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Monsopiad – Keeping the heritage alive

Posted By Dennelton on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | 22:34

What the house of sculls used to look like in the old days.
Talking about the name Borneo, images of thick jungles and fierce head-hunters will commonly come to mind for many people, especially in Western countries. Although, I must admit that I have come across some of our fellow countrymen from across the sea that have similar thoughts. Head hunting was part and parcel of life for many of the indigenous tribes in Sabah, until it was outlawed with the
A menhir around which human sculls were dried.
coming of the English and the formation of the North Borneo Chartered Company in 1881. According to records, the last official incident of head hunting took place during the Rundum rebellion in 1915 in the South of Sabah.

There were various reasons why human heads were taken in days of old. Some say it was as a proof of manliness or coming of age for males, as trophies of battle and also as a mean of capturing and taming the sprits of your enemies to acquire the strength of the victim. By treating the skulls with respect and conducting ritual ceremonies, the spirits of the skulls could be placated into looking after the spiritual welfare of your longhouse and ensure good health and prosperity to all who lived in the village.

The human sculls.
Today there are only 2 places that are easily accessible to the public to view these human skull trophies in Sabah. One of them is the cultural village at the Sabah Museum’s grounds and the other at Monsopiad Cutural village in Penampang.

The Monsopiad Cultural village was built by the 6th and 7th direct descendents of the Warrior Monsopiad himself who reputedly collected the 42 human skulls as trophies of his battle against invaders of his village. The Cultural village opened its doors to visitors on the 1st of May 199l at Kampung Kuai in Penampang . It built on the very same grounds where the famous warrior was born and lived. (Prior
Ritual items.
to this, the 40 odd skulls were hung from the ceiling of the living room in the family house.) The Cultural village was built to provide local and foreign tourist a more conducive venue to view the Skulls and also provide a showcase for the fast disappearing traditional lifestyle of the Kadazan/Dusun people. It was hoped to be used as a centre of resource and learning for the traditional arts, religion and medicinal skills of the native community. Alongside the cultural village, a special Skull house was constructed to house the Skulls.

A Sagu worm.
The Monsopiad cultural village is built entirely out of traditional building materials and the village consist of a couple of traditional houses, a rice barn, a hall for cultural performances and other functions, a souvenir shop and the riverside café. Within the landscaped grounds is a stone Menhir or Monolith around which human skulls were dried in the old days.

The cultural village is open daily to visitors and there are guided tours by in-house guides. Visitors are first given an introduction to the village and a traditional welcome drink of chilled lihing (local rice wine). They are also shown how home-grown tobacco is rolled up in palm leaves to make local cigarettes and they are given the opportunity to chew some betel leaves and nuts which was the standard things one would do when visitors came to you house in the old days.

Visits are then conducted to the house of Skulls to view the skulls and the mini museum, which
A traditional Murut dance.
houses old photographs and various paraphernalia used, by the local priestesses or “bobohizans”. Visitors continue on to the other huts where live demonstrations of rice husking, winnowing and the brewing of rice wine take place. There are also demonstrations of traditional bead stringing and a whole array of traditional games which guest can partake in. Games such as blowpipe and sling shot target practise, walking on Bamboo stilts or with coconut shells attached to strings, which you grip between your toes. These games are especially popular with young children and if you are daring enough, try eating a live sago worm. The tour ends with a cultural performance of traditional dances from the various tribes in Sabah, with the highlight being the Murut Mengunatip or bamboo dance.

Travelling to Monsopiad from the city takes about 20 minutes and plan to spend about half a day for the visit to Monsopiad. I would recommend doing it in the mornings when its cooler and at times the last cultural performance might get cancelled due to a lack of visitors.

Opening hours: 9.00am to 5.00pm daily.

Cultural performances daily at: 9.00am, 11.00am, 2.00pm & 4.00pm

Entrance fees: Malaysian = RM55.00 per person , International RM75.00 per person. Children below 12 years of age enter free.
For further information contact:
Monsopiad Cultural Village.
Tel : (088)774 337 , Email : info@monsopiad.com 
Text and photos by DAVID DE LA HARPE 
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The Editor

I'm Dennelton from Sabah, editor of www.tvokm.com. I am a blogger since 2008, i have a great interest about blogging and seeking additional income through the internet. Follow me with like our official Facebook Page HERE

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