Home to approximately 8,000 works, the Insulindian collection at the Musée du Quai Branly (MQB) is composed of works gathered by navigators and travellers during the 18th and 19th centuries, in addition to pieces from important field campaigns led by French anthropologists. This archipelago, which possesses incredible cultural diversity, is linked to Oceania due to the shared linguistic relations of their populations of Austronesian origin. Practices such as headhunting, references to ancestors and myths of the original pirogue can also be found in these two areas. These tribal societies were influenced by Islam in the 15th century, then by the Spanish as early as the 16th century, followed by the Dutch, who established colonies and trading posts in the region. Trading is one of the characteristics of this area, as it was located on Chinese, Indian and Indonesian trade routes.
Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line, the first catalogue raisonné of the work of internationally acclaimed Balinese artist Gusti Nyoman Lempad (~1862–1978), was recently published to accompany the first retrospective exhibition of his drawings. The exhibition continues at the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali through 24 November.
At 424 pages with more than 500 reproductions of Lempad’s drawings, the large-format book is a groundbreaking work of discovery. Essays by six distinguished scholars of Bali, explore Lempad’s life, work, and death; his sources of inspiration; his drawing style and technique; and the cultural and historical context of Hindu-Buddhist stories, art, and religion related to his work. Relatively few of these Lempad drawings have been published before as much of this work left Bali in the 1930s with the departure of European and American collectors.
Aboriginal peoples on Borneo Island, generically described as “Dayaks”, were habitual headhunters, taking and then preserving the skulls of their victims. It was believed the head contained a “life force” that could be harnessed for the benefit of the head-taker’s community.
Newly taken heads provided communal protection, insured bountiful harvests, and cured disease. Heads were needed to honor the funerary rites of village aristocrats and to pay blood debts. For young men, taking heads showed their prowess, bravery, and ability to provide for and protect the family, village, and tribal territory, thus increasing their status and marriage eligibility.