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Evoking the Aso': Dayak Beaded Baby Carrier Panels with Dragon-Dog Motifs


Valerie Hector

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Although fairly well known, beaded baby carriers made by the Dayak peoples of Borneo have not been well studied. This paper focuses on one element of carrier decoration: the square or rectangular bead-plaited or -woven panels known as aban or tāp hawat in Dayak languages. Designed by men, beaded by women, aban harness spiritual power, deploying talismanic motifs that help protect a child’s body and soul from harm in the vulnerable first few years of life. One of the most potent motifs is the aso’ or dragon-dog, an imaginary creature of the watery underworld, feminine in nature, a goddess-like being the Dayak depict in many media besides beads. Analyzing eleven aban dating to ca. 1896-1965, nine of which are previously unpublished, we trace the guises aso’ assume, witnessing impressive artistic achievements while posing questions for further research.

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