Selections From the Exhibition

"The Dayaks: Peoples of the Borneo Rainforest" February 25, 1989, to June 3, 1990

Originally Published in 1988

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The Objects pictured in the following pages have been selected from several hundred pieces hat are on display in the University Museum’s exhibition, ” The Dayaks: Peoples from the Borneo Rainforest.” This small selection was made, not as a representation of the broad scope of matter in that exhibition, but, rather, to convey a visual sense of general style and aesthetics of Dayak material culture.

Traditional Dayak material culture can be thought of as being made for a wide range of uses and social contexts that can be scaled from secular and utilitarian at one extreme to highly religious and societal at the other. At the secular and utilitarian end of this activity scale the objects tend to be plain and unadorned, while at the other end the objects were crafted by most skilled hands and contained find, rare, or singular materials. Thus, aesthetic expression is an integral part of certain contexts, and not a part of others. I have used the name “Dayak” as though there were only one culture of people living in the interior of Borneo, and that, of course, is not the case. There are many Dayak cultures, and they are not uniform with respect to the production of artistic material culture. Some showed strong expressive qualities, others did not. In other words, there was a noticeable degree of aesthetic specialization among Dayak cultures, just as there was also specialization in non-aesthetic, often purely economic activities. Nevertheless, there is a measure of similarity in the motifs, patterns, and use of forms that gives visual unity to Dayak art, regardless of what culture it came from.


Cite This Article

"Selections From the Exhibition." Expedition Magazine 30, no. 1 (March, 1988): -. Accessed April 22, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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