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Asian art

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late 19th century-early 20th century


Unknown Artist


The use of carved wooden ancestor and protective figures was widespread across the islands of Indonesia. Protective figures, now known as 'hampatong', were placed at entrances to their villages and communal longhouses. Each 'hampatong' was carved for a specific purpose and personified a particular spirit or deity. They were made and displayed to celebrate occasions such as a successful headhunting expedition or the funeral of an important person.

This figure of a woman standing on a pedestal is decorated in relief with an 'aso' (a kind of underworld dragon-dog representing the very powerful female spirits), stylised leaves and lotus flowers. In this case, her regalia comprises an elaborate headdress extending down her back and prestige necklace, bracelets and earrings. A small animal clings to the side of the pedestal at her feet and a serpent-like creature is grasped at the waist. The other hand clasps what is possibly a 'kris', or sword. Many 'hampatong' have aggressively exaggerated features such as bulging eyes, gaping mouths and long protruding tongues, but this one is more naturally rendered and exudes a calm and reflective quality.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.337.


Other Titles

Figure ('hampatong') of a female guardian spirit

Dayak Hampatong

Place where the work was made

Central Kalimantan Borneo Indonesia

Cultural origin



late 19th century-early 20th century

Media category


Materials used



297.0 x 35.0 cm


Gift of Nomadic Rug Traders 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Referenced in 2 publications


Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 337 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Look, 'The Asian Collection', pg.12-13, Sydney, Mar 2009, 13 (colour illus.). This work is in the midground of the image on page 13.