The Bead SiteHome>Beads and People>Southeast Asia Circle > The Rungus, Introduction

Beads and Beadwork of the Rungus of Sabah

by Bucklee Bell

Part One: Introduction

The Rungus tribal or cultural group comprising approximately 40,000 people live in the northeast corner of Sabah state, East Malaysia (on the island of North Borneo). Their income comes mostly from rice, coconut, rubber and other agricultural products. They live on a peninsula in the foothills leading up to Mt. Kinabalu the highest mountain in South East Asia at 4,090 m (13,292 feet).

In the spring of 2001 I visited the Bavangazo Rungus Longhouse near Kudat. My overnight stay in the longhouse also included a cultural experience, food, music dancing, etc.

Longhouses are dwellings in which several families live together in separate sections.

There are two women with small shops selling beads and beadwork of the Rungus at this longhouse

A closer view of part of the longhouse.

One of these women, Rose Sabala, was the source of much information on Rungus beadworking. We used her son, Adrian Angkung, as an interpreter as he speaks good English.

Rose sells her own beadwork, and also the work of other Rungus.

The Rungus have a traditional way of making and wearing their bead adornments and each piece has a name. After we discussed the names and designs of the pieces, Rose let me photograph her making a pinakol and later Adrian took me to his grandmothers to photograph her collection of old beads. (See following pages)

The Pinakol
Making the Pinakol
Other Ornaments
Grandmother's Beads
References and links

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