Toba Batak people
north Sumatra, Indonesia
Rice granary door
114.8 (h) x 55.5 (w) x 13.0 (d) cm
The Jerome L Joss Collection, Fowler Museum at University of California, Los Angeles
Photograph: Don Cole
For the Toba Batak people, the watery lower realm is seen as the source of both human and agricultural fertility. The aquatic and reptilian creatures of the underworld are therefore fitting motifs for houses and granaries, ensuring ongoing abundance and prosperity.
This heavy door physically protects the rice storage area of a Toba Batak granary, while its lizard motif spiritually safeguards the household’s essential source of food. The lizard is associated with the earth goddess Boraspati ni Tano, the supreme fertility deity. Toba Batak people traditionally believe that benevolent spirits are attracted to beautiful objects and designs. Here, the patterning of the creature’s scales, the finely incised spiral motifs on the shoulders and the stylized splayfeet are intended to please the earth guardian who looks after the harvest.