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Art of Borneo expressed in their daily life, cloth, beadwork, and traditional longhouses.

Borneo Wood Carvings

Powerful, expressive Dayak Borneo wood carvings and other art forms have universal appeal. Styles and motifs varied from group to group, and not all Dayaks had a strong artistic tradition.

Longhouses, especially those of the Kenyah, Kayan, and related groups are works of art on large scale. These ironwood structures, sheltering a whole village under one roof, are perched on a forest of stilts, two or more meters off the ground. Painted and carved decorations cover stairs, doors, outside walls, and roofs of longhouses.

Art of Borneo in Daily Life

Traditional Dances

Ritual dances, very popular in the interior, mark the transitional stages of life and important village events: coming of age, marriage, death, banishing the illness. fighting wars, planting and harvesting rice. Usually held at night, Dayak dance is exciting spectacles of screaming, tomo-tomming dancers in aminal skin and plumes of feathers. The Dayak also renowned for their solo sword dances shows the skill of a young man using a sharp mandau.

Traditional Music

Some Dayak tribes still play a curious musical instrument, the kledi, a mouth organ akin to a bagpipe with six or eight narrow strips of bamboo cane protruding from a hollow oval gourd. Another unusual instrument found among some tribes is the sampe, a large flat flute with rattan strings that resonate over a painted wooden box. Also played are goblet-shaped drums made from heavy, hollowed-out tree trunks. Natives of the northern region play magnificent dragon gongs.


The Dayak’s outstanding aesthetic sense is apparent in incredible tattoo designs combining snake, bird, and plant motifs. The most intricate tattooing may require months of hard work. Tattoos are not just decorative; they denote tribe, family, and social standing. The Kenyah and Kayan Tribes of the northeast have the most attractive and complicated tattoo patterns. Boy gets their first tattoos at the age of 12. As they grow to manhood, all journeys, skirmishes, and spiritual events are recorded.

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