AGE: – Early to mid 20th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Wood from the Jack Fruit Tree
DESCRIPTION: – Indonesian Ancestral Figures – Male & Female Toraja Tau-Tau
HEIGHT: – Male: 119cm – Female: 122cm
WIDTH: – Widest part – Male 27cm – Female: 27cm
WEIGHT: – Male: 8.05kg. – Female: 8.15 kg.
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Indonesian Ancestral Figures Male & Female Toraja Tau-Tau carved by the Torajan indigenous people found in the mountainous regions of the southern part of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The indigenous Torajan people have traditionally carved near life sized wooden effigies of dead elites referred to as tau-tau (little person or person-like), they are traditionally made from wood or bamboo, depending on the wealth and position of the deceased. Traditionally the jack fruit tree was reserved for the wealthier class of people.
These wooden effigies were made to commemorate the life of a deceased person, to guard burial sites and to look after the living as well as a place for the departed spirit to reside. Traditionally, these wooden carved figures were simply carved and only showed the gender of the deceased. They are usually placed outside the entrance of tombs which are carved into a rock face.
The population of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but some of the Torajan peoples are part of a Christian minority. Whilst Christianity bars the worship of idols and other gods the Christian Torajas still remain respectful of these sculptures, some of them are seen with a cross around their necks or holding a wooden bible.
Each stage of the carving of the tau-tau from the cutting down of the tree, treating the wood as in the case of the wood from the jack fruit tree which is yellow, rubbed down with coconut oil to change the colour to brown and the carving of the head, body, arms and legs are all accompanied by ritualistic offerings. The head is cut from the top of the trunk and the feet from the lower part of the trunk.
At the beginning of the process a dog or chicken would be sacrificed, when finished a pig would be offered for sacrifice. The tau-tau figure would then be clothed and consecrated with prayers to become a “bombo dikita”: a “soul that is seen”.
A tau-tau figure ensures that the deceased person’s deeds and his name are not forgotten. They also served as a communal bond between the living and the dead. In both of these statues the left hand is facing upwards and closed, this is traditional in most of these figures and is referred to as “pa’rinding”, “a wall” of shelter for the community, in exchange for offerings from the living (represented in the upward-facing right hand).
These wooden effigies were often treated as though they were living, they were given new clothes when the old ones became worn and communicated with on a personal level.