This baby carrier, or ba’, was made around 1890 by the Kayan people of Borneo. Baby carriers not only serve a functional purpose, but have a spiritual significance as objects of ceremony and protection. The carrier may take 3 months to create and will be used until the baby is around two years old. The baby is carried facing the front of the parent until it is old enough to ride along on her parent’s back.
It is made of woven rattan with wooden seat. The back is covered with red trade cloth and a beaded panel of yellow and black abstract designs.
Bunches of dangling charms—seed pods, large snail shells, and small brown snail shells—make a comforting sound as they dangle. Once the baby’s umbilical cord falls off, it is placed in a shell and attached to the ba’.
Penn Museum Object #P628.
Read more about baby carriers in Expedition magazine’s Spring 1988 special Borneo issue.
View this object and more like it on Penn Museum’s Online Collections Database