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Sword with scabbard and amulet basket (belato sebua)

late 19th century-early 20th century


Unknown Artist


The sword and scabbard (‘belato’) were among the most important items belonging to a warrior on Nias, serving as a physical weapon and a protective device against enemies and malevolent spiritual forces. Found throughout the island, ‘belato’ swords are distinguished by ornate hilts in the form of mythical creatures and their scabbards which incorporate a range of talismanic devices, including carved ‘adu’ figures.

The hilt depicts the head of a ‘lasara’, a composite protective beast reserved for royalty which combines the features of a hornbill, deer and crocodile. A small monkey astride the ‘lasara’s’ neck was believed to predict and warn of potential threats. These motifs, along with the rattan amulet basket (‘rago’) fashioned by the warrior and caged with animal teeth and tusks, would have offered powerful protection
to the user.


Place where the work was made

Bawomataluo village Teluk Dalam South Nias Indonesia


late 19th century-early 20th century

Materials used

wood, iron brass, rattan, crocodile teeth and pigs’ tusks


72.0 x 18.0 x 15.0 cm :

a - sword, 65 x 8.5 x 5.8 cm

b - scabbard, 56 x 18 x 15 cm


Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

Referenced in 2 publications


Ancestral art of the Indonesian archipelago, Sydney, 2017, 63 (colour illus).

Southeast Asian Tribal Art, Nov 1986, Plate 20 (colour illus.) unpaginated..