| Main house post [tomok]

Yami people
Botel Tobago Island, Taiwan

Main house post [tomok] 19th century
wood, pigments
216.6 (h) x 108.8 (w) x 8.0 (d) cm
Purchased 2009
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 2009.1067


The Yami, one of numerous indigenous peoples of Taiwan, inhabit the small mountainous island of Botel Tobago. Traditional Yami dwellings are built below ground to withstand frequent typhoons. Rituals are performed when positioning the main post [tomok], the first and most significant element to be erected after a house site is excavated. The highly valued posts that support the roof apex are passed down through generations and moved if a family relocates.

Bold red, black and white designs protect the household from evil spirits of the dead [anito]. The figure with spiral arms and headdress is Magamoag, the legendary ancestor who gave the Yami the skills of boat-building and agriculture. The circular mata no tatara [eye of the canoe] motif also protects Yami fishing boats, while the goat’s horns symbolise longevity.

Subscribe to newsletter

You can also follow developments on twitter or facebook