Home is where the hearth is: Rainforest project explores human histories

Posted by er134 at May 01, 2013 06:10 PM |
Museum exhibition showcases results of rainforest culture project involving University of Leicester academic
Home is where the hearth is: Rainforest project explores human histories

The CRF exhibition space in the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

A museum exhibition highlighting the results of a three year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project in the highlands of central Borneo celebrated its official opening on Tuesday 30 April in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

The Cultured Rainforest Project (CRP) aimed to chart the long-term histories and social lives of two groups of peoples that currently inhabit the same, rich, vibrant, and steamy rainforests of this heart of Borneo; the hunter-gatherer Penan and the rice farming Kelabit.

In this landscape these two communities live side by side, sharing the forest resources, but living in quite different ways. The research project aimed to explore those differences and to better understand the long-term human histories of this remarkable part of the world.

Retrieving a sediment core
Dr Huw Barton (Leicester) and Dr Samantha Jones (Queens University Belfast) retrieving a sediment core from a palaeochannel for pollen and sediment analysis. This core was later dated to c.7,500 yrs BP and showed evidence of human induced burning by at least 6,300 yrs ago.
Dr Huw Barton, Senior Lecturer in Bioarchaeology of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester has been involved in the venture along with the Sarawak Museum, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and the University of Cambridge, Oxford, Sussex and Queens University Belfast.

The CRP exhibition is centred around a reconstructed Kelabit ‘hearth’. The hearth is central to the lives of all rainforest peoples, a place where meals are cooked and also a place which humanises the other worldly realm of forest spirits, dangerous energies, and mythological beings.

Tukud Rini
Stephen Baya's painting of culture hero Tukud Rini, shimmering with lalud (life force).
Several works of Kelabit artist Stephen Baya will also feature in the exhibition, which explore Kelabit beliefs of power, or lalud, a force that was much stronger in the past and imbued mythological ancestors with great power, but that can still be tapped by Kelabit and Penan today through proper behaviour in the forest.

Explore the remarkable landscape for yourself through 360 degrees panoramas - an artistic collaboration between project members and artist/ photographer Douglas Cape which enables a virtual visit of the study area.

The exhibition will run at the University of Cambridge until 1 June 2013 and will open at the Sarawak Museum in Kuching, Malaysia later this year.