Inventory no.: 1404

Dayak Baby Carrier

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Beaded Cane Baby Carrier

Kenyah Dayak People, Borneo

1940s

height: 30cm, width: 37cm

This baby carrier comprises woven rattan over a wooden base and an exterior embellished with a panel (aban) beaded with coloured glass beads, conus shell segments, yellow beads, and old East Indies Dutch colonial coins, which are dated variously 1939 and 1945.

The central beaded panel has a central demon figure surrounded by white hornbill head motifs. The curled tendril-like motifs are characteristic of Kayan/Kenyah Dayak art. The panel is attached to the rattan frame by means of natural twine.

Conus shell slithers were a traditional form of money on Borneo. The glass beads used on the

aban panel most probably are of European manufacture. Large quantities of these beads were imported into Borneo for use in necklaces, baby carriers, skirts and so on.

The carrier retains its original wooden seat which sits inside the carrier on the wooden base. The seat can be lifted out completely.

According to Maxwell (2010, p. 90), it was believed that the souls of young children might wander and come into contact with disease and illness, and so to protect their babies, mothers would attach their babies to their carriers with prayer. The dramatic demonic figure on the beaded panel was designed to protect the child by scaring off marauding spirits.

A related baby carrier is illustrated in Gillow (1995, p. 128). Several baby carrier beaded panels that are similar to that on this carrier are illustrated in Mingei(2005).

This example has excellent wear and patina consistent with use.

References

Chin, L.,

Cultural Heritage of Sarawak, Sarawak Museum, 1980.

Gillow, J.,

Traditional Indonesian Textiles, Thames & Hudson, 1995.

Maxwell, R.,

Life, Death & Magic: 2000 Years of Southeast Asian Ancestral Art, National Gallery of Australia, 2010.

Mingei International Museum,

Elemental Art of the Indonesian Archipelago: Selections from the Collection of Mingei International Museum, 2005.

Provenance

UK art market

Inventory no.: 1404

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