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A Fine Old Carved Door Toraja People South Sulawesi Island Indonesia 19th C

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A Fine Old Carved Door Toraja People South Sulawesi Island Indonesia Dating from the 19th Century 

This very beautiful old door is from the Toraja People of South Sulawesi Island in Indonesia.  The rectangular door is carved in high relief in the form of a Water Buffalo Head.  Water Buffalo are very important in the Toraja culture where sometimes dozens of large Water Buffalo are slaughtered during a single ceremony. The Toraja live in the mountain area of South Sulawesi Island, most Toraja people are Christian but some are still animists.

This fine old sculpture of a Water Buffalo Head was a rice granary door.  The traditional Toraja religion, known as aluk to dolo, venerated the water buffalo as their primary auspicious animal totem. These animals were sacrificed at great funerals to accompany the dead to the next world.

Tongkonan is the traditional Toraja ancestral house. They stand high on wooden piles, topped with a layered split-bamboo roof shaped in a sweeping curved arc, and they are incised with red, black, and yellow detailed wood carvings on the exterior walls.  Tongkonan is the centre of Torajan’s social life. The rituals associated with the tongkonan are important expressions of Torajan spiritual life, and therefore all family members are impelled to participate, because symbolically the tongkonan represents links to their ancestors and to living and future kin, According to Torajan myth, the first tongkonan was built in heaven on four poles, with a roof made of Indian cloth. When the first Torajan ancestor descended to earth, he imitated the house and held a large ceremony.

Provenance:  From the Collection of the late Cito Cessna Sydney.

The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art