south Moluccas, Indonesia
Ceremonial pendant and clan heirloom
gold alloy, cinnabar
7.0 (h) x 7.8 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
In the Tanimbar Islands, gold ornaments play an important role in demonstrating status and power alliances. Gold is exchanged to establish connections between great houses and aristocratic lineages, and deliberately flaunted by nobles during gatherings to negotiate partnerships. Like the great houses, important gold heirlooms have their own names and histories and are considered relics of the ancestors. This mask or face displays the hollow cheeks and pointed nose of wooden ancestral figures.