Skulls focus of attention at heritage museum


HISTORICAL FIGURES: Joachim points to prominent Iban figures on display at the museum.

BLACKENED: The skulls.

SIBU: The five human skulls from the head-hunters’ era of Borneo are the central attraction at Sibu Cultural Heritage Museum in Sibu Heritage Centre at Central Road here.

Museum assistant Joachim Tajul said yesterday the skulls were displayed in a loosely-woven ‘ringka’ (Iban rattan basket) and hung above a fireplace at the Iban Section.

“They are carefully preserved and taken care of. When the museum was relocated from Sibu Civic Centre in August 2010, we held a special ‘miring’ with offerings to appease the spirits of the skulls.

“Two chickens were slaughtered before taking the skulls out of the old location, and a pig was slaughtered to bring the skulls into this centre,” he recalled.

Joachim said once in a while, the skulls were given an offering in a small small woven ‘kelingkang’ (basket).

He does not know the background of the skulls nor who had given them to the museum.

“When I joined the museum in 1998, the skulls were already there.

“One morning at the Sibu Civic Centre Mini Museum, a charlady who had just reported for duty, ran helter-skelter when she saw the skulls. The skulls gave jitters to most of those who saw them for the first time,” he recalled.

Joachim revealed that from August 2010 to May this year, the museum received a total of 61,472 visitors, including foreigners.

Most of the foreign visitors were from China with a good number from the US, Australia, Holland, England, Singapore and Korea.

The museum displays the rich cultural heritage of the ethnic groups in the state’s central region including the Malay, Chinese, Iban, Orang Ulu and Melanau.

The materials exhibited are part of the history of Sibu.

It opens from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

It also opens on public holidays, save for Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Gawai Dayak and Christmas.