Funerary portal sculpture with horse & rider

Doors such as this were placed at the entrance to shrines carved in limestone cliffs. These shrines hold the remains of members of the aristocracy. The people of Toraja believe that ancestors continue to participate in village life after their death and the ‘tau tau’ figures are the physical manifestations of the departed. Similar doors with images of water buffalo are said to have been used for priests. Depictions of a figure riding a horse, as seen on this door, are widespread in Austronesian cultures and probably represent an ancestor veneration belief common to early migrants into the region.

Early 20th century
Toraja, southern Sulawesi
Object size: 54.3 x 37.5 x 26.0 cm, Gross measurement: Object size: H:64.8 x W:46.6 x D:26.5 cm (with Mount)
Accession No.
Wood, shell
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum

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