| Ancestral altar [berhala]

Damar Island
south Moluccas, Indonesia
 

Ancestral altar [berhala] 19th century or earlier
wood
overall 123.0 (h) x 30.0 (w) x 16.5 (d) cm
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

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On Damar, the male and female founding ancestors are represented on wooden plank altars placed in houses or outdoors. Symbolising the source of fertility, this altar portrays a stylised female ancestor with pointed features, long nose, large eyes and headdress protruding from a richly decorated board. Her prominent breasts and the curvilinear floral motifs allude to fertility. Boats are ubiquitous in south Moluccan art, illustrated here by the curving forms reminiscent of prows.




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