Mamasa Toraja people
south Sulawesi, Indonesia
Architectural sculpture for a house facade
overall 96.0 (h) x 36.5 (w) x 83.0 (d) cm
The Jerome L Joss Collection, Fowler Museum at University of California, Los Angeles
Photograph: Don Cole
Many ancestral Southeast Asian cultures view the house as a model of the cosmos with the largest and most impressive structures reserved for high ranking families. Both the exteriors and interiors of the great houses of the Toraja people display elaborate carvings. Humans, ancestors, domestic animals and mythical beasts appear prominently on the houses of the Mamasa Toraja aristocracy.
Seated on reptilian creatures and water buffalo, the impressive figures adorning the facades of Mamasa buildings represent important individuals commemorated at great feasts. Shown astride a mythical naga serpent, this figure may depict a significant ancestor of a great house. The aristocrat’s imposing stance and the fierce appearance of the serpentine beast project power and protection for the occupants of the house.