Dayak is a generic term that refers to a number of indigenous communities that live in the adjoining countries of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia on the island of Borneo. Whilst there are significant differences in the way these communities are stratified and organised most Dayak believe in a bifurcated soul. One soul is believed to expire once the corpse has vanished, the other remains in the area of the deceased until it can be coaxed into making the journey to the other world.
Hudoc masks were used to disguise the wearer when meeting unfamiliar guests, ushering spirits or in agricultural ceremonies. Wearers would be transformed into protective demonic figures with large eyes and ears and their enhanced attributes would function to identify and catch the straying souls of rice plants in order to guarantee a fruitful harvest.The elongated features of the bird’s beak and the mythological ‘aso’ combine to create an zoomorphic mask with human attribution realised through decoration such as earrings, hair and hats. The horn-like projections from the ears are indicative of those traditionally worn through the top of the ears by Dayak men. In Kayan rituals similar masks were worn by shamans to locate and return the wandering souls of sick villagers and in other Dayak villagers mask were worn to ward away malevolent spirits and in mortuary feasts to sanctify the ceremony and ensure the well being of the community.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, April 2015
Gift of Christopher Worrall Wilson 2010
Not on display