Toba Batak people
Pair of architectural panels for house facade in the form of mythical creatures
.1 109.2 (h) x 34.6 (w) x 35.5 (d) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Singa are mythical creatures that combine the physical characteristics of crocodiles, lions, humans, horses, water buffaloes and other animals. Their fierce faces appear as protective talismans on a variety of objects, including houses, containers for magical potions and charms, and sarcophagi.
This pair of grotesque mask-like singa, with dramatic bulging eyes and elongated tongues, once decorated the ends of the long beams that support the traditional Toba Batak house with its distinctive curved roof and projecting gables. The geometric designs painted and carved onto the sculptures mirror the style of ornamentation found on the beams and walls of Toba Batak dwellings. The singa provide spiritual protection for the house, warding off disease, death and calamity, and bringing good fortune to its inhabitants.