| Seated guardian figure with ritual box [punamham]

Ifugao people
Cambulo district, Ifugao, Luzon, Philippines

Seated guardian figure with ritual box [punamham] 19th century
wood, ash, feathers
41.2 (h) x 24.1 (w) x 23.5 (d) cm
Fowler Museum at University of California, Los Angeles
Gift of Mrs W Thomas Davis
Photograph: Don Cole


The spirit mediums of the Ifugao people use special lidded containers to store charms, tiny figurative sculptures, sacred stones and sacrificial blood when presiding over rituals to secure community prosperity. This impressive box held in the arms of a seated male guardian figure is of the type used, for example, to prepare magical medicines during cholera outbreaks. The figure’s prominent genitalia confirms the importance of fertility and the continuity of the community at a time of great vulnerability.

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