Crescent-shaped ornament (tobelo)

DATE:
19th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Gold with rattan (rotan) binding
CLASSIFICATION:
Jewelry
DIMENSIONS:
10 5/8 × 10 3/4 × 1/2 in. (26.99 × 27.31 × 1.27 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, gift of The Nasher Foundation in honor of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher
COPYRIGHT:
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.
OBJECT NUMBER:
2008.65

General Description

The shape of this tabelo recalls the horns of the water buffalo, which are placed below the doorways of royal houses or the prows of a ship. The scene on the ornament suggests a mythic landscape. Tiny figures riding horned animals flank a central sunlike orb and scaly serpents emerge from the tendrils that grow upward along the horns of the crescent.

Large crescent-shaped ornaments were sacred possessions both in East Sumba, where they were called lamba, and in West Sumba, where they were called tabelo. An ordinary tabelo could be worn as a forehead ornament by the raja’s son during special dances, but more powerful examples, such as this one, were sacred objects used by the raja’s priest to contact ancestral spirits.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.