Sacred carving (jaraik) with monkey skull

c. 1930
Wood, mother-of-pearl, plant fibers, macaque skull, and rattan strips
Overall: 70 x 56 1/2 x 12 in. (177.8 x 143.5 x 30.48 cm.)
Arts of the Pacific Islands
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia , Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

General Description

The jaraik is a powerful sacred object placed above the doorway to the second inner room of an uma, or communal house, where the women and young children traditionally sleep. Its primary task is to keep out all evil forces and to lure in positive influences for the benefit of the community. The efficaciousness of every jaraik is ensured by the addition of a consecrated skull from only one species of macaque monkey (Macaca nemestrina pagensis). A jaraik’s significance was enshrined in an elaborate ritual (liat jaraik), whose activities were dedicated to its fabrication and included the ritual hunt for a macaque to acquire its skull. Such elaborate traditional rituals were banned in Mentawai after Indonesian independence. Indeed, the fabrication of jaraik nearly came to an end.

The Dallas Museum of Art's jaraik was purchased in Taileleu in South Siberut in 1967. It comes from the uma of the Samalakopa clan, whose members had converted to Christianity in the late 1950s to early 1960s. The time of its origin was given as before World War II. According to its previous owners, the form of the jaraik was inspired by the body of a squatting gibbon, a small ape, with outstretched arms and hanging hands. The origin of the jaraik's shape is possibly derived from a buffalo head carrying the cosmic tree, a symbol commonly encountered among the various ethnic groups of Southeast Asia. There are sacred carvings in certain regions of Mentawai that are still referred to as batu kerebau, a combined term probably derived from the word for animal horns (bat), and the general name for water buffalo (kerbau ). Among the Mentawaians, who do not possess any buffalo, this conceptual convention has faded into obscurity, and the etymology of the word jaraik itself is not clear.

Adapted from

Reimar Schefold, "Sacred carving (jaraik) with monkey skull," 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 (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 41.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Nicole Stutzman discusses Protective figure (jaraik) in the form of an animal from Indonesia, West Sumatra, Mentawai Islands, Siberut Island, Taileleu village (DMA collection 2001.265.McD)
Learn about the Mentawai people.
Anthropologist Reimar Shefold discusses the Mentawai people.
Listen to sound designs created by UT Dallas students in response to this work of art.
Collections smartphone audio for Protective figure (jariak) in the form of an animal from 12. Indonesia , West Sumatra, Mentawai Islands, Siberut Island, Taileleu village; 2001.265.McD (DMA Collection)