VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Abe
1951.23.1551
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

A very fine example of a decorated barkcloth garment with exceptional ornamentation. On the transversal top and bottom fields one can see buffalo heads. The production of barkcloth garments was surrounded by a host of taboos. It was forbidden, for example, after harvesting or in the fields, after illness and after a period of mourning, and the beating of bark indoors could be prohibited for fear of offending the guardian spirits of the house. Barkcloth fabric was intimately associated with the ancestors, partly through myths and also on account of raffia being the material used by the ancestors. It was constantly being sacrificed to them. Throughout the production process, areca nuts were put out for the spirits and older women prayed the ancestors not to be angered by the noise of the beating but to rejoice in the fabric to come.

History of the Object
Kaudern bought it in 1919 from an old woman who told him it was made by her mother. His interest in ethnography had already been awakened by two voyages to Madagascar, in 1906-07 and 1911-12. A few years later we find him setting off again, this time on a long expedition to the island of Celebes in the Dutch East Indies, looking for answers to zoo-geographic questions about the island. The whole of Sulawesi had been annexed for the Dutch empire a decade earlier and the island’s unexplored interior opened up. Zoological aspects apart, Kaudern proposed studying the island’s original population as far as time would allow him to. Sulawesi’s unique position midway between Asia and Australia, in terms of both flora and fauna – yet to be scientifically explored – was a considerable enticement to a young scientist. During this stay of just over three and a half years on Sulawesi, ethnography steadily gains the upper hand. Kaudern collects more than 3,000 objects, mainly from the Kaili-Pamona peoples of central Sulawesi, takes hundreds of photographs and paints 15 pictures. Thanks to his scientific training, the items collected are carefully catalogued and systematized. Kaudern makes drawings of many of them, as well as structural drawings of dwellings and temples.

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Barkcloth, paint 
Measurements
Width 45 cm at top Length 130 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Indonesia; Central Sulawesi 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century; End of 19th century 
Function
Garments like this were used by men at commemorial festival in honour of the deceased. 
Acquisition
Walter Kaudern (1881-1942) was a qualified zoologist but gradually became more and more interested in human beings and ethnography. He gained his doctorate in zoology in 1910 and also had writings published early on in other disciplines, such as geology and botany. After Nordenskiöld died in 1932, Kaudern was put in charge of the Ethnographic Museum, and the appointment was made official in 1934.  
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Museum of World Culture 
Museum
Museum of World Culture 
Credit line
 

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