Article Title

Social Status Gradations Expressed in the Beadwork Patterns of Sarawak's Orang Ulu


Heidi Munan

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The peoples of Central Borneo, known collectively as the Orang Ulu, used to display social stratification by restricting the types of ornaments an individual might use and wear. "High-ranking" motifs were the human figure, the hornbill, and the tiger or leopard. The Orang Ulu are bead connoisseurs who incorporated seed beadwork in their costume and belongings; a person could only make use of beaded items proper to his or her social stratum. Religious and social changes have democratized these once strictly aristocratic societies and their handicrafts. Today's beadworker produces not only for her own family but for the souvenir market, so she feels free to apply any designs which please the buyer.

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The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.

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