Brian Stephenson Indonesian Tribal Art

Wood Sculpture
Nias Ancestor Figure

Nias wooden male ancestor figure or Adu Zatua

Nias wooden male ancestor figure or Adu Zatua   Nias wooden male ancestor figure or Adu Zatua   Nias wooden male ancestor figure or Adu Zatua  
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Item-Description:Nias wooden male ancestor figure or Adu Zatua
Origin:Nias Island - Nias
Dimensions:Height 65 cm
Age:Early to mid 20th century
Provenance:Field collected Sumatra 1978
Condition:Black glossy patina
Notes:Ancestor figures played, and even today, still play a central role in the life, believes and religion of the Nias people, the Ono Niha. Such figures are believed to house the spirits of a household’s deceased ancestors and provide an ongoing link between the living and supernatural worlds.

There are two main types of carved wooden ancestor figures (Adu), the Adu Zatua, which can represent any deceased ancestor of any rank, and the Adu Siraha Salawa which houses the spirit of a village chief or noble. There can be many Adu Zatua in a household but only one Adu Siraha Salawa, which in turn takes pride of place, usually placed on a free standing pedestal in the main room of the house. Adu Zatua can be male or female, are generally smaller in size and more crudely carved..

Typical features (regalia) of any Adu ancestor figure are: an elaborate crown (representing the gold crowns worn at feasts of merit); generally two projections behind the crown representing sprouting ferns; a necklace, either a flat “gold leaf” necklace (Nifato-fato) or a more prominent rolled necklace (the Kalabubu) signifying the power of the ancestor as a warrior; a single pendulous gold earring in the right ear; a single gold bracelet on the right arm; a moustache or a short pronounced beard. Ono Nias are typically clean shaven, the beards on the ancestor figures representing beards fashioned from gold that were worn by high ranking men on festive occasions. Figures can be standing or sitting and many hold a betel dish between their hands as a sign of welcome. Rare examples show the figure wearing a tied handkerchief or turban rather than a crown.

This example is a large (65cm tall) late origin male Adu Zatua (early to mid 20th century) in hardwood with a black glossy patina. It is impressive and well carved and was field collected in Sumatra in 1978. It carries a prominent crown, earring in right ear, a Nifato-fato necklace, a prominent beard and is holding a betel dish between its hands.

Exhibited: Important Tribal Sculpture from Sumatra, Borneo and The Celebes, Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa, California, 1 October to 30 November, 1986.

Price: £1,250