south Moluccas, Indonesia
Canoe prow with rooster image
100.0 (h) x 47.0 (w) x 9.0 (d) cm
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden
Boats hold great symbolic importance for the fishing communities of Tanimbar. Villages are likened to boats and their inhabitants to crews, and boat-shaped stone altars are the focus of ritual and communal gatherings.
Due to the hazardous nature of sea voyages, vessels are decorated with images of protection and anointed with magic potions. Particular attention is paid to the creation of large wooden prows featuring mythical creatures from the complementary upper and lower realms. This prow depicts a fish-catching bird, a male symbol which gives the boat speed and echoes the hunter’s role.