Kalimantan : Art & Craft

Powerful, expressive Dayak woodcarvings and other art froms - cloth, beadwork - have universal appeal. Styles and motifs varied from group to group, and not all Dayaks had a strong artistic tradition.

Longhouse, especially those of the Kenyah, Kayan and related groups, are works of art on large scale. These ironwood structures, sheltering a whole village under one roof, are perched on a forest of stilts, two or more meters off the ground. Painted and carved decorations cover stairs, doors, outside walls and roofs of longhouses.

Traditional Dances
Ritual dances, very pupular in the interior, mark the transitional stages of life and important village events : coming of age, marriage,death, banishing illness. fighting wars, planting and harvesting rice.Usually held at night, Dayak dance are exciting spectacles of screaming, tomo-tomming dancers in aminal skin and plumes of feathers. The Dayak also renowned for their solo sword dances, shows the skill of a young manm using a sharp mandau.

Some dayak tribes still play a curious musical instrument, the kledi, a mouth organ akin to a bagpipe wtih six or eight narrow strips of bamboo cane protruding from a hollow oval gourd. Another unusual instrument found among some tribes is the sampe, a large flat flute with rattan strings which resonate over a painted wooden box. Also played are goblet-shaped drums made from heavy, hollowed-out tree trunks. Natives of the northern region play magnificent dragon gongs.

The Dayak's outstanding aesthetic sense is apparent in incridible tatto designs combining snake, bird, and plant motifs. The most intricate tattoing may require months of hard work. Tattos are not just decorative; they denote tribe, family, and social standing. The Kenyah and Kayan Tribes of the northeast have the most attractive and complicated tattoo patterns. Boy get their first tattoos at the age of 12. As they grow to manhood, all journey, skirmishes, and spiritual events are recorded.


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