| Ancestral altar [berhala]

Damar Island
south Moluccas, Indonesia

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


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.

Subscribe to newsletter

You can also follow developments on twitter or facebook