Funerary figure (tau-tau)

Sa'dan Toraja people
19th century or earlier
more object details

General Description

The Toraja carve tau-tau, smaller than life-size funerary figures, to commemorate high-ranking deceased. Only members of the highest-ranking aristocracy are permitted to have permanent tau-tau. This unusually small funerary figure appears to be archaic in style and probably predates even the oldest effigies seen beside Toraja tombs today. The bun or hair knot at the back of the head of this tau-tau indicates that it represents a female. The expression is not precisely understood, but it may be meant to capture the bearing of an authoritative aristocratic woman accustomed during her lifetime to public speaking and giving orders, as this tau-tau appears to be doing.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Nicole Stutzman discusses funerary figure (tau tau) from Indonesia, South Sulawesi, Toraja people (DMA collection 1980.2.McD)
Learn about the Toraja people.

Web Resources

  • UNESCO ~ Learn more about the Ten Tana Toraja Traditional Settlements.

  • Australian Museum ~ Learn more about burial practices of the Toraja in Sulawesi.

  • Vimeo
    Watch a documentary of a funeral ritual in Tana Toraja, Indonesia.