Baby carrier

Kayan mothers fasten stable wooden carriers on their backs to hold and protect their babies. As a woman moves, the ornaments on the carrier rattle to repel evil away from her child. Observe the carving on the spine. The Kayan believe infants’ souls are vulnerable until age two, the point at which souls attach securely to the body.


Collection Connections 

  • Baby Carrier

    Baby Carrier

    Africa: West Africa, Mali

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  • Baby Carrier

    Baby Carrier

    Asia: South East Asia, Indonesia, Borneo

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  • Baby Carrier

    Baby Carrier

    Asia: East Asia, China, Southern China, Guizhou Province

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What do the baby carrier’s protective elements tell us about other Kayan culture and beliefs?

responded: Mar 31, 2010

Posted by Ace

239
Recommend this Response
The protective elements on the baby carrier shield the child from harmful spirits until the infant's soul is firmly attached to his or her body. Like the majority of Southeast Asian hill tribes, the Kayan believe that spirits inhabit all animate and inanimate objects. The Kayan cosmos is divided into an Upperworld and an Underworld populated by gods and spirits. While the gods have little involvement with daily life, the natural world is home to plenty of spirits that constantly interfere with human affairs. If the community is left unprotected, it may easily be invaded by spirits that bring bad luck, disease and even death. To repel these spirits, the Kayan adorn themselves and their homes with protective imagery of creatures that serve as powerful supernatural guardians. Clothing, ornaments, utilitarian objects like the baby carrier are embellished with protective images. Beads are also believed to have magical properties and often serve as amulets.

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