Ceremonial cloth (pua) with monitor lizards slumbering on watchtowers (bundau bepadung)

Iban peoples
19th century
more object details

General Description

Six monitor lizards confront their counterparts across a line symbolizing a spiritual chasm that keeps the reptiles from attacking one another. They are hedged within upper and lower bands of selaku, or borders. A stylized trophy head motif contained in the bands serves as spiritual nourishment for the reptiles so that they do not break free and devour the weaver and her family. The borders of this cloth are finished off with a design known as Bali Mabuk, or "Drunken Decapitated Corpse," a poetic name for staggering decapitated corpses of enemies.

Reptiles such as monitor lizards, crocodiles, pythons, and water serpents were harnessed as the spirit protectors of warriors; they advised and warned them of danger through dreams. Bandau Bepadung, or "Monitor Lizards Slumbering on Watchtowers," recalls the days of headhunting when warriors would often sit atop high platforms to survey and keep watch over their territory.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2016.

Web Resources

  • Wikipedia
    Learn more about the Iban people.