Ancestral figures, generically called hampatong, are found among many Dayak, a general name applied to the indigenous peoples of Borneo. Ranging in style from rounded, naturalistic figures to relatively flat, stylized examples such as this one, they traditionally serve both protective and commemorative purposes. In some areas, the figures are placed in front of homes; elsewhere they are housed in shrines. Wherever located, however, a hampatong both honors an ancestor and enlists the spirit of the deceased to ensure prosperity for the living.
Dayak peoples, Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia
First half of the 20th century (?)
Wood, white and brown lime and fungal deposit; cowrie shells
H. 53 ¾ in. (136.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 86.17