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Asian art

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Ceremonial ear pendant (mamuli)

early 19th century-20th century


Unknown Artist


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.


Place where the work was made

East Sumba Indonesia


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


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


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.).

Niki van den Heuvel, Ancestral art of the Indonesian archipelago, 'Archipelago of the ancestors: art of island Southeast Asia', pg. 14-24, Sydney, 2017, 19 (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, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 187 (colour illus.).