An image of Pair of earrings in the form of ancestor figures

Unknown Artist

Pair of earrings in the form of ancestor figures

Location
Lower Asian gallery
Further information

The Kenyah and Kayan peoples of central Kalimantan use personal adornment in the form of tattoos and jewellery to mark status and wealth, signify maturity and to safeguard individuals from dark magic and an array of potentially dangerous spirits believed to inhabit the human world. Heavy brass ear ornaments, like this pair of squatting figures with spiralling headdresses, would have been inserted into enlarged piercings to elongate the earlobes of adult males and females. Imagery of anthropomorphic figures alluding to ancestral spirits and deities proliferates the art of Borneo in sculptural and two-dimensional forms. These pendants most likely represent a pair of ancestors and would have had powerful connotations with the fertility and protection bestowed on the living by benevolent forebears. They would have been a treasured item of a household’s family heirlooms, and worn to display fortune and power.

Place of origin
Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia
Year
19th century-20th century
Media
Jewellery
Medium
brass
Dimensions
a - earring; 8.5 x 2 x 1.7 cm
b - earring; 8.5 x 2 x 1.7 cm
Credit
Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
Accession number
549.2010.a-b