I’ve gotten a lot of questions as to why I included a skull in the IDmalaysia banner. I have no intention of portraying Malaysia in a negative, gory or violent light, but I was simply fascinated upon visiting Sarawak and learning about the headhunting culture of their native Iban people.
While it is perhaps now considered to be a dubious distinction, depending on who you ask, the Iban people are known as being the pioneers of the practice of headhunting, which was prevalent amongst fighting tribes in the 19th century. The story is that during their peak, their native lands became overpopulated. As such, when enemies infringed upon their territory, there was no space to keep them alive. With confrontation being the only way to survive, killing those enemies and displaying the skulls as home décor (literally) was considered a badge of honor. It was believed that beheading the slain enemy was the only way to completely kill off his spirit for good.
While the culture of headhunting is now a thing for the history books, there have still occasionally been ethnic conflicts that have broken out in Borneo and brought back chilling memories of the past. As recently as the late 1990s, for example, 500 Madurese immigrants (from Indonesia) were killed—many decapitated—and tens of thousands were forced to flee when conflict broke out.