VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Baby carrier
SMV W.10
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Each baby carrier (ba') is individually created for a child by the members of its family. Even if the ba' itself, i.e. the wooden seat and rattan frame were used already for an older sibling or cousin, the most important part of the baby carrier, is the bead work piece (aban) at the back and the objects hanging from the sides of the carrier like pieces of clam shell, snail shell, animal teeth, dried roots and heirloom beads, are made, gathered and individually combined for every new child. As it takes time to purchase the seed beads and to make the aban it is begun months before the birth of the baby and is usually done by elderly experienced women like the great aunts or the two grandmothers. The motif chosen for the aban is in accordance with the social status of the child, but it is also supposed to be attractive to the infant soul so that it will stay nearby. The various objects hung on the ba' and the noises they make will repel evil spirits that might want to take the soul away. These items are heirloom goods that are not available for sale but must be borrowed from their current custodians. Through their use on the ba' they confirm the baby as a new member of the group and define the position of those who contribute these goods and their position to the ancestors. Thus the ba' is not only a beautiful object and a work of art but a visible sign of traditional values and an indicator of relationships within the extended family of the baby.

History of the Object
This baby carrier was collected by Dr. Friedrich Dalsheim during his stay in the Kayan river area in East Kalimantan in the early 1930s. Dalsheim was a collaborator of Baron Viktor von Plessen during the production of the film "Head Hunters of Borneo" (released 1936). Dalsheim committed suicide in 1934 because, being Jewish, it was not possible for him to get work in Germany anymore. His Borneo collection was given to our museum as a permanent loan in 1937 by a Dr. Wilhelm from Berlin.

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Type
Other 
Materials
Wood, rattan, felt, cotton, glass beads, clam shell, snail shell, fish jaw, piece of root 
Measurements
Width 36 cm Height 30 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Indonesia; East Kalimantan; Kayan river area 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
pre-1937 
Function
The baby carrier (ba') is not only a practical device for transporting a baby, it is also used in the first life cycle ceremonies performed for the new child. The glass bead ornaments at the back of the baby carrier and the objects hanging on its back and sides are supposed to provide spiritual protection for the health of the baby and repel evil spirits. When the infant's umbilical cord falls off, it is placed in the snail shell for protection. At the same time these items can be an indication of the social rank of the baby and a reflection of a mechanism for creating and strengthening social relations. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the museum as a permanent loan in 1937. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Not defined 
Museum
Five Continents Museum, Munich 
Credit line
State Museum of Ethnology, Munich, Germany 

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