House facade ornament representing a singa

CULTURE:
Toba Batak people
DATE:
c. 1875–1900
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General Description

Round staring eyes and a protruding tongue identify the singa, a mythical creature seen on brass bracelets, stone sarcophagi, and on Batak houses as gable ornaments. Singa is a Sanskrit word meaning “lion,” but the Batak beast is never feline. It is associated with serpents, water buffalo, and crocodiles or lizards–all creatures of the underworld. The singa suggests fertility and protection against disease, misfortune, and evil influences. Its position high on the traditional house links the singa with the upper world, implying an interdependence of the levels of the universe and reminding the Batak of their critical relationship with ancestors.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.

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