Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 65.000 cm
Collected by Dr Charles Hose
Africa, Oceania, Americas
War cap of Tama Bulan
Kenyah, late 19th - early 20th century AD
From Borneo, Pacific Ocean
The war cap of a chief
This war cap belonged to Tama Bulan Wang, 'a great Kenyah chief of the Baram District' in Borneo. The long feathers decorating the cap are from a hornbill; hornbill feathers are only used to decorate the hats of men who have achieved some prominence by taking a head. Head hunting was one of the features for which the indigenous populations of Borneo were well known.
The cap was collected by Charles Hose, a colonial administrator who spent several years in the Baram District at the end of the ninenteenth century, and befriended many individuals among the indigenous populations, including Tama Bulan. In his book, Natural Man: a record from Borneo (1926), Hose relates a boat race he had organized between local villages. The idea was to bring the men together to compete in a peaceful manner rather than through warfare and head hunting. During some initial fighting, Tama Bulan was injured but he 'showed his true greatness by haranguing his people, saying that this wound was purely accidental and unintended'. The event concluded amicably with speeches and much drinking.
C. Hose, Natural man: a record from Bor, with a preface by G. Elliot Smith and an introduction by Brian Durrans (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988)