Headhunter's jacket (baju kirai)

Iban people
c. 1825–1875
more object details

General Description

The back of this jacket (or war vest) displays several rows of figures and designs. The figures represent a pairing of the protective deity Indu Dara Tinchin Temaga, the daughter of the god of war, and a kneeling male. Between the two figures hangs a prize in the shape of a dangling pendant containing a cross, the symbol of a trophy head. The geometric bands below the figures are “seeds” or “fruits,” also symbols for numerous trophies that signaled the bravery and success of this warrior. It is fitting that such powerful imagery covers the back of a jacket as this is the warrior’s most vulnerable spot.

When this jacket was collected around 1970, it was already six generations old. According to informants, the original owner killed two foes in hand-to-hand combat and captured four slaves (ulon), whom he treated kindly as if they were his own children.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.

Web Resources

  • Wikipedia
    Learn more about the Iban people.