| Tomb marker [penji]

East Sumbanese people
East Sumba, Indonesia

Tomb marker [penji] 19th century or earlier
260.0 (h) x 29.0 (w) x 44.0 (d) cm
Musée du quai Branly, Paris
© 2010 Musée du quai Branly Photograph: Thierry Ollivier/Michel Urtado/Scala, Florence


In east Sumba, souls only move to the afterlife once secondary burial rites are held. The ceremonies require vast resources and may be staged years after a death, allowing relatives to assemble sacrificial animals, goods and clothing for the deceased, and provide for the expensive accompanying feasts.

For secondary funerals, huge stone graves and funerary markers [penji] are dragged to village graveyards from distant quarries. Spectacular penji commemorate the accomplishments of the deceased through carved images, often including a representation of the dead person riding a horse. Other motifs include gongs and jewellery demonstrating high status and lineage, and creatures of the watery lower realms, such as fish and turtles, symbolising death. 

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