| House door [oda matan]

Atoni or Dawan people
west Timor, Indonesia

House door [oda matan] 19th-early 20th century
142.0 (h) x 64.5 (w) x 10.0 (d) cm
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden


The house in Timor, as in many other parts of Southeast Asia, is divided into male and female sections, although the gender division of dwellings varies considerably. While the door to the female area is sometimes emblazoned with an image of a woman, feminine symbols are more often distilled, as they are here, to a large pair of breasts above an ornamental panel of spirals and lozenges. The curved form above the breasts may represent a headhunter’s headdress shaped like buffalo horns which often features boldly on doors to the male domain.

In Timor, women returning to village life after childbirth are likened to men returning from a successful headhunting expedition, as childbirth and headhunting are both dangerous activities essential for the prosperity of the community.

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