Discover the museum's exhibitions

08 October 2011 - 26 February 2012, Heleneum - Lugano

Sapuyung. Ceremonial Hats of Borneo

As a result of a long fieldwork conducted by the Museo delle Culture, the temporary exhibition presents for the first time in history a selection of ceremonial hats from the Dayak people of Borneo. These hats are decorated with an elaborated iconography representing the divinities of the heavens and the flora of the rain forest. They are employed as a protection for the soul, as well as for other ceremonial purposes. Rare liturgical objects of priests and large carved poles representing ancestors and divinities will also be displayed in the exhibition. These will demonstrate the contexts and meanings of an ancient oral tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation. 

Foto gallery

The Exhibition

The present temporary exhibition is set up in the ground floor rooms of the Heleneum and is the first stage of the so-called “Altrarti” cycle. It presents ceremonial hats and other liturgical objects of the Dayak people, who are the native dwellers of the third biggest island in the world. The exhibition, supervised by Paolo Maiullari, is the result of a long research project and constant dialogue between the museum team and the last living artists of Borneo’s rain forest. All of these artists are strictly women, and they pass on the artistic tradition from one generation to the other. The hats are made out of bamboo and decorated with motives representing important divinities and natural elements. 

The discovery of such decorative motives was made possible thanks to the MCL fieldwork. It opens several doors for a fascinating journey into the forms of imagination, knowledge of medicine and roots of the identity of a thousand-year-old tradition at risk of historicization. The fieldwork was conducted in accordance with the principles of local communities and the government of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan. The museum has been honoured by the government for the work of valorising the local cultural heritage, while respecting the values and the system of traditional beliefs of the province's native peoples. 

The exhibition catalogue contains pictures of the exhibits and scientific essays. It was published by Mazzotta and is on sale at the museum’s bookshop.

Sapuyung. Cappelli cerimoniali del Borneo

a cura di Paolo Maiullari
Edizioni Mazzotta, Milano 2011
Altrarti 4
Chf 45.-
ISBN 978-88-202-1934-5