Wall panel with figure of a slain shaman (tulangan sirimanua)

DATE:
c. 1900
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Wood, bark, paint, shell inlay, and cloth
CLASSIFICATION:
Architectural elements
DIMENSIONS:
69 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 4 in. (1 m 75.9 cm x 46.99 cm x 10.16 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia , Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund
OBJECT NUMBER:
1999.3

General Description

This wall panel depicts a nearly life-size standing male figure with enormous splayed hands. His body is decorated with tattoos that indicate he lived in northern Siberut, the region where the Taileleu people traditionally went headhunting. The single shell inlay that survives in his right eye gives him a piercing gaze. He was a kerei, or shaman, as indicated by the painted feather decoration above his head. Kerei were believed to be able to see and communicate with souls, ancestors, and spirits.

A successful headhunt was celebrated by festivities in a clan’s longhouse (uma) and by the carving of an image of the slain victim. The panel was set into the rear wall of the interior room, facing the entrance, where visitors would see the memorial figure as proof of the courage and strength of the inhabitants.

Excerpt from

Roslyn Adele Walker, Label text, 2013.