Pierre Nachbaur

Seated Male Ritual Figure of a Warrior or Shaman

Awesomely, if not sternly, seated upon a raised dais or throne, this stern figure depicts a strong male figure. Small wooden sculptures are used for a variety of purposes by the Dayak ethnic groups of Central Borneo — amulets hung from necklaces, decorations for lids of bamboo containers used for the storage of magical substances and on rare occasions, as in this case, free standing statuettes that may have function as ancestor statues.

While miniscule in comparison to the better-known and often gigantic hampatong statues both the large and small statues of the Dayak show many similar characteristics. In this case the awesome magical or martial strengths of the figure and his high position in society is demonstrated by a regal pose on a throne like dais. While the torso is upright and potentially stiff, the masterful artist who carved it has created dynamic movement through the tapering of the shoulders, chest and waist and especially the backward angles of the rather thin arms.
The man wears a curved hat that rests on his crown but is nude except for armbands, a belt and crosshatched necklace of a type usually worn by Dayak shamans thus suggesting he was a practioner of the mystical arts of the animist-ancestor worshipping Dayak.

Image caption: From Central Borneo, 19th century, made of black ironwood