Rungus Tribe of Borneo

David Meyer

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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Artist's Description

The Rungus are an ethnic group of Borneo, residing primarily in northern Sabah in the area surrounding Kudat. A sub-group of the Kadazan-Dusun, they have a distinctive language, dress, architecture, customs, and oral literature.

Considered one of the most traditional ethnic groups in Sabah, many Rungus live in longhouses, with each family having its own separate quarters off a common hall. At the edge of the communal hall, a well-ventilated platform of split bamboo with outward sloping walls provides a place for socializing and communal work. The Rungus longhouse is quite different from the Murut longhouse. The houses are not perched on high stilts, but are usually only three to five feet above ground. The roof is low, and the walls are outward sloped. In olden times, longhouses of over 75 doors are said to have been common. Now, they rarely exceed 10 doors. Usually single story, more modern two-story versions of the longhouse also exist. Single family houses are sometimes built near the longhouse – these take the same form, but are curiously short, looking like a slice from a cake.

As with most indigenous ethnic groups in Borneo, culture revolves around rice; however, coconut and banana groves provide cash income. Women weave cloth on backstrap looms, and make containers from vine or beadwork. The traditional Rungus dress is black, often with hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of antique beads. Traditionally all Rungus women wore heavy brass coils around their arms, legs and necks. Brass arm coils are often accompanied by white and coral shell bracelets. Rings of brass may also be worn around the waist. Many Rungus now work in town, and have abandoned the communal life of the longhouse for modern Malaysian society. Traditionally animist, with female shamans, most Rungus are now Christian.

Artwork Comments

  • AthenaBlanco
  • coffeetea
  • awgphoto
  • David Meyer
  • Andrew S
  • randi1972
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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