Object Mandau “parang ilang”, “malat”
Culture Kalimantan, Dayak, Kajan
Time 18th or early 19th century
Dimensions Length 61 cm
Material Steel, stag horn, rattan hair, glass inlay

The blade of this mandau shows at the base the mata kalong element, the double dragon, inlaid in yellow metal. Originally, this element was the identity card of the mandau of the Kajan aristocracy and only became more common in the course of the 19th century due to intensified trade relations. The blade is made of refined steel and may date from the early 19th century or even older. The relatively dull-nosed, swaged tip of the relatively short blade suggests Ma Suling work; some reference pieces (MfV Zurich, MKB Basel, Nationaalmuseet Copenhagen) suggest this. The blade is well polished; all sharpening marks are carefully removed. A series of so-op and matajoh-S lines run along the back, with a series of thick brass pins inserted underneath. The blade is considered to be of high quality; not least because of the exquisite “mantikai” metal with a very fine forging texture.

The handle is adequate to the blade. The two-tone rattan weave around the handle represents the highest possible quality. The pommel is in the typical kajan form (Mendalam ?) and is the model for the mandau from the Kutai regency, some of which are known to have dated reference pieces. It is stylistically particularly expressive, as it shows a facial ornament (hudoq = “mask”, “face”) in the top view, which shows a slightly demonised, apotropaic expression. Below this face, the aso motif is only hinted at; one sees an open stylised throat with rows of teeth. In this composition, the handle is almost a didactic piece; below the face, quasi the headhunter or his victim (an element that is synonymous with the symbolism of the applied “procreative” killing) lies the aso, the dragon deity. The aso is the leitmotif of Kajan art. Originally from Zhou-China, the dragon motif long is the earth deity that demands head hunting and is nourished by it. By this “feeding” with life new fertility can arise and old life can be rededicated. In the neck of the handle an intimated surya majapahit or a stylised skull can be seen, which is sometimes also interpreted as tumpal (base of the ancestor figures) (Sellato, Tromp). The tumpal is probably due to the lotus base of Hindu and Buddhist deities and saints.

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