Google Doodle celebrates Iban ethnographer Benedict Sandin’s 102nd birthday

The Sarawakian dedicated his life to the preservation of his native language.

The Doodle depicts Sandin in a blue suit with sunglasses and holding a notebook and pen, surrounded by Bornean artefacts (Photo: Google Doodles)

Attached on Google’s homepage today is a Doodle dedicated to Sarawak-born folklorist and ethnographer Benedict Sandin. October 18 marks the 102th birthday of the former curator of the Sarawak Museum — the oldest in Borneo — who dedicated his life to chronicle Iban history, culture and language.

The Doodle depicts Sandin in a blue suit with sunglasses, holding a notebook and pen while being surrounded by Bornean artefacts.

Sandin was born in 1918 in the Kerangan Piggai longhouse, which is located in the Saribas basin of Saratok in Sarawak. According to Google, the cultural activist started working in the Sarawak civil service and then went on to be the editor of Pembrita, the first-ever Iban news publication, thanks to his gift in writing.

“His articles attracted the attention of the Sarawak Museum’s curator, who recruited him to join the museum’s staff in a special post in 1952,” explained Google in a note. “Soon after, Sandin was accepted to a UNESCO fellowship program in New Zealand, through which he studied museum techniques and anthropology.”



When Sandin returned home, he sook out local genealogists, bards and historians to gather and record their knowledge and experiences on Iban culture and language. He was dubbed one of the world’s foremost experts in the field and was named the Curator of the Sarawak Museum and Government Ethnologist in 1966, a position he held for almost a decade.

Sandin died on August 7, 1982 at the age 64 in his own home.

Google Doodles has only celebrated the birthdays of Malaysian figures a handful of times, some of which include singer-songwriter Sudirman Arshad, actor and musician P Ramlee and Sybil Kathigasu, a freedom fighter and nurse during the Japanese occupation.

Google ends its tribute with a word of gratitude: “Thank you Benedict Sandin, for safeguarding and preserving indigenous tradition and heritage for generations to come!”


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