VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Rangda
ME1938.30.397
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This particular mask has been chosen as an example of similar wooden objects from Bali exemplifying that kind of "art" before it became popular with tourists and masks were turned out in large quantities for the tourist market.

History of the Object
History before the acquisition made by Åke Kistner not known. Since 1938 it has been with the Museum of Ethnography.

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Type
Performance Art 
Materials
Wood, colour pigments and an iron nail 
Measurements
Width 19 cm Height 23 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Probably 19th or early 20th century 
Where it was made
Indonesia; Bali 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century - 20th Century; Probably 19th or early 20th century 
Function
From kaya, “up towards the mountain”, i.e. the volcano Gunung Agung, the abode of the gods and the heavenly sphere, flows forces of blessing down to the humans. In the opposite direction lies kelod “down towards the sea”, which is seen as a home of evil spirits and destructive powers which emanate from the underworld. In Balinese cosmology equilibrium is thought to prevail between these two poles, divine and demoniac, upper world and lower world, order and chaos. If this state is disturbed the cosmic powers become unbalanced and evil spirits and demons may roam freely. To restore the equilibrium the menacing and dangerous must be neutralised. Several Balinese dance dramas serve exactly this purpose to control and force back evil spirits. This happens for example in the dance drama Calon Arang. The main character in the drama is Rangda, the wrathful, destroying side of the widow Calwanarang from Girah. Furious that no man dares to marry her beautiful daughter because of the mother’s knowledge of black magic she turns to the death goddess Durga to receive her permission for vengeance. With Durga’s help she is transformed into the terrible witch Rangda that spreads pestilence and destruction across the country. Rangda is rendered harmless by the wise and holy Mpu Bharadah, who kills her demoniac self and thus delivers her. A south Balinese village usually owns two Rangda masks. One is kept in the village temple, Pura Desa, the other in the underworld temple, Pura Dalem. These masks have been carved directly from a growing kapok tree. At an consecration ceremony the masks are “charged with power”. The power is connected with the underworld and the death goddess. That is why a consecrated mask is dangerous. At the same time the Rangda masks protect the village from destructive, evil and sickness generating powers, which they chase away with their mere presence. The Rangda figure thus has a beneficial side.  
Acquisition
Acquired by Åke Kistner (1908-1976). Between 1937 and 1939 he lived in Bali, where he during the two first years brought together a sizeable collection which he donated to the Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm. 
Copyright
History before the acquisition made by Åke Kistner not known. Since 1938 it has been with the Museum of Ethnography. 
Acknowledgements
Tony Sandin and Ann Olsén of the Museum of Ethnography for providing photographs and for adjusting them. 
Owner
Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm 
Museum
Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm 
Credit line
Original text by Elisabet Lind, translated by Johan Fresk 

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