Know as the "Dayak", meaning "interior" or "inland" person, the variety of indigenous native tribes of Borneo have a tradition of tattooing that describes their fundamental identity as tribespeople, headhunters, warriors, and community members. Both the men and the women were tattooed, and for a variety of reasons.
Dayak tattoo mythologyAll aspects of Dayak tatttoing showed a great reverence for ancestors, the departed spirits who resided in the 'village of the dead', as well as nature - the Dayak believing that plants contained the same type of lifeforce as humans and animals. Performed by Shaman known as 'manang' to the Iban tribe of Borneo, tattoos were performed to show rites of passage such as a successful head-hunt, to cure illness which was sometimes believed to be due to evil spirits, or to mark women's abilties with textiles and their status in the tribe. In Iban mythology and religious belief, all humans were formed by Selempandai, the Iban blacksmith god who forges human beings, and if a person's illness was thought to be caused by evil spirits, a name changing ceremony was sometimes performed along with a new tattoo near the wrist, in order to conceal the person from the evil spirit by changing them spiritually in the same way as Selempandai forged humans.
Ancestor spirits, and the shamanThe spirits of ancestors, and enemies (in the case of headhunting) were used for agricultural advice, to predict the seasons, protect from evil spirits in the forest, and protect and ensure success in hunts and head-hunts. Shamans acted as the link between the tribe's world, and the spirit world, and it was believed that while all people hoped their spirits would be able to find the sacred village of the dead in the afterlife, only those with the tattoos would be able to make it past the greatest hurdle in the afterlife, 'Maligang', the malevolent guardian of the bridge over the River of Death. Their tattoos would then shine brightly on the other side of the bridge, guiding their way through the darkness.
Traditional Tattooing MethodsThe Kayan tribe's style of tattoos owes its popularity to its wood-block stamp technique, and is the source of much of the Borneo's designs, as other tribes, such as the Iban adapted the deigns to suit their own community. Tribe members would carve patterns into blocks of wood and then transfer it onto the skin. Designs were hand-tapped in ceremonies which often bore resemblance to ceremonies performed for the dead, possibly showing the Dayak's view of tattooing as a death and re-birth for the subject.
Common Borneo tribal designsDogs, Scorpions, Tigers,The Hornbill, Tuba root, the Garing tree, and Rosettes feature highly in Borneo designs, as well as other images all depicting features of nature, such as bamboo. These designs denoted spiritual assistance, protection, prestige, and tribal identity among other things.
Some useful info, and facts about BorneoBorneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. Administratively, this island is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Indonesia's region of Borneo is called "Kalimantan" (although Indonesians use the term for the whole island), while Malaysia's region of Borneo is called East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The independent nation of Brunei occupies the remainder of the island.
There are over 30 sub-ethnic groups living in Borneo, making the population of this island one of the most varied of human social groups. The native ethnic groups are Austronesians and their languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. Some ethnicities are now represented by only 30-100 individuals and are threatened with extinction. Much culture, language, ethnomusic and traditional knowledge has yet to be documented by anthropologists. Ancestral knowledge of ethnobotany and ethnozoology is useful in drug discovery (for example, bintangor plant for AIDS) or as future alternative food sources (such as sago starch for lactic acid production and sago maggots as a protein source).
Satelite image of Borneo showing smoke from peat fires, taken August 19th 2002 Source
Certain indigenous people (such as the Kayan, Kenyah, Punan Bah and Penan) living on the island have been struggling for decades for their right to preserve their environment from loggers and transmigrant settlers and colonists. Land reform is needed for future development in the face of rapid economic changes.
The type of rainforests found in Borneo include the high diversity mixed dipterocarp forest, the rare peat swamp forests and heath forest.
Researchers scouring swamps in the heart of Borneo island have discovered a venomous species of snake that can change its skin color. Scientists named their find the Kapuas mud snake, and speculated it might only occur in the Kapuas River drainage system.
World Wildlife Fund has stated that 361 animal and plant species have been discovered in Borneo since 1996, underscoring its unparalleled biodiversity. In the 18 month period from July 2005 until December 2006, another 52 new species were found.
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