The women of many Dayak tribes weave glass beads into fascinating patterns that are used to decorate the unusual baby baskets that are sometimes the most valuable piece of property that a family possesses.
This type of baby basket is called ba. Mothers use them to carry their babies around on their backs from their birth and until they are two years old. The framework for the basket is usually made of rattan, which is then decorated with a complex fabric of beads.
Baby carrier, Kenyah Dayak People, Borneo, ca. 1920 - 1940. Photo source
Baby carrier, Bahau people. Borneo 20th century. Wikimechanics Library
Magical amulets made of old beads, buttons, coins, cowry shells or animal teeth are often loosely attached. The number of teeth hung gives the indication of the sex of the baby: even number for a girl and odd for a boy. The slightest movement creates the rattling noise that is meant to keep evil spirits away. The bead patterns also indicate the social status of the baby's parents. The ba of a noble family will be decorated with a human figure or the dog-dragon motif, while lower-ranking tribal members use geometric patterns.
Baby carrying baskets from Sarawak. Museum Volunteers
Carrying a baby in a beaded basket. Photo courtesy D Lumenta
For Dayaks ba is not just a baby carrier, it is a work of art, a device for protecting a child’s health, a display of social rank and a family heirloom.
More about ba carriers you can find in the article from Penn Museum
More interesting articles
If you enjoyed this post, please like my page on Facebook. Thank you!