The Ibans are a branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo. In Malaysia, most Ibans are located in Sarawak, a small portion in Sabah and some in west Malaysia. They were formerly known during the colonial period by the British as Sea Dayaks. Ibans were renowned for practicing headhunting and tribal/territorial expansion. In ancient times the Ibans were a strong and successful warring tribe in Borneo.
To the Iban people tattoos placement and design have deep cultural meanings. The Entegulun, a traditional Iban hand tattoo design signifying his taking of an enemy’s head. The Bunga Terung is traditionally placed along the inside collar bone. It is thought that this tattoo is intended to give the wearing strength during their journeys. Some tattoos signified the accomplishment of a skill, like hunting or weaving (think of it as a bad ass Boy Scout badge). A frog design on a warrior’s throat is intended to protect a warriors head in battle.
The traditional method of tattooing in Iban tribes consisted of a wooded staff affixed with bone of bamboo needles, these were tapped with a hammer and the ink or soot paint pierces the skin. While western tattooing methods can be found in Borneo, it’s still possible to still find traditional tattoo artists.