Rare beadwork on display in exhibition at Kuching Textile Museum

Dora (left) and Ipoi (second left) stand near a rare Iban Baju Ujan on display at the bead exhibition in Kuching Textile Museum.

Items on display at the bead exhibition.

KUCHING: Rare Sarawakian beadwork are on display in an exhibition at Kuching Textile Museum until end of this month (Oct 31).

According to Sarawak Museum Ethnology and Collection Management curator Dora Jok, the exhibition themed ‘Beads: Diversity in Usage’ is open to the public.

The exhibition aims to show the many uses of beads by various communities in Sarawak.

“We (the State Museum Department) have assembled a few beadwork which are not easy to find for display at this exhibition. We are glad to be able to bring them for display here today,” she said.

Dora pointed out that some of the beadwork seen at the exhibition are no longer produced by the ethnic group that created it in the first place, hence the need to handle them with care.

Other rare items on display at the exhibition include an ancient Iban garment worn by aristocrats known as Baju Ujan, an Orang Ulu hat made from fish scales (considered beadwork from the way it was assembled), and a Lun Bawang neck piece made from clam shells.

The bead exhibition was launched yesterday by State Museum Department director Ipoi Datan.

At the simple opening ceremony held at Kuching Textile Museum, Ipoi said beads are synonymous with Sarawakian culture.

“Since its inception in 1891, Sarawak Museum has accumulated a huge collection of beaded items from various places in Sarawak. Beads play significant roles in the lives of almost all ethnic groups in Sarawak,” he said.

Ipoi said the State Museum Department hoped the exhibition educates the public, both local and foreign, on how Sarawakians value and use beads in the past and present.

Held in conjunction with the fifth Borneo International Beads Conference (BIBCo), the exhibition on ‘Beads: Diversity in Usage’ is organised by the Museum Exhibition committee led by Dora and Zakaria Bojeng.

Dora revealed that it is the first time the State Museum Department has organised such an exhibition.

Beads have been around for some 40,000 years, having been traded in Southeast Asia during pre-Christian times.

During the ninth century, they were brought to Borneo by traders in exchange for local forest produce.

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