Toba Batak people
wood, alim bark, ink
30.0 (h) x 18.0 (w) x 7.0 (d) cm
National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta
While literacy was rare in Southeast Asian animist cultures, the Batak peoples developed a unique alphabet and script. In distinctive folding bark books, Batak shamans [datu] record charms, prophesies and magic formulae, illuminated with protective schematic motifs and creatures. To preserve the magic and power of the practitioners, a book’s contents are usually only decipherable by the priest who wrote them. During some rites, manuscripts may be unfolded and draped over the shoulder of the datu as an amulet.