AGE: – Mid 19th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Bone
DESCRIPTION: – Traditional Amulets Melanau Bone Fishing Charms
HEIGHT: – Varying in height from 10cm – 12cm
WIDTH:– Varying from 2cm – 9cm
A set of eight very rare Traditional Amulets Melanau Bone Fishing Charms – these charms or amulets are well documented. Fishing charms similar to these can be seen in the British Museum and were published in a special issue of the Sarawak Museum Journal prior to their donation to the Museum.
The Melanau or Milanau people lived in the North and Northeast part of Borneo prior to and up to 1862. When the Rajah of Sarawak annexed the region from the Brunei Sultan this part of Borneo became part of the Third Division of Sarawak, the officials used and adopted the term Melanau to describe the people who lived in the Rejang delta and coastal areas as far as Bintulu. (Morris 1991: 4).
The crafts of Borneo are mostly made to represent spirit figures or those used by Shamans for various purposes, such as bringing good luck, good crops, successful marriage, good health, warding of illness and to bring happiness.
These small bone charms or amulets are fishing charms to ensure a successful catch and were most often made by an individual for a specific purpose. They were rarely used after they had served their purpose and were often disposed of after the demise of the owner of the charm.
The traditional Melanau religion is called Liko , meaning ‘people of the river’ (Ref: Tettoni & Ong 1996: 24). Fishing was an integral part of Melanau life, so much so, that each month of their calendar was given a name related to fishing.
A More in-depth and interesting history of these charms can be found on page 13 of “The Journal of The Asian Arts Society of Australia “Taasa Review” – Referenced from Charlotte Galloways paper on “Small and Potent” – Fishing Charms and the Menau of Borneo.