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Bowl carved with mythical creature (aso)

late 19th century-20th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Central Kalimantan Borneo Indonesia
    Cultural origin
    Kenyah or Kayan
    late 19th century-20th century
    Media category
    Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    animal skull
    6.8 x 15.0 x 14.0 cm
    Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The practice of headhunting on Borneo was strongly associated with notions of fertility and renewal. It was essential for restoring cosmic order, sanctifying and renewing relationships with ancestor spirits, and ensuring the spiritual and physical welfare of whole communities. After headhunting was largely abandoned by the Dayak and Iban groups of Borneo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the skulls and bones of wild swine, bears, primates and apes were used for rituals dependent on headhunting and sacrifice. Probably fashioned from the skull of a large primate, this bowl would have been considered a prized hunter’s trophy and a ritual implement imbued with the spiritual essence of the deceased prey. The simple form is embellished with the depiction of the ubiquitous Bornean ‘aso’, a demonic dragon–dog beast originating from the underworld and associated with fertility and protection. The delicate scrolling design is reminiscent of the ornamentation styles of the Kenyah and Kayan groups of Central Kalimantan.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

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

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

  • Provenance

    Christopher Wilson, pre 1989-1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Indonesia.

    Mariann Ford, 1996-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, inherited from the estate of Christopher Wilson. Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.