House post with image of a female ancestor
[tari or tsukes]
early 20th century
wood, porcelain, bottle caps
201.0 (h) x 45.0 (w) x 13.0 (d) cm
The HP and JF Ullman Collection, Fowler Museum at University of California, Los Angeles
Photograph: Don Cole
When Paiwan nobles die, wooden panels are created in their honour to ensure they become benevolent spirits. Images of ancestors are usually ornamented with snake motifs, an allusion to the belief that the Paiwan aristocracy is descended from a great snake. In some creation myths the original humans were born from eggs hatched by the great serpent Vorun.
This sculpture of a female ancestor with circular head motif was created, with a male counterpart, to flank the doorway to a noble house. The complementary pairing and pronounced genitalia illustrate the importance of fertility. In typical Paiwan style, the figure is compressed, with knees bent, feet turned out, and hands held at shoulder height. The simple face has strong eyebrows, large nose and small mouth, with eyes of inlaid porcelain.