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Indonesian Ancestor Figure (Tau-tau)

Female Ancestor Figure (Tau-tau), c.1980
Sa Dan Toraja culture, Indonesia
Wood, paint, textile, hair and glass; 58 x 19 x 21
Bowers Museum Purchase

A tau-tau is an effigy of the dead carved upon the death of a wealthy family member. In the past the sculptures were placed near the dead during long and elaborate funerals that sometimes lasted up to a week. Dressed in the deceased's favorite clothes and jewelry the effigies inspected the funeral festival grounds for approval; a favorable inspection resulted in the transition of the soul into the spirit realm. After the funerals, the tau-tau was taken to a rock cliff balcony or cavern where it was placed with other ancestor effigies to oversee the well-being of the villages. Religious and cultural traditions have changed in Tana Toraja, and today the role of the tau-tau plays a less significant part in the ceremonial and spiritual lives of the people. The effigies have become more realistic in their appearance than ever, and talented artists display their carvings in workshops open to the public.
All images and text under copyright. Please contact Collection Department to use. Information subject to change with additional research.
Human Tooth Necklace (Vuasagale)
Adoration of the Shepherds, c. mid 16th Century


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