Have you heard of the unique Kadazan-Dusun ornament, Pinakol?
Aside from beauty and skincare techniques that Borneo might be known for, Sabah also has a vibrant culture. It has over 30 indigenous and 200 sub-ethnic groups, most of whom have distinct cultural costumes, legacies that reveals their identity, customs, and stories to be shared with the world.This diversity makes Sabah beautiful.
The Pinakol and Litai beaded necklaces are handmade by the women of the Rungus from Kudat, a northern district of Sabah. Its style is similar to traditional ethnic motifs that have been passed on for centuries.
The Rungus people
In the northeast corner of Sabah province, East Malaysia (on the island of North Borneo), the Rungus tribal or cultural community comprising approximately 40,000 individuals resides. Most of the community’s revenue is derived from rice, coconut, rubber, and other agricultural products. At 4,090 m (13,292 feet), they live on a peninsula in the foothills leading up to Mt. Kinabalu, one of the highest mountain in South East Asia.
The Rungus are a sub-group of Sabah’s main indigenous people, the Kadazan-Dusun. They speak a different language, however, and maintain unique traditions, dress, architecture, oral literature, and some of the most talented artisans in the state.
A sub-group of the Dusun/Kadazan group is the Rungus. They are skilled in the creation of homespun fabric for their costumes made from cotton-kapok. Handicrafts made of a variety of materials, bead necklaces, and other accessories are also produced.
Ethnic outfits are made from black cloth that was traditionally made of cotton grown, spun, and woven on backstrap looms in the village, mirroring their Kadazan-Dusun ties. By doing an intricate kind of needle weaving named Linangkit on black cotton sarongs, the costumes are now created, albeit rarely made these days.
The Pinakol consists of two sets of bandoleer-type flat beaded belts worn crossed over the back and chest. Over the heads are two bands of beadwork with looped abstract and human figures crossed. The Rungus are readily differentiated from the other ethnic groups of Sabah by this beadwork and its designs.
The legend behind Pinakol
A hero named “Tiningulun,” traveled with a sword called “Inompuling / Tinompuling,” according to legend. He met a very poisonous animal named “Tinugarang” on his journey. There is an animal in the Liwan dialect called “Tugarang,” in Malay, “Bengkarung,” in the Liwan dialect, the word Tinugarang is a verb meaning “to be tamed,” referring to something incarnated. Back to the story, Tiningulun managed to destroy it after battling with the beast, but the venomous beast (Tinugarang) was able to bite the hero. So, our hero walked in agony and found a type of flower called “Vinusak”. This ‘Vinusak’ is an antidote to the poison, so the hero took the flower and wore it to heal the bite of Tinugarang.
In making motifs in crafts, as well as maintaining the legend of Tiningulun on the bead necklace, this tale was the inspiration for the Rungus people.
The Pinakol motifs
It’s a craft bead with about four motifs, each representing a story. The four patterns are:
Tiningulun, which means “man.”
Inompuling, which means “shield”.
Tinugarang, which is a highly poisonous mystical animal.
Vinusak, which means an antidote that comes from a flower.
The making of pinakol
With the beads hung on warp threads only (there are no weft threads), the Rungus use an off-loom technique. The warp threads are fixed to a dowel and can be placed into a strong ceramic jar to hold it in place between the toes or the stick. At the same time, both portions of the pinakol are worked on to keep the beadwork even.
The beads are strung by hand (without a beading needle) on the twisted-together ends of two warp threads and the ends of the thread are bees-waxed to help in stringing. To make the weave, the warp strands are switched up.
Other unique beadworks
The Sandang is a pair of strands with long beads, often with matching beads. These, like the Pinakol, are worn crossed over the chest. The sulau is a flat beaded choker with two clamshell disks, one front and one back, worn around the neck. There are small bells attached to the front. Nowadays, they make disks out of plastic. A short choker is the tinggot, either single beaded or with narrow beadwork. These are worn by men and women. The togkul is a necklace about 26 inches in length with sandang-like beads, but smaller and worn around the neck. The Sisingal is a small band of beads worn around the head. The rampoi is made of cotton, worked into the hair with flowers and beads. The orot is small brass rings and antique beads that become a large and colorful hip band looped through thin strands of stripped bark (togung). The orot is slowly and cautiously coiled around the hip to wear it. A last string of beads (lobokon) is then suspended from the coil loosely. As the technique is known only to them, the orot is hand crafted by the Rungus men.
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