Decorative Arts


Decorative Arts

Another artistic feature especially in personal ornaments is tattooing. It is widely practiced by the indigenous people of Sarawak especially by the Kayan, Kenyah and Iban groups.

Different tattoo designs are produced and certain types are considered appropriate for certain parts of the body. For instance, the circular design is for the shoulder, chest or the outer side of the wrist while a more elaborate and often larger design such as a dog, scorpion or dragon, is reserved for the inner and outer surface of the thigh. Among the Iban, one distinctive design is meant for the man's throat.

The reason for tattooing is many and obscure. In the past, when a man's hand was tattooed, it meant particularly brave in war or that he had taken some heads.

Among the Kayan, both men and women are tattooed. The Kenyah and Kelabit women are also tattooed. Traditionally the Kenyah and Kayan aristocrat women had elaborate tattoo design on their arms from the fingers to the elbow and on their legs from below the knee to the upper thigh to symbolize their status.

Men and women also adorn their bodies with armlets made of brass and shell and earrings made of brass and lead.

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