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Hudoc mask with rattan hat


Unknown Artist


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.

The architecture of the Dayak long-house not only serves to shelter its occupants but also to remind them of the cosmological order of things and protect them from unwanted spirits. Kenyah and Kayan architecture is generally more decorative and elaborate with living quarters separated and distributed according to rank. In this respect the chief who is the human embodiment of the community is located at the centre of the house where his presence will be most felt and where he is most protected. In addition, large sculptural figures, commonly known as ‘Hampatung’ ( see accession no. 197.2003 ) would have been positioned either directly in front of the house, at the entrance to the village or in the graveyard as protective guardians.

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 a 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


Place where the work was made

West Kalimantan Kalimantan Indonesia

Cultural origin

Dayak, Kenyah

Media category

Ceremonial object

Materials used

wood, pigment and rattan


36.5 cm


Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010


Not on display

Accession number