We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Headdress for a warrior (meo)

19th century-20th century


Unknown Artist

Alternate image of Headdress for a warrior (meo) by
Alternate image of Headdress for a warrior (meo) by
  • Details

    Other Titles
    Comb in form of bird with stand
    Comb in form of bird
    Comb/headress in form of bird
    Place where the work was made
    West Timor East Nusa Tenggara Lesser Sunda Islands Indonesia
    Cultural origin
    19th century-20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    wood, beads, Dutch East Indies coins
    6.5 x 14.0 x 8.0 cm
    Bequest of Christopher Worrall Wilson 2010
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    Among the Atoni of Timor, the actions of warriors and headhunters were subject to a ritualised cult of warfare governed by ‘le’u musu’, a sacred force essential to success in battle and the spiritual welfare of the entire community. Strict taboos, divination ceremonies and talismanic blessings were all believed to render warriors invulnerable to their enemies. Infused with ‘le’u musu’ prior to battle, a warrior’s regalia of fine textiles, adornments and weapons expressed the wearer’s courage and glory.This pronged headdress would have been worn to the side or front of the head, the precious beads, metal discs and coins displayed prominently to dazzle enemies and demonstrate the wearer’s success, status and wealth. The combination of avian imagery emerging from a crescent-shaped form may refer, respectively, to the upper world and its winged messengers,and the moon and buffalo, both of which are associated with fertility.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

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

    • Correspondence, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Sep 2022–2024

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

  • Provenance

    Nomadic Rug Traders, pre 2004, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Bali, Indonesia.

    Mariann Ford, 2004-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased from Nomadic Rug Traders (art dealership). Donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.