Mandau Pair

IN33 Mandau-3

Code: IN33

A matching pair of mandau swords c. mid-20th C, also called parang ilang, typical of the Dayak tribe on Kalimanten (Borneo) in the Indonesian archipelago.  These are from an Inland Dayak tribe (the Penan, Klemantan, Kenyah, Kayan, Murut).  The inland Dayak groups (Penan and Kayan) have maintained their customs, habits and religious beliefs. Like the keris, the mandau is believed to possess magical power.  It is handed down from generation to generation. The loss of mengayau tradition among the Dayak (the collection of decapitated head of an enemy) means the mandau is not as sacred as it once was.  The mandau has become a common weapon used in forestry, food gathering as well as for hunting.

These blades each display typical motifs:

  • mata joh (mata djoh):  S-shaped figures in interlocking spirals along a large part of the top (back) portion of the blade.
  • lantak paku: ten small inlaid circles of brass, two next to each other in five groups aligned near the edge of the blade.
  • Four holes, crudely punched through the back of each blade just prior to the beginning of the taper to the tip.

The blades themselves are file steel.  The hilt (ulu) is stag antler with a grip of resinated and plaited rattan.  Unlike many mandau, these hilts are not carved.

Each hilt is decorated with tufts of hair, once taken from human heads previously collected by the owner. The hair served as a testament to the power of the owner and efficacy of the weapon.  This hair is from an animal.

The scabbards are each made of two pieces of lightweight wood bound with four large bands of resinated rattan, plaited and decorated identically with the rattan on the hilt.  All of the wood surfaces are painted in black and red stripes, orthogonal to the length.  These in turn are covered with a wave-like pattern.  The scabbards are further decorated with numerous dangling strings, each one with two red beads and terminating in an animal tooth.  The teeth are each painted black at the base near where they attach to the string.

A small secondary fur-covered wood scabbard called "apis"  is found attached to one side of each scabbard.  The apis contains a small knife known as a "piso raout" or "put".  These blades are short and superficially matche the mandaus in shape along the back.  The hilts are conically shaped pieces of wood, about ⅔ the length of the blade.  This hilt of the piso raout is decorated identically with the scabbard.

Read more about The Mandau