Ancestor figure (itara)

DATE:
early 20th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Wood, fiber, and cloth
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 19 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 3 3/4 in. (49.53 x 9.52 x 9.52 cm.)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund
OBJECT NUMBER:
1981.15

General Description

The distinctive posture of this ancestor figure suggests a detachment associated with a trance or deep sleep: its eyes appear closed, the arms hang straight, and the legs seem not to support any weight. On Atauro, ancestor figures were paired in male and female couples, representing a family’s most prominent ancestors. Called _itara _after the cords that bind them, the figures were hung from a sacred hook in each house, the status of which was determined by the number of figures affixed to the hook. If something was stolen, the _itara _were given offerings of corn, fish, and betel and placed on the threshold in the hope that they would find the thief.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.