Gable panel

This pair of Batak singa have been carved out of solid blocks of wood. They were lacquered black and red and outlined in white. These singa heads were used as architectural adornments that framed each end of the Batak house facade, hence the lacquer has suffered from weathering. Singas used on house facades were associated with warfare as the heads of victims’ were wrapped in grass and hung from them. One of these carved singa heads has seven deep holes that have been punctured into its face, which may have held hooks that were used to display heads. The basic form of the traditional Batak communal house is said to represent the cosmos. The three levels of the house correspond to the three spheres of the cosmos. The space for animals below the living level symbolises the underworld. The living level, raised on pillars above the underworld, is where the humans dwell. Above this is the high roof, which corresponds to the abode of the gods and also sometimes to the ancestors. The Bataks believe that the singa is a being of the underworld that bears the world of man on its back, hence its use as an adornment to the main structure of the Batak house

Artist Name
Lake Toba, Northern Sumatra
Object size: L199.0 cm
Accession No.
Wood, pigments
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum