From: Borneo | Sarawak

Curatorial Section: Oceanian

View All (4) Object Images

Native Name Kenyalang
Object Number P815A
Current Location Collections Storage
Culture Iban
Provenience Borneo | Sarawak
Section Oceanian
Materials Wood | Pigment | Feather
Iconography Hornbill

Stylized representation of a Rhinceros Hornbill. (kenyalang). The beak is greatly attenuated, and the “horn” is rendered as a tall spiral. Round openwork crest. In times of prosperity, such as after a good rice harvest, the Iban people of Borneo held major celebrations called Gawai Kenyalang, at the culmination of which a large carved and painted figure of a rhinoceros hornbill was lifted high into the air at the top of a pole and urged to fly away, carrying with it the forces of misfortune. In some communities smaller “child” (“anak”) versions of the hornbill figure were created at the same time by individual households in the multi-family longhouses. This is an example of such an “anak” figure. The bird holds in its beak a fig, the hornbill’s principal food. In the past, in the time of headhunting, the large bird was urged to fly to an enemy community and destroy its power to defend itself. In this context, the oval fig could also be a reference to a trophy head.

Height 45.72 cm
Length 77.47 cm
Width 15.5 cm
Credit Line Gift of Dr. William H. Furness 3rd., 1898

Report problems and issues to