Skip to content


An image of Mamuli by

East Sumba, Indonesia

Place of origin
East SumbaIndonesia
early 19th century-20th century
Media category
Materials used

9.0 x 11.0 x 1.8 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Goldie Sternberg Southeast Asian Art Purchase Fund 1992
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Ear pendants ('mamuli') were part of the store of sacred heirlooms, along with old textiles and porcelains, handed down through the noble families of the island of Sumba, at the eastern end of the Indonesian island chain. Secret and ritualistic objects, 'mamuli' were brought down from dark attic stores by the 'rato', or priest, and used in ceremonies to make contact with the spirits ('marapu'). It was only for special occasions such as funerals that these spiritually charged objects were released from their dark hiding places, for fear that their great powers would bring havoc and disaster upon those who saw them. With such powers accorded them the 'mamuli' were regarded as emblems of the social and political powers of a family and its lineage.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 300.

Bibliography (5)

Matt Cox, The Connoisseur and the Philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection, 'Southeast Asian Art", pg. 25-29, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014, 27 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: South-East Asia', pg. 298-301, Sydney, 1999, 300 (colour illus.).

Robyn Maxwell., Australian National Gallery Association News, 'Masters of the House: Gold Pendants from Eastern Indonesia', Canberra, Sep 1988-Oct 1988.

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 346 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 187 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (3)

Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994

Symbols and Ceremonies: Indonesian Textile Traditions, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Apr 2006–28 May 2006

The connoisseur and the philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection of Chinese Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014–27 Apr 2014