Saturday 26 October
Healing rituals and material culture of the Melanau of Sarawak/Malaysia
The Melanau people of Sarawak/ Malaysia on the island of Borneo represent a small ethnical group which lives mainly in the coastal areas and along the rivers of the Mukah District. The Melanau developed a culture which was formed and influenced by the specific conditions of their life between mangroves and lowlands, high and low tides and the open sea.
Due to the conversion to Islam and Christian religions, the traditional Melanau custom is more and more changing and partly disappearing. Modern medicine substitutes the traditional health rituals and subsequently the material culture around the healing procedures lost significance. Consequently, the number of wood carvers involved in the health rituals decreased. This affected also in general the use of charm figures, esp. the fishing charms (Sou´).
While certain basic structures of the Melanau health rituals can also be found among other ethnical groups on the island of Borneo or elsewhere, the wooden figures (Belum) used in the Melanau healing ceremony are absolutely unique. The lecture explains the use of the Belum, shows examples and answers the collector’s question, why these objects are extremely rare on the tribal art market.
The lecture of collector Rolf Schlömer will be in English and is based on several visits to Melanau areas, on the Melanau relating literature and on interviews with local Melanau experts.