Pakpak Batak people
inland Barus, Sumatra, Indonesia
[mejan] of a village priest
19th century or earlier
87.0 (h) x 90.0 (w) x 27.0 (d) cm
Musée Barbier Mueller, Geneva
© Musée Barbier-Mueller Photograph: Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet
The Batak people create superb stone effigies [mejan] to venerate the noble dead, and assist the transformation of their souls into benevolent ancestor spirits. Male and female sculptures are placed side by side beneath the village banyan tree, where offerings are made to spirits of nature. The Pakpak Batak developed a tradition of cremation hundreds of years ago and the ancestors’ remains are placed in urns alongside their effigies.
This sculptures depicts a great village chief, possibly also a village priest, riding a singa lion-serpent, a mighty underworld creature, on his journey to the afterlife.