Hunters & Collectors – The Origins of The SouthEast Asian Collection

August 19, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Besides the many animal specimens on special loan from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), there were other interesting artefacts that were collected by the six collectors featured in the Hunter & Collectors exhibition now at the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM).

A Dayak Hampatong, or ancestor figure from Sarawak, Malaysia.
Try to identify the four animals flanking it…

One of the ancestor carvings collected in 1887, commonly found in
households throughout the Nias Islands of Indonesia

Ancestor carvings served as reminders of the deceased and as charms to
protect the household. They were containers for ancestral spirits. It was
believed that by trapping the last breath of a dying person, the soul could be
contained and transferred to the carving 🙂

This ain’t normal coconut shell, but a coconut shell container for fishing
bait. This was dated back at least a century ago!

Singapore a “rotten place”?! Wow! What did we do to annoy him? Read on
and you realised he was just complaining to his sister in a letter that he
felt uncomfortable in towns and preferred to rough it out in faraway places.
William Louis Abbott (1860 – 1936) spent a good 10 years in Singapore from
1899. He was the one who discovered the large endangered seabird, the Abbott’s
(Papasula abbotti)
on Assumption Island in 1892. The bird is named
after him

A basket collected from the Iban, natives of the island of Borneo. This was
carried on the back like a haversack, probably used to store precious
harvest like grains

Of the many kris (keris)
on display, Itchyfingers felt this was quite unique…

Closeup of this keris with hilt in the form of a deity (19th century, Bali, East
Java). The figure depicts Bayu, the Hindu god of the wind. Bayu is often shown
encrusted with jewels and holding a prominent centre stone which symbolises
amritsa, the elixir of life

A bullet holder from Sumatra, Indonesia. Some of the lead bullets are still
inside the holder!

Old records of specimens collected

These were some reports of the Raffles Library and Museum for the years
1874 to 1900, consisting research papers written by museum staff and
other scholars about the collection. Notice the design of the book looks like
what we can still find in the shops nowadays? Hmmm…certain things sure
can survive the tests of time… haha…

A shell ornament…dunnu from which turtle or tortoise…poor thing….

From Kelantan and Perak, Malay Peninsula in the 19th century. Any idea
what were these for?

See where the plate was used? Haha….the plates are called the ‘modesty
plates’, used to cover the boys’ you-know-where….hahahah…. 8)

The ‘modesty plates’ were really small since they were for children. Then what about adults? :D?

No, you are wrong if you think these bigger plates are ‘modesty plates’ for
adults… :p They are actually buckles… hahah…

Beautiful Ceret (Kettle) from Brunei

A Kendi (Water Vessel) from West Sumatra, Indonesia

A sarong, probably belonged to the Iban Dayak from Sarawak. The repeated
geometric design, known as hooked lozenges, is one of the most basic forms,
and is used to represent living beings, both human and animals

A closeup of the unusual armour, probably from the Iban Dayak, Borneo
in the 19th century. This war-coat is made of bark and fish scales. Some
Iban Dayak are known for using the skin of a scaly anteater to make these

A carved wooden crocodile from Sarawak. It is believed that crocodiles
have the power to capture the soul of a human, which would entice the body
to come looking for the soul, and fall prey to the croc. This wooden croc,
possibly a preventive talisman, could have been carved by an image maker
or a shamen

Decorative house panels. They actually reminded me of the aboriginal
arts of Australia.. :p

A female ancestor figure from the Eastern Indonesian Archipelago

We were wondering why this figure looked so familar. So this is Madonna
and Child, from East Timor. Colonised in the 16th century by the Portuguese,
East Timor was one of the earliest areas in the region to see mass conversion
to Christianity. While the image was probably made locally to copy the
European style, the face mirrored those of local ancestor images and carved
in the local style

Museums today are getting more informational and interactive. There are always no lack of activities to engage both the young and the old. Do look out for the fun stations located throughout the gallery where you can listen to indigenous music, collect embossed tribal symbols and hunt for missing objects in the Virtual Raffles Library & Museum! 🙂 The Hunters & Collectors exhibition is on till 21 September!

Also see related post:
> When the Hunters Became the Hunted – Hunters & Collectors


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