Male protective figure (pagar)

Toba Batak people
19th century or earlier
more object details

General Description

This protective figure is one of a pair; the Dallas Museum of Art also owns the female counterpart to this male figure (2000.354.McD).The male and female pair of protective figures was acquired from the descendants of Sisingamangaraja XII, the last priest-king of the Toba Batak, whose defeat and death in 1907 marked the end of Batak resistance to Dutch colonialism. The male protective figure was reportedly kept together with the female protective figure and a third sculpture. They were preserved and honored in the uppermost region of the house of the lineage founder where they could been seen or touched only by a privileged few. The figures were given periodic offerings of eggs, rice, palm wine, and the blood of sacrificial animals to encourage benevolent behavior, for the figures were also capable of inflicting harm. Protective figures are intended to repel harm and misfortune through the posture of their oversized hands and arms. The holes at the elbows indicate that the male, like the female protective figure, had forearms with large hands.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn Walker, Gallery text, 2013.

  • "Male and female ancestor figures," in_ Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ ed. Bonnie Pitman (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 112.

  • "Male protective figure (pagar)," in Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art, ed. Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven Alpert (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 77.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Nicole Stutzman discusses Male ancestor figure (DMA collection 1995.33.McD) and Female ancestor figure (DMA collection 2000.354.McD) from Indonesia, North Sumatra, Lake Toba region, Toba Batak people
Learn about the Batak people.