Wooden figure representing an ancestor

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from northern Nias Island, Indonesia

Postcard of Wooden figure representing an ancestor.
© National Museums Scotland

Wooden figure representing an ancestor

Ancestor figures (siraha sarawa) such as this were traditionally kept in the houses of the nobility in Nias Island, to protect them and to emphasise the status of the inhabitants. The figure represents the long-dead founding chief.

The male ancestor figure is carved from a single piece of wood, and is shown seated on a stool and wearing a crown, earring and a neck ring. He holds a cup in his left hand, and has a moustache and beard.

The ancestors are important to many people in Indonesia, who believe that the dead join their world, which exists in parallel to ours. Objects such as this figure are believed to have ancestral power, and the ability to protect the living.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-752-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1995.500
Date: 19th century
Material: Wood, hair and metal
Dimensions: 240 mm H x 115 mm D x 130 mm W; mount 132 mm H x 160 mm square
What: Siraha Sarawa / adu / figure / ancestor
Who: Reverend Frickenschmidt (Owner)
Where: Indonesia, Nias Island (Northern Nias Island)
Description: Carved wooden Siraha Sarawa or ancestor figure to protect the houses of the nobility, shown seated on a stool and wearing a crown: Indonesia, Northern Nias Island, 19th century
  • Feldman, J A 1990. Nias Tribal Treasures: Cosmic Reflections in Stone, Wood and Gold. Delft: Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara. 
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