south Moluccas, Indonesia
Female ancestor altar
19th century or earlier
overall 62.0 (h) x 50.0 (w) x 44.5 (d) cm
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden
Descent is traced through the female line on the small eastern Indonesian islands of Leti and Lakor, and the female founding ancestor is especially revered. Ornate wooden altars [luli] honouring the ancestral mother are among the islands’ most significant works of art. Adorned with fertility motifs, this luli is bare-breasted with outstretched arms. While altars to the male deity are erected on the village plaza, female altars are located inside the houses of the great families of the village. In front of the ancestor figure is an offering bowl.