Tuesday, November 01, 2011




Main Material;  Slab-built Ball Clay Electric High Fired.

                                      Clay is from Borneo.
Ball clays are relatively scarce deposits due to the combination of geological factors needed for their formation and preservation.

Added Materials;  Glasses.

Size;  Life Size.  17.5 inches High. { 444.5 mm }

Finish;  Wax Dye, Acrylic Paint.

Edition;  One Off ... No Copies Made.
                   Original Artists Proof 

Year; 2008

This work is sold as the original Artists Proof.
A Certificate of Proof  will be provided and signed by the Artist.
Copyright remains with the Artist.
If you are interested in purchasing this work for your collection
please contact me at ..


This sculpture in Ball Clay and hand built is taken from an old photograph, is of a Headman also known as Penghulu of the Kayan people located in the Upper Baram and in one of the most interesting parts of Sarawak, Borneo now called East Malaysia. The Kayan people can be found midway on the Baram River and also on the upper Rajang River and parts of the lower Tubau River.

The traditional way of life is still evident but many of the longhouses, even in remote areas are quite modern now. It is said that the origin of the Kayan people is from the Apau Kayan area in Kalimantan, Indonesia hence their name. The Kayan people are categorized as a part of the Dayak people of Borneo and the population may be some 15,000 today in Sarawak but part of a larger grouping of people referred to collectively as the Orang Ulu, or 'upriver people'. They are known for as being fierce warriors and former headhunters back in the days when headhunting was all part of the survival and culture in Borneo but also for their farming skills and what is known as shift cultivation, in growing padi [rice] also adept in dry-land rice growing and the cultivation of sago. When clearing virgin jungle they established the right of ownership over that piece of land. It is believed that the original Kayan more than likely moved into Sarawak due to the exhaustion of their lands in Kalimantan.

Kayans can have extensive tattoos on their body and stretched earlobes can be found amongst male and female but today the younger generation of Kayans seldom pratice this. Kayan women tattoo their hands and legs and is considered feminine to do so. This tattooing was carried out when the girl is between ten to twelve years old. The earlobes in both men and women were perforated at an early age and brass and other types of material, including boars tusk for the men as in my sculpture, were inserted in order to extend them. For the Kayan People as for all indigenous people throughout the world the practice is a way of beautification.

The Kayan society has a class system, with class endogamy being marked among the aristocrats, however class distinctions have become less pronounced since the late 20th century but is still respected today amongst the Kayan people. Formerly, the Kayan were in frequent conflict with the Iban and other Dayak groups over land rights and general control though the Iban are the biggest indigenous group survival and respect within the community is all important. In the past, the Kayan practiced an elaborate traditional religion with numerous spirits and such ritual institutions as shamanism and augury. Most Kayan in both Indonesia and Malaysia are now Christian,  though personally I would like to think some would have held on to their pagan customs.

The Kayans are well known for their boat making skills which are carved out from a single tree trunk which is treated by fire to remove the sap. Their skills in metal work are also highly regarded but today like most of the indigenous people if the opportunity comes for education they can move into all skills and professions.


JLau said...

This is a brilliant work of sculpture in this day and age to preserve a portrait of the Kayan Penghulu as with the moving time in this fast paced society,restoration and preservation of the indigenous people of Sarawak will be a thing of the past and its good that it takes Daf,a western sculptor to show immense interest through his Art- a historical portrait for modern Sarawak worth reflecting through time congrats Daf .... JLau

daf said...

The indigenous people have been recorded by photographs and by the excellent painter Tan Wei Kheng listed in the blogs I follow ..