu designs of Kayans, Kenyahs, etc., are POSITIVES,
those of the Bakatans are NEGATIVES. The men were formerly most
extensively tatued, and we figure the principal designs (Pl. 143),
most of which were drawn from a Bakatan of the Rejang river. The chest
is covered with a bold scroll design known as GEROWIT, hooks (Kayan,
KOWIT) (Figs. 1, 2); across the back and shoulder blades stretches a
double row of circles, KANAK, with small hooks interposed (Fig. 9);
on the side of the shoulder a pattern known as AKIH, the lizard,
PLYCHOZOON HOMALOCEPHALUM (Fam. Geckonidae), is tatued (Figs. 3, 4);
this lizard is used as a haruspex by the Bakatan. Circles are tatued
on the biceps, on the back of the thigh, and on the calf of the leg;
a modification of the scroll design of the chest occurs on the flexor
surface of the forearm. Another form of pattern for the calf of the
leg is shown in Fig. 73, it is termed SELONG BOWANG, the horse-mango,
MANGIFERA SP., the same fruit as that termed by Kayans IPA OLIM, and
of which a representation forms the chief element in the Long Utan
tatu. A series of short lines is tatued on the jaw, and is termed JA,
lines, or KILANG, sword-pattern, and a GEROWIT design occurs under the
jaw; the pattern on the throat is known also as GEROWIT (Fig. 10). On
the forehead is sometimes tatued a star or rosette pattern called
LUKUT, antique bead, and it appears that this is of the nature of
a recognition mark. In jungle warfare, where a stealthy descent
on an unprepared enemy constitutes the main principle of tactics,
it not unfrequently happens that one body of the attacking force
unwittingly stalks another, and the results might be disastrous if
there was not some means of distinguishing friend from foe when at
close quarters.[85] Kenyahs when on the warpath frequently tie a band
of plaited palm fibre round the wrist for the same object. The tatu of
the backs of the hands is avowedly copied from the Kayans, but has a
different name applied to it -- KUKUM. The metatarsus is tatued with
broad bars, IWA, very like the foot tatu of Kayan women of the slave
or of the middle class; lines known as JANGO encircle the ankle.

Tatuing is forbidden in the house; it can only be performed on the
warpath, and consequently men only are the tatu artists. The covering
of the body with designs is a gradual process, and it is only the
most seasoned and experienced warriors who exhibit on their persons
all the different designs that we have just detailed. The tatu of
the legs and feet is the last to be completed, and the lines round
the ankles are denied to all but the bravest veterans.

All that has been written above applies equally well to the Ukits,
or at least once did apply, for now the Ukits have to a great extent
adopted the tatu of the Kayan, and it is only occasionally that

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