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

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Magic horn stopper of figure riding on a composite animal ('singa')

late 19th century-early 20th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    North Sumatra Indonesia
    Cultural origin
    Toba Batak
    late 19th century-early 20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    wood; black patina
    8.0 cm
    Gift of Dr Peter Elliott 2012
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The equestrian figure is a popular motif in Batak art and ritual that is associated with ancestral worship and a safe passage to the afterlife. A deviation on the horse motif is the ‘Singa’ which frequently replaces the horse as a mount of the ancestors. The word ‘Singa’ is derived from the Sanskrit meaning lion, yet in the Batak context the name refers to a composite mythological animal. The features of the ‘Singa’ are variable and can represent a combination of different animals including the snake, elephant, lizard, horse and buffalo. Carved ‘Singa’ stoppers like this object were made to protect the contents of containers made from an eclectic array of materials, including wood, ivory, gourd and ceramics. Imported ceramics were probably acquired by the Batak on the east coast of Sumatra and traded for a number of locally sourced commodities including ivory, wax, cotton or tobacco. The containers known amongst the Batak as ‘guriguri’ were used to store talismanic mixtures known as ‘pukpuk’. The ‘Datu’, or spiritual leader of the community would apply the mixtures ritualistically to objects and people to imbue them with protective properties and pacify the ancestors.

    Asian Art Department, AGNSW, January 2014