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War cap of Tama Bulan

British Museum

British Museum

This war cap belonged to Tama Bulan Wang, 'a great Kenyah chief of the Baram District' in Borneo. The long feathers decorating the cap are from a hornbill; hornbill feathers are only used to decorate the hats of men who have achieved some prominence by taking a head. Head hunting was one of the features for which the indigenous populations of Borneo were well known. The cap was collected by Charles Hose, a colonial administrator who spent several years in the Baram District at the end of the ninenteenth century, and befriended many individuals among the indigenous populations, including Tama Bulan. In his book, Natural Man: a record from Borneo (1926), Hose relates a boat race he had organized between local villages. The idea was to bring the men together to compete in a peaceful manner rather than through warfare and head hunting. During some initial fighting, Tama Bulan was injured but he 'showed his true greatness by haranguing his people, saying that this wound was purely accidental and unintended'. The event concluded amicably with speeches and much drinking.

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  • Title: War cap of Tama Bulan
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 56.50cm; Width: 30.00cm; Depth: 71.00cm; Weight: 360.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: braided
  • Registration number: As1900,-.680
  • Place: Found/Acquired Baram River District. Found/Acquired Malaysia
  • Peoples: Made by Kayan. Made by Kenyah. Made by Kalamantan
  • Material: cane; goat hair; metal; hornbill feather
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Hose, Charles
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