| Ceremonial gong [tawak]

collected Mahakam River region, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Ceremonial gong [tawak] 18th century
79.5 (h) x 27.8 (w) x 7.5 (d) cm
Gift of Robyn, John and Simeran Maxwell through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program 2010
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 2010.136


Musical instruments play a major role in ceremonies throughout Southeast Asia. In animist communities the ancient bronze or brass gong is considered the most important. Often made in Brunei, a local brass and bronze casting centre, valued gongs were traded throughout Borneo to become the most important treasures of a longhouse, along with large Chinese ceramic jars.

Around the central boss, this gong is embellished with images of writhing dragons similar to those which often appear on the Chinese jars. Its chain is studded with small birds. The selection and spatial arrangement of bird and reptile motifs reflect the upper and lower realms of the cosmos, widely depicted in the arts of Borneo.

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