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Friday, January 13, 2012

Kelabit People - The Highlanders

The Kelabits of Sarawak First "discovered" around the turn of the 20th Century, the Kelabits, a tribe of fierce warriors and headhunters who saw off anyone entering their territory, were generally given a wide berth by neighbouring tribes Culturally and linguistically, they are distinct in many ways from the other thirty or so tribes in Sarawak.

Under broad conical hats, they wore their hair long at the back or done up in a bun held in place by pins of metal or horn. Around the waist hung a long sword-parang with a curved staghorn hilt and wooden scabbard. 

The men had two holes on each ear, pierced during infancy. 
The bottom hole was adorned with heavy brass ear rings which greatly extended the ear lobes so that they often hung down to the shoulders.
In the upper hole, kept open by wooden plugs, the warriors wore leopard's fangs.
 The women had elaborate tattoos, a fine lacework of dots and lines, on almost the entire lower limb, from the foot to well up the thigh, so finely decorated that from a distance, it looked as though they were wearing blue-black stockings. 
They also wore brightly coloured skull caps, and their eyebrows were plucked for the sake of beauty.
This picture from the 1950s shows a Kelabit man a
nd his son with full-blown bead accessories. – Sarawak Museum 

Their homeland, now called the Kelabit Highlands, is pretty much a large plateau ringed by a series of jungle-covered mountain peaks.Lying at an altitude of between 3400 to 6000 feet above sea level in the north-eastern corner of Sarawak, their territory extends to the Sarawak edge of a central mountain spur that divides Borneo along the middle.
Bario the Land of the Kelabits
"Bario is located in Kelabit Highlands, 3280 feet above sea level. Due to this geographical barrier, this wonderful place is isolated from the rest of the world. The main activity in Bario is agriculture. The cool climate with an average 20°C in Bario enables the residents to cultivate citrus fruits (oranges), coffee and sugarcane. However, Bario rice is the most popular and significant agricultural product"

On the other side of this spur lies the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, formerly part of Dutch Borneo.One of the smallest tribes in Sarawak and, now, a branch of the Orang Ulu, the total Kelabit population of about 6000 people represents a mere 0.4% of Sarawak's population of 1.5 million, just 0.027% of Malaysia's 22 million

The Kelabit, who have close ties to the Lun Bawang, are an indigenous people of the Sarawak Highlands in Borneo with a minority in the neighbouring state of Brunei. The elevation there is slightly over 1,200 meters.

Beaded and tattooed beauties of the Kelabit tribe.
All Kelabit women are tattooed when they reach the age of sixteen. Bold zigzag bands are traced on the forearm, not completely encircling the limb, and strikingly decorative geometrical designs are tattooed on the thigh, the shin, and sometimes, on the knee-cap. They wear strings of large blue beads around the waist and wrist, and necklaces of smaller beads.

KELABIT costume@Keligit Borneo Hornbill Festival KL 2011(MATIC-Jln Ampang)


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