Friday, March 27, 2009

of pagans and headhunters...

Owen Rutter, born 1889, as a young man, spent five years in Sabah as magistrate and district officer for the British North Borneo Chartered Company. The Pagans of North Borneo, is an attempt at a systematic description to the non-muslim peoples of Sabah. At the time of its publication the book was meant as a contribution to contemporary colonial policymaking, but even then it could be read as history. The modern reader might balked at the use of such terms as 'savage' and 'primitive', and at Rutter's relegation of Sabahans to a lower scale of civilisation. But the valuable information he compiled should not be thrown out along with the cultural chauvinism. In essence the book remains of fundamental value, an invaluable source of information for various aspects of Sabahan society ranging from traditional warfare and headhunting (given sympathetic rather than sensational treatment) jungle and river craft and adat to popular folklore and music. (first published in 1929 by Hutchinson & Co, London, Reprinted by Oxford University Press in 1985)

Carl Alfred Bock (1849-1932) was a Norwegian naturalist and explorer who occupies a not unimportant place in the gallery of European officials, merchants, missionaries and adventurers who visited the Malay Archipelago in the nineteenth century. He was certainly one of the first European writers to realize and exploit the exotic potential of Borneo. Despite its sensational title, Carl Bock's accounts of his travels in the 1870s in both Borneo and Sumatra covers much more than the well-known cephalic pursuits of the Dayaks. Commission by the Dutch colonial authorities to make a journey into the little-explored districts of West Borneo, Bock proved to be a keen observer not only of the way of life of the peoples ofthe interior but also of their tutilar Malay overlords and of various aspects of colonial life. Similarly, Bock's descriptions of his journeys in Sumatra, taken in this instance primarily as a naturalist, also potray vividly scenes of contemporary life and society in an era of Dutch expansion along with observations on the flora and fauna. Written in a clear and unpretentious style. (first published by Sampson Low, Searle & Rivington, London, 1881, this edition published by Oxford University Press, 1985)

I hope my frens, loyal readers and casual visitors alike, are enjoying this great warm sunny sunday afternoon. You may be wondering why I chose these two books and both (coincidentally are books about Borneo (heheh). Borneo, both the Malaysian and Indonesian territories and oh well, Brunei too I guess, have been European's favorite destination even up till today. They find the place exotic, even among Peninsula Malaysians (wink) which explains the regular meetings, seminars or conferences being held there, by both private and public sectors (apart for reasons other than what you and me probably oredi know meh? hahaha). Now that I am an immediate past president of the University of Hull Alumni Association in Malaysia (we just had our AGM at the Royal Lake Club this morning and I have, with dignity (wink) handed over the baton to my successor), I can spend a little more time now reviewing interesting old books on my blog hahaha. But jokes aside, there seem to be an uncanny coincidence that some power transitions are about to take place too right? April 2, if I am not mistaken, from reading the sunday times awhile ago. My choice of two interesting books on Borneo in my possession, was not randomly done ok? (evil wink). It has to do with some recent erections and nacionale poriticar deveropmen as well... again, as usual...your guess is as gud as dot dot

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