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National Doll - Borneo, circa 1966 Object Reg. No: SH 940154

National doll produced to represent a woman from the island of Borneo. It has been carved from wood and was sent to Monica Gates in 1966. The island of Borneo contains the Indonesian state of Kalimantan in the south and in the north the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah and the small sovereign state of Brunei. The doll's style of dress is common to all three countries, although there are regional and religious variations, with Muslim women often wearing a looser blouse than depicted by this doll. This style of dress comprises a sarung (tube-like skirt) or kain (unstitched fabric wrap), blouse either a baju kebaya (tailored, waist length blouse) or the baju kurung (loose-fitting, knee-length blouse), and a torso wrap or kemben. The plainness of the fabric and wooden basket and pole indicate that this is everyday dress. Borneo also has several groups of indigenous peoples who have distinctive traditional costumes.

The Gates collection contains 170 national dolls from 74 different countries and some correspondence relating to the acquisition of several of the dolls. The costumes of the dolls represent national costumes from the 19th Century to the 1990s. Monica Gates collected or was given these dolls between 1957 and 1990.

These dolls were purchased as souvenirs of particular countries and like many mass produced souvenirs they are often not accurate representations of a particular country or region, and may actually better reflect neighbouring counties or regions. This occurs because costumes are often stylised and simplified resulting dolls wearing generic costume elements which are common to many countries/regions. Often the fabrics and decorations used are selected to make the dolls cheap and easy to manufacture and aesthetically pleasing. This can result in the fabrics, colours and decorations of the doll's clothing having little or no reflection of the costume associated with a particular country or region they are meant to be representative of.
Female carved wooden doll dressed in red top with grey dots and black crosses to pattern it. Her skirt, or sarong, has the same pattern as the top but is green. Her stomach has cream band around it and shows a slight bulging. Tied to her back is a wooden container and in her hand a pole. She has stylised hair carved and painted black. Her ears are also carved as is her face. The facial features have also been painted or drawn on. It appears that she has been carved from a single block of wood which has then been secured to a wooden base.
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 20.50 cm (Height), 13.00 cm (Width), 6.00 cm (Length)

More information

Tagged with: clothing, souvenirs, cultural beliefs, dolls, national costumes, children s play, national identity, cultural awareness
Themes this item is part of: Childhood & Youth Collection, Clothing & Textiles Collection, Identity: Yours, Mine, Ours, Immigration Museum Exhibition, 2011-2021
Primary Classification: CULTURAL IDENTITY
Secondary Classification: Ethnicity - Clothing
Tertiary Classification: national dolls
Place Made: North Borneo (Malaysia), circa 1966
User: Mrs Monica Gates, Victoria, Australia, circa 1960s-1990s
Other Association (See Comments): North Borneo (Malaysia)

Doll is intended to represent a woman from the island of Borneo. The clothing it is dressed in is common to the entire island of Borneo, with regional and religious variations.

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